Want to Teach Your Children How to Respect the Dignity of Others? Start with a Good Apology.

We all have dignity – it was given to us by God when He created us in His own image.  Such a beautiful statement , but a hard concept to teach to our children.  Actually, a hard concept for all of us.  Why is it so hard to  value the dignity of others?  We don’t listen when others are talking, just think about what we want to say next.  We get frustrated when someone in front of us in line is taking too long because they are trying to find the exact change in their purse.  We get irritated when people are offended by something we did and find it hard to apologize.  Instead, we try to analyze the situation and figure out how we were forced to say or do what we did because of something that person did first.  Oh, is it just me who does these things?  That ugly sin of pride.   This is the one sin that I find myself trying to remove from my life permanently.  The way I am attempting to do this is by becoming better at apologizing.

I don’t think I ever really learned about the importance of a good apology until I was much older – an apology not only makes you accountable for a wrong you have committed, but it also shows the person that you value them enough to ask them for forgiveness and reconcile your relationship with them, no matter how insignificant the infraction may seem.  My children know that this is something I am working on, and my husband and I made a decision about a year ago to teach our children how to apologize so that they have the knowledge and ability to give others the dignity they deserve and receive a proper apology.

Before my husband and I decided to teach our children how to apologize, we did the typical thing that most parents do.  When one of our children harmed their brother or sister, we would immediately let them know that it was wrong what he/she did and we made him/her apologize. Typically, they said “I’m sorry” with very little enthusiasm and we moved on.  I remember it as being one of those things that just seemed all wrong. I asked myself, How can I get my child to apologize without being told? Does making them “say it like you mean it” really mean anything at all?  Our children should understand why it is important to apologize and put your own feelings aside to ask for mercy.

I’m a teacher, and sometimes it blows my mind that I somehow forget about the strategies that work in the classroom and the fact that they could also work at home. I have learned that students learn best when they are accountable, and when they are given sufficient practice. Why was I doing all the work for my children? They need to be made accountable and get the opportunity to practice.

What are the components of a good apology? I teach my children (and my students) that the best apology….
1. is said calmly and when the other person is looking at you
2. states that you are sorry
3. explains why you are sorry
4. asks for forgiveness

For example: I’m sorry for pushing you on the playground. Will you please forgive me?

It seems really simple, and it is!  All we had to do as parents was use every opportunity (and they come often) where an apology is needed, and teach our children how to apologize.  Of course, it didn’t take them long and they had it down.

The most awesome thing, is that once you have given them the way to apologize, all you have to do is ask them what is needed when they harm someone else in some way.  Now, sometimes they are less than enthusiastic, but overall, give them time to calm down and allow them to be ready to ask for forgiveness, and they will recognize that an apology is in order.  All you have to do is stand by and be the support.

Another bonus is that, in this time of de-socialization, you are teaching your children how to communicate well face-to-face and not hide from conflict.  I find that since we have taught our children the art of the apology, they are better at communicating to each other when they feel hurt or wronged, and they truly forgive and let go when it happens.  It is a beautiful thing when you begin hearing your children apologizing sincerely to each other when you didn’t even have to intervene.

Abe and I have been so humbled by this experience.  It is amazing how children embrace such a simple thing like asking for forgiveness and you see how they are forever transformed by it.  Our own children have inspired us to be better role models to them and we have been making a point to apologize when we have an argument or do something to upset the other (sometimes this is so hard for me, but I am a work in progress!) and follow the model we have shown them.

I hope this has inspired you to try to bring the gift of the apology into your family – what has worked for you?

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