#SorryNotSorry: Why I Don’t Ask Kids to Apologise


Kerry Rosser explains why she doesn’t ask her kids to apologise – and maybe you shouldn’t either!

I don’t ask my kids to apologise. And no, I’m not in the business of raising little a*seholes either.

I stopped asking for sorrys because they seemed to be an easy way out.

How often have your kids dished out the requested ‘sorry’ without a hint of sincerity? I’m not sure what lesson this forced apology is meant to teach, but too often my kids spat out a sorry and then skipped away scot-free.

No thinking required.
No learning.
And certainly no genuine apology to try and right a wrong.
The sorry in my house had become a case of #SorryNotSorry.

I also stopped asking for sorrys when I realised they rarely made the injured or wronged party feel any better.

Imagine another adult hurt you. Would a sarcastic or snarled sorry make you think ‘oh ok that’s alright then’? Not likely. And it rarely makes children feel better either. Even at a young age they can spot a phony. I think too often the apology is to make us, the responsible adults, feel better.

You know, the whole apology given… Issue dealt with. Parenting complete. It’s an approach we all use but really, what’s it teaching our kids? And how’s it solving anything?

So, when my kids hurt with words or actions, I don’t ask them to apologise.

Before you gasp. Clutch your pearls. Worry that I’m raising delinquents, here’s what you need to know.

In the absence of the simple ‘sorry’ what do I do instead? I have started expecting my kids to understand what they are feeling, what’s happened and why. It sounds like hard work, and it is. For them.

I remove them from the situation and ask, ‘are you ok?’ I try to listen, not lecture. Because underneath their words or actions are always feelings. And I ask them to find them. To tell me what they are feeling, to name them. Were they angry? Upset? Lonely? Frustrated? Tired?

And then I ask them to problem solve. What else could they have done? How could they handle things differently next time?

And then we talk about the injured or wronged party, how they think they are feeling. I am trying to teach empathy for others, to understand what it really means when we hurt someone.

After this I expect them to figure out how to fix things. I ask how can they help? What can they do now? Sometimes this is an apology. But often it’s not. It’s a hug. Getting a band aid. Helping to rebuild the tower broken. Asking for another chance to play nicely.

I don’t expect my kids to apologise. I expect a lot more. I expect them to stop and think. To understand what they were feeling, why they acted the way they did, and what they can do next time. I also expect them to right whatever is wrong. That’s why I’m not interested in #SorryNotSorry.

Would you try this strategy in your house? Are you sick of hollow apologies? What’s required for a ‘sorry’ in your house?

Avatar of Kerry Rosser

I love my three country kids - and all things writing! Like most mums, I wear lots of hats - writer, children's author, organisational psychologist and the pairer of the odd socks!

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