Since they were old enough to speak, my children were taught to apologize to each other if they did or said anything to hurt the other. Before you judge me, understand that I did not force them to apologize; I encouraged them to. My son, especially, will not apologize if he does not think he was in the wrong. And I don’t expect him to. It had always been my hope that by encouraging the practice of the apology, they would learn to understand the value of thinking about your actions and giving a sincere apology.
I love watching my children interact with each other, even when they argue. Like adults, they go through all the stages of an argument. They start out with a simple disagreement, then start fussing at each other. Then they take it down a notch (sometimes as a result of my intervention) and discuss the situation. I once listened to them have a ten-minute conversation about their disagreement. They actually worked things out, with my son realizing his actions had unintentionally hurt his sister’s feelings. After the apology, they gave each other a hug and, as usual, Yvette said, “That’s okay Izzy!” The lessons have been ingrained in them. Hooray! Watching them go through this exercise is proof to me that children can learn to fine tune their innate ability to express both compassion and remorse.
Though the art of the apology is a lesson for children, how much more can we as adults take from our children’s examples as well!