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How To Apologise: A 4-Step Guide for Children

Team StoryWeavers|December 16, 2020|

teaching children to apologize

Apologising is one of the oldest rituals in the world. It improves the world a little as it increases empathy levels and helps repair interpersonal ties. Almost all of us have been told that saying ‘sorry’ without meaning it is of little to no value. Yet, we often expect children to say sorry without understanding what being sorry is all about. 

In this article, we will cover:

(Click to read the section)

What We Need To Know About Apologies

4-Step Guide To Saying Sorry Like You Mean It

What We Need To Know About Apologies

Research suggests that there are six components to an effective apology. They are as follows:

  • An expression of regret
  • An explanation for why the offence occurred
  • An acknowledgement of responsibility
  • A declaration of repentance
  • An offer of repair
  • A request for forgiveness

4-Step Guide To Saying Sorry Like You Mean It

A book by Joe Carter, The Life and Faith Field Guide for Parents, mentions a four-point format for helping children apologise correctly. 

Step 1: I’m sorry for…

Children often say “I am sorry” because an adult asked them to say it. They do not always understand why they are apologising. In this step, your child can state the reason for saying sorry. It will help your child understand why they are apologising. 

For example: 

  • I am sorry for saying mean things to you. 
  • I am sorry for breaking your toy. 

Step 2: This is wrong because…

Children often do not understand how their actions affect others. In this step, they can put themselves in the other person’s shoes. It helps them understand how they made others feel and is likely to increase their empathy levels. 

For example:

  • This is wrong because you are a nice person. 
  • This is wrong because it was your favourite toy and it made you feel bad. 

Step 3: In the future, I will…

This is the part very few people include in their apology. This part encourages them to find different more constructive ways of resolving their problems. It will also help them understand what to do if such situations occur later.

For example:

  • In the future, I will be careful about what I say to people. 
  • In the future, I will use my words when I get angry. 

Step 4: Will you forgive me?

The last step is to ask for forgiveness. It allows the other person to share what is on their mind. It also ensures that this behaviour does not impact the long-term relationship. 

The complete apology looks like this:

  • I am sorry for saying mean things to you. This is wrong because you are a nice person. In the future, I will be careful about what I say to people. Will you forgive me?
  • I am sorry for breaking your toy. This is wrong because it was your favourite toy and it made you feel bad. In the future, I will use my words when I get angry. Will you forgive me?

Apologies become necessary when one does something that hurts others, and children may not always possess the social skills to determine when that happens. Just like everything else we teach our children the art of apology also needs to be taught. 

You can also stick this printable poster at home to help children remember how to say sorry. It will help you reinforce the structure of apologizing until your child internalizes it. 

Download The 4-Step Guide To Saying You’re Sorry Here

Do you agree that we need to teach children how to apologise? Why? Why not? 

Let us know in the comments below. 

About the Author


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Mekhala Joshi

“Me-kha-la!” That happens at least once when she introduces herself to new people. She’s the only ‘Mekhala’ she knows, and she takes a bit of pride in that. She is a quintessential introvert. Mekhala loves tea but cannot make a good cup of tea and often ends up having coffee. She claims that she takes all adjectives as complements unless specified otherwise. Mekhala is an organizational psychologist and psychometrician. She was a class teacher of 36 adorable girls for two years, grade 2 & 3, as a part of Teach For India Fellowship. And has worked as an independent consultant for a couple of years.

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