How do we help our kids learn how to say, ‘I’m sorry!’ and really mean it?

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Apologies are hard aren’t they?

They are even harder for kids!

Sometimes “I’m sorry” comes out of your child’s mouth, but the words aren’t genuine, and the behaviour doesn’t change. Apologies should be about repairing a connection — not just about saying some words!

How do we help our kids learn how to say, ‘I’m sorry!’ and really mean it?

Here are some ideas to help.

Teaching children to apologise sincerely is an important aspect of their emotional development and socialisation.

Start early: Teach children from a young age that it is important to say sorry when they have hurt someone’s feelings. You can encourage them to use simple words like “I’m sorry” or “I apologise” when they make a mistake or upset someone.  A meaningful apology is about really understanding what someone else is feeling and is also known as empathy. So it is an important social skill to learn.

Talk with your child about how people might be feeling:

I wonder how grandma feels when we call and talk to her?

I saw that your friend was crying when he fell over and hurt his knee. I wonder what he was feeling. How do you think he was feeling?

How do you feel when your friend plays too roughly with you?

How do you feel when your friend won’t share?

Be a good role model: Children learn by observing the behaviour of adults around them, so make sure that you apologise when you make mistakes and show genuine remorse.

Help them understand why they are apologising: Explain to children why their actions were hurtful and how they made the other person feel. This will help them understand the impact of their actions and encourage empathy.

Encourage them to take responsibility: Teach children to take responsibility for their actions and not to blame others for their mistakes. This will help them learn to be accountable and build trust with others.

Practice forgiveness: Teach children to forgive others when they apologise and to let go of grudges. This will help them develop positive relationships and build resilience.

Ask them questions to help them think for themselves like:

I wonder how we let someone know we are really sorry for our mistake?

What kinds of things can you do to help when you hurt someone?

When you feel sad or angry about what someone has done, do you want them to help fix it?

Reinforce positive behaviour: Praise children when they apologise sincerely and make an effort to make things right. This will encourage them to continue to take responsibility for their actions and show empathy towards others.

Practice situations when they might need to say sorry. It will give your child a sense of power over their words and actions, which is essential to helping them really mean what they say.


Practice standing in the shoes and socks of the other person to see how they feel.

Remember to say sorry to your children too when you lose your temper or say something in the heat of the moment. As children are learning, listening and watching us all the time so model how to say a heartfelt ‘sorry’  so they can learn from you.

Remember that teaching children to say sorry and mean it takes time and patience. With practice and positive reinforcement, children can learn to take responsibility for their actions and develop strong social and emotional skills.




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