A forced apology

Published 8:40 pm Tuesday, April 30, 2019

By Nathan Rice

He looked away as I explained to him why his behavior was wrong. We talked about the issue, and I told him what he needed to do. “I don’t want to apologize to her,” he said. I explained again how his actions were disrespectful, and I told him that we should apologize to others when we do something wrong to them. “But I don’t want to,” he said. The conversation ended at this point, and my monologue began. I told him that he was going to apologize, and I laid out the consequences he would face if he failed to do so.

We entered the room, and the adult he had disrespected was to our right. He promptly attempted to follow a group of kids to the left. I called his name, and he sulked back towards me. “You forgot something,” I said as I gently pushed him towards the adult he recently disrespected. He managed to stand before her and force out, “I’m sorry about earlier.”

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I knew his words weren’t heartfelt, but I knew it was important for him to give an apology nonetheless.

First, I made sure he knew what he had done wrong before I made him stand before the teacher. I explained how his actions were disrespectful, and I reminded him of the requirement to respect adults.

A forced apology isn’t helpful if children don’t have any idea of what they did wrong. They may not always admit that their behavior was incorrect, and they may not to want to apologize or feel genuine remorse for their actions. They should know, however, without any doubt what they are being forced to apologize for, hearing from you what they did and why it was wrong.

It was important for him to know the full consequences for what he had done. His disrespectful attitude had already been addressed, but there was more that he needed to do. It showed him that being disrespectful towards an adult was not acceptable and that he would not be allowed to continue that behavior.

Making children apologize when they do something wrong to someone else helps them understand what is needed to make things right. Addressing poor behavior is important, but they should also know what is required on their part to correct what they have done.

Next, I hoped it would help him learn the importance of giving an apology when he did something wrong to someone else. No one likes saying that they are sorry. They can be difficult words to say no matter how old you are, but they are words that we will all need to say at one point or another. Making him stand before the adult he disrespected and force out an apology showed him the correct way to handle the mistake he had made. I wanted to train proper behavior while correcting improper behavior.

Children are still learning how to function in the world around them, and it’s our job not only to teach them the difference between right and wrong but also to train them how to respond to various situations. Making children apologize will help them learn the proper way to react if they mess up in the future.

He wasn’t too happy as he walked away from the teacher who had accepted his apology and had forgiven him for his behavior. I was hopeful, however, that this forced apology was contributing to my goal of helping him grow into a responsible adult.

It’s OK to make children apologize to others when they do something wrong. Once they know what they have done wrong, a forced apology can reinforce the consequences of their behavior while teaching them what is expected of them when they mess up. They need you to train them, so don’t be afraid to make them say “I’m sorry.”

Nathan Rice is a Hampton Roads native and can be reached at nrice@abnb.org.