How to Get Your Child to Apologize (And Mean It)

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August 24, 2016

children, apologizeAsk any parent; it’s not always easy to get your children to apologize.

CNN digital correspondent Kelly Wallace recently reported on this family dynamic that has troubled parents for…well…forever.

How can a parent make sure their child not only doesn’t repeat bad behavior but also learn to truly empathize with a person they hurt?

Erik Fisher, a psychologist and co-author of “The Art of Empowered Parenting: The Manual You Wish Your Kids Came With,” said it’s not always easy to get children to apologize exactly when the wrong occurs.

For Fisher it’s all about “emotional education.” Kids today may not be getting enough of an education in how to handle their emotions and, in particular, how to empathize with people around them. College freshmen today are 40-percent less empathetic than they were 30 years ago, according to research done by the University of Michigan, which analyzed empathy among almost 14,000 college students over this time period.

Educational psychologist Michele Borba, who coined the term “Selfie Syndrome,” says technology is partly to blame.

“[Children] are more and more plugged in, and you don’t learn empathy facing a screen, and right now you’re encouraged to learn feelings by circling emojis, and that ain’t going to cut it,” said Borba.

Borba says that empathy not only leads to happier children it also helps when it comes to developing personal and professional relationships that are critical to success.

To create children with a good understanding of empathy, parents should take some time to think about what values they want their child to have when he or she is 40, and then come up with a “family mantra” that illustrates those values.

Other ways to teach our kids empathy include trying to help our kids develop perspective and understand where the other person is coming from. For example, when we discipline our kids. We can tell our child that we are disappointed in their behavior and then ask our child how they would feel if it happened to them, or how they think their friend feels and what their friend now needs to feel better.

Borba also mentions that along with empathy, kindness as an important. “We are fabulous at practicing everything. … We take our kids to violin, to soccer, to coding lessons, but we don’t spend much time really focusing on making sure our kids develop a ‘kindness mindset.'” One way to practice kindness is the “one times two rule.” Borba explains this rule as saying or doing at least two kind things for others, everyday.

The world is a better place with more empathy. And it all begins at home.

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