You know how when your kid does something bad to another kid, and you sort of grab them by the scruff of their neck or arm and tell them, “Say you’re sorry!”? And they say sorry, even though what’s really behind that sorry is, “I don’t give a crap. She wants me to say sorry, so fine, I’ll say it. But I’m really not sorry. The truth is, I’d do it again.”
By doing this, you’ve taught them nothing. You have simply forced them to use a word they don’t mean. So, how can you get your child to apologize and mean it?
Take him or her out of the situation - 10 ft. away, into another room, out to the car, etc. Wait until your child calms down. Then, in a calm voice, say, “You hurt him/her.” Have your kid sit with that for a second. Then say, “I know you were upset or angry, but you really hurt them. What do you think you could do to make them feel that you really are sorry?” Let your child come up with it because then, he or she is tapping into learning a sensibility about caring that somebody else is hurt. That’s empathy. What might be the best way to help Mary or John know that you really feel sorry you hurt them and that you regret it?
This is what we call emotional education. Ninety-nine percent of you parents are crazed and demented about your kids getting into the best schools, making the best soccer team, or having the best music coach. But you’re not raising your kids to be emotionally and psychologically healthy - you’re just raising them to compete. Without this kind of empathy, kids are just machines. They’re not resilient when they’re older because they don’t know how to function emotionally in situations.
So, you need to have your kids come up with the means of truly convincing the person they have wronged that they’re sorry and regret what they did. Emotional education is the most important kind of education you can give your kids.