How many times did your mom tell you to “say you’re sorry”? This phrase comes as a reflex when a child does something wrong. Now, the child is forced to say they are sorry but do they mean it? Has this phrase become meaningless?
Psychologist Carl Pickhardt proposed the following question, “How are you going to get the matter mended if whatever apology he makes will not be honestly felt? The answer is, don’t go for an apology. Go for him making amends.”
Pickhardt’s solution to the “sorry not sorry” problem asks the child to fix the wrong and practice remorse by following these three steps:
To help your child understand how they have hurt someone, you must propose a role reversal question. Challenge your child to put themselves in someone else’s shoes. Let your child feel how their actions have hurt the other person’s feelings.
Hypothetically if a young boy took his little sister’s toy and would not give it back, you would challenge him to see things from her perspective. Asking a question like, “How would you feel if she took your toy and wouldn’t give it back?” will help the young boy embody the pain he inflicted. The goal with sensitization is to create empathy.
If a child can experience empathy, they will be able to feel the effects of their bad choice and the negative emotions that come as a result. Empathy will encourage the child to refrain from that action again.
The goal of evaluation is to create a moral context and recall for your child’s actions. Parents want to raise a child with a strong moral compass; to help your child establish this, encourage ethical conversations. Once you have created a scale of ethics you can ask questions like, “Do you believe what you just did was right?”
Proposing questions will give your child the chance to explain their actions. If the child feels justified in their ways, they can tell you. You’ll be able to get a glimpse into your child’s thought process and help guide their justifications.
After you have established an ethical context, you can begin to find an appropriate solution to the problem. Propose a recovery question to your child such as, “How do you think you can make it up to your sister?”.
The goal in reparation is to establish genuine remorse for the mistake made. The solution can be a sincere apology or an act of love. Whatever the action, genuine remorse will make a more heartfelt and impactful apology.
Remember, your child is an adult in training. As parents, it is your job to help them establish a strong moral compass that will guide them in the future. Establishing real remorse and teaching them how to make proper amends will help your child develop to be a kind and responsible adult.