Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Four Part Apology

"I'm sorry" they say with a sneer in their voice.  Have your kids ever apologized like this? I know mine have many times.  Insincere, full of attitude, not really helping change anything.  Leaving me wondering,  how can I get my kids to really apologize....until we introduced The Four Part Apology.
Teaching kids to apologize
I cannot take credit for creating this, a quick google search will show several different variations.  All I know is we have been using this in our home for over a month now and the difference is phenomenal.

So what is the Four Part Apology?

1. I'm Sorry For....    
    First you need to state what you are sorry for, no just "sorry", but instead "I am sorry for not listening."  "I am sorry for throwing a ball at you."  "I'm sorry for screaming."

By stating what they are sorry for this makes the child stop to think what it is they even did, as you might be amazed at how often they don't know (or pretend to forget).

2. This is Wrong Because...
   This is sometimes the tricky step, as the child (or parent) needs to say why what they did is wrong.   "It is wrong not to listen because it is not respectful"  "It is wrong to throw a ball at you as it could hurt you"  "It is wrong to scream as it hurts peoples ears"

At first you might need to prompt and guide with this and help them figure out why it is wrong.  This step is huge in helping kids think about their actions in relation to others and help the child be able to understand what the other person may feel and even help develop empathy.

3. In the Future I will....
    This is where they state what they will do differently next time.  It should not be a negative statement (I the future I will not hit) but a positive one- "In the future I will keep my hands to myself", "In the future I will talk in a quieter voice"

   This will help them realize that there are better ways to react to situations and even give them ideas as to what they should and could do next time.

4. Will You Forgive Me?
    Then after the first three steps they ask for forgiveness.

how do I help my kids apologize
Let me tell you, it has been amazing to see the reactions of both the offender and the offended as they go through this process.  Since my family knows this is what we are doing, often the person who was harmed immediately softens as soon as the other begins this apology.

My kids have even helped guide each other through the steps when they forgot what step comes next.

We have it printed, hanging on our refrigerator in case anyone forgets.

You cannot teach this four part apology in the heat of a moment.  We used a family night to talk about it and even practiced little scenarios.  My 4-year-old doesn't quite get it yet, but even he has done it a couple of times with the help of his siblings, but for my 9 and 7-year-olds it has been amazing.

It has also worked for me too.  A couple of weeks ago, Lucas was playing Minecraft early in the morning.  I told him it was time to shut it off and start getting ready for school.  He ignored me at first and finally on about the 4th or 5th time that I asked him (when I was in the other room making lunches), he cried out "I was!",  as that time he finally was shutting it off.  He then proceeded to get really upset accusing me of not paying attention as he was shutting it off.  He even went into breakdown mode saying he wasn't going to go to school, etc. etc.  (Girls are not he only ones who are dramatic).

Now I will admit, at that moment I wanted to retort that if he had shut it off the first several times I asked that wouldn't have happened, instead I felt prompted to take a different approach.

I took a deep breath, and said "Lucas I am sorry for yelling at you and telling you to turn it off again. This was wrong, as you were turning it off and I didn't check to see if you were before I said something.  In the future I will make sure I check before asking you again. Can you forgive me?"

The most amazing part, as soon as I got to the words, 'this is wrong because'- I saw his head poke up, his tears stopped and a smile came to his face.

As soon as I was done apologizing, he too apologized without any prompting. He used the 4 part apology and apologized for not shutting it off the first time I asked and said in the future he would.  It was a very good parenting moment.

I love that as parents we can always grow and learn more, we can always find what might work better for our family and for my family The Four Part Apology has been a game changer.

I would love to hear your experiences if you implement this in your home.

36 comments:

  1. Emily, this is awesome. Thank you so much for sharing this. Thank you so much for sharing your family moments as it can help others too. This is a very cool concept and I think it will be a good idea to apply it to my own home as well. Both kids and parents can benefit from it

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  2. That's such a smart idea! My boys' kindergarten teacher taught kids that when they apologize, that might not be enough and they might have to do something to make it up to the other person. That when someone apologizes, the other child doesn't just say "that's okay." Let's be honest, it usually isn't okay, not if it required an apology. So the other child either says "I accept your apology" or "I do not accept your apology." If they say the latter, then the offender has some making up to do.

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    1. Oh yes, I have heard that! I do love that, as yes at times there really are things that are not okay but we can accept their apology.

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  3. This sounds awesome! We're been having a hard time with bad attitudes, drama, etc lately and I think this might really help. I like the idea of printing it out, too. Pinning!

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    1. Yes attitudes and drama are often way too abundant and my house, this has really been so wonderful— things aren’t perfect and still lots of drama but so much better

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  4. This is great! I'm excited to use this in our home---things have been rough lately ;)

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    1. Yes, there are definitely rough times in parenthood, hope this works well for you

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  5. Great teaching moment for all of us, Emily. Thank you!

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    1. Thank you! And yes, that moment when I apologized to my son helped me realize how truly important and affective it is.

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  6. Great teaching moment for all of us, Emily. Thank you!

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  7. I love this! My boys are 7 and 4 (oops, I mean 5! ) and it is like pulling teeth to get them to respond this way. There is always a "but he...". Personal responsibility is a big one that we are working on.

    I think I am going to print out the 4 Part apology and post it in the house until all of us begin to respond like this automatically! Thanks for sharing!

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    1. My son just turned 4 and I almost typed 3 when I was writing this post :)

      Yes, my kids always try and turn it around on the other, so it really does help to make them think about their own actions. We are pretty good at it now but I still have it hanging up as if nothing else it helps me to remember to apologize to my kids that way when I need too

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  8. This is great! I'm printing that little pin out and showing it to the family tonight!

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    1. Awesome! Would love to hear how it works out for you

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  9. Such an important lesson, Elise will repeat anything we say, but not sorry. When she has had to have a time out, usually for hitting, we ask her to say sorry when she gets up, but she won't. We will keep working, she'll eventually get it, especially as she gets more vocal.

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  10. This is great! I can't tell you how upset it makes me when my kids give that "I'm only doing this because you're making me" sorry. I'm going to try this out... I'm sure I'll have plenty of opportunities this week! LOL

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  11. Great idea! I could see it working for sure!

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  12. I LOVE this. I hate the mumbled "Sorry" but have never really come up with a concrete way to fix it. On Daniel Tiger he had a 2 part apology - Sorry and then how can I help? - that we've kind of been using but I like the 4 part even better!

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    1. Ryder loves Daniel Tiger- maybe I will have him just do the two part until he catches on more.. though Alex has been making sure he has been doing the four part way a lot lately :)

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  13. Love this, and we totally use this in my classroom! Greatest thing ever for kids!

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    1. Yep, that is about right, it really is awesome.

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  15. YES!!! Oh my gosh, YES!!! We do this with our kids because without it, they just apologize just because we tell them to! Doing it this way helps them understand WHY

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  16. This post is great - I actually think it would work well with my husband! LOL :)

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  17. I am loving this! I think it would really help my kids, because they can actually focus on what is going on, and why it is happening, so they develop a better understanding of cause and effect and how their actions have consequences!

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  18. #2 This is Wrong Because... has definitely been huge in our household. I saw this on an episode of Super Nanny once and even though my daughter is only 2 1/2, we have done this since we started putting her in time out at about 15 months old. It has worked wonderfully and she can now tell us why she shouldn't do something.

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  19. This is so wonderful to teach our children and I have tried this with my daughter, even if she's only 2.5. I love that sweet story about your son. I love that it'll teach them about forgiveness too! A very hard thing to do sometimes! <3 just love this, Emmy!!

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  20. This is amazing! I don't have children yet, but will definitely be using this when I do. What a wonderful and thoughtful approach to teaching your kids. :)

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  21. I think you're gonna be my new best friend. I, too, have 9,7 and 4 year old kids. We, too, are in a learning-to-be-better stage at our house. It's nice to see someone else dealing with the same things.

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    1. Awe thanks! That is what I really love most about blogging is the connections and friendships and realizing that yes there are so many others going though the same thing as me.

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  22. Thank you for writing this! I was just skimming through Facebook and a friend had shared it and it couldn't have come at a better time. I just had to use it with my 6 year old daughter and it definitely changed our conversation and me helping her to understand why what she did and said was wrong, so thank you!

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  23. This is so great! We do these things but not all four all the time at the same time. Thanks for sharing. I agree that when kids apologize, they should understand why and mean it.

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    1. Yes if they don't understand why then there really is not much point them to them apologizing

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