Should Apologies be Forced?

By Joey and Carla Link
April 13, 2022

Most moms want their kids to apologize when they have done something wrong. Parents want to know if they should force their kids to apologize when they don’t want to. Why is apologizing so hard? I (Joey) ask myself that question when I struggle to apologize. To get into the habit of apologizing makes it easier, and that is why we believe you should require children to apologize, even if they don’t mean it. Just going through the motions is gluing in their minds what the process looks like.

Saying “I’m sorry” or “Sorry” is not apologizing unless your child is a toddler. It just means this child is sorry he/she got caught and now faces a correction. After all, what is he sorry for? Is there any admission of wrong doing?

If you don’t require apologies, what are you teaching your kids? That if they don’t want to apologize, they can just walk away and leave things unresolved? Remember, you are teaching and training them for the big picture, and the biggest picture of all is how they will handle apologizing to God and then their spouse.

One time one of our kids, when I was encouraging her to apologize to her sister said to me, “You never say your sorry.” I realized Carla and I apologized to each other in private when we talked about the issue we were arguing about. I also realized that I didn’t tell the kids I was sorry for the ways I offended them because I always had my ears tuned to how they were speaking and acting towards each other. After that, when Carla and I had been tense with each other and the kids knew it, we made sure we came back and apologized to each other in front of the kids after making it right with each other. We also, when we could tell we had hurt one of our kids by yelling at them or the like, made sure we apologized to them for this. Did it make a difference? Definitely.

Apologizing looks like this – a child needs to:

  1. To “repent” is admitting what you did that was wrong and is to want to turn away from it and do right instead. We had our kids say “I was wrong when I did…” Then we had them tell WHY it was wrong.
  2. Forgiveness is making the relationship right with God and those they offended or hurt. Four of the hardest words to say are “Will you forgive me?” It was hard for our kids to understand how their words or tone hurt a sibling when they didn’t mean them to. We told them it didn’t matter they didn’t intentionally do anything wrong. What mattered was someone was hurt by it and they needed to apologize for that.
  3. The part most skip is “restoration” which is making right your wrong. To “make it right” means to “give back what you took away”. When our kids were little, we would ask them what they took away and work with them to come up with things to do to make it right. Our older kids had to come up with it themselves. If they had a bad attitude about doing their chores for example, to make it right meant they would go and do what he was asked with a good attitude. It could also include asking Mom for something he/she could do to help them since this child had stolen Mom’s time when she had to deal with him.
  4. The last part of this process is to accept the consequence. If a child is truly apologetic, he will calmly accept the consequence. This is why we recommend you give the consequence to your child after he apologizes. Apologizing is a key part of training children to obedience. To apologize correctly takes a humble spirit. Kids behave when they are humble, and are pleasant to be around.

What about your family? Have you worked with your children to apologize when they do something wrong or offend someone? Have you seen a difference in their attitude when they do?

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins
and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
I John 1:9