Sorry, but “sorry” doesn’t cut it…

Whenever our kids hurt each other, be it name-calling or all out brawling, we’ve always made them apologize to the recipient as part of the resolution. Admitting they were wrong after getting angry can be really hard for them, but making amends is important. You can’t just trample on someone’s feelings…or body…and not say you’re sorry.

However, somewhere along the way, the boys have taken this lesson and turned it into the notion that they can do what they want as long as they apologize afterward. For example:

Thing 1: You smell like dirty underwear.

Thing 2: *Tearing up* Mommmmmm!

Thing 1: *Smirking and obviously insincere* I’m sorry.

Me: Thing one! You don’t say mean things like that. Go sit in timeout until you can be a nice friend.

Thing 1: *Mocking tone* I said I was sorry.

Me: Go sit!


When did “I’m sorry” turn into a get out of jail free card? I don’t know how they decided an apology is some sort of license to do whatever they want to whomever they wish without consequences, but somehow my two youngest have actually come to believe it, despite consistent discipline appropriate for the situation.

So, now I’m kind of stuck. I’m not going to stop making them apologize, but how do I teach them that if they don’t mean it, it doesn’t count and whether or not they say they’re sorry, they’ll still have to pay the piper?

Have you ever had this problem with your kids? How did you get them to understand that sometimes “sorry” doesn’t cut it? Help me in the comments below, mamas.


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  1. Not sure I have the right answer, but I bet my all time favorite parenting book would — Parenting with Love and Logic. It’s about natural consequences. Somehow getting them to see that there is a consequence for every action. Ask them what they think the consequence would be of constantly being mean to a sibling. (They won’t be there for you when you need them?) Another good resource: Brite Music has a CD about Forgiveness in the Standin’ Tall set. It shows both sides – I”m sorry and I forgive you. Part of being sorry is to try to correct the harm you did. I used say to the offending child “Now take care of your brother until he feels happy again.” or something like that. Mostly it was laziness on my part – why should I have to listen to a crying kid when I wasn’t the one who made him cry. You made this mess, you fix it – was my attitude. Hope some of those random thoughts help.

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