Last year, I read a great article about the vastly underrated skill of delivering a sincere apology. We probably have all been guilty of saying to a completely angry and unrepentant child, “Say you’re SORRY!” The child may mumble, “sorry”, but neither the apologizer nor the child being apologized to seems to feel any better. The child being apologized to usually feels frustrated because they don't feel that it was sincere. No one ends up feeling great about the situation, and - beyond that - it usually doesn't help keep future mistakes from happening.
Unfortunately, I somehow let this skill slip off the radar, and we have not practiced it too much this year. Today, we fixed that. I showed the students the chart that will be in our room. It lists the FOUR steps to a great apology. The steps may seem cumbersome at first, and not as easy as they seem, but I think it will make a real change in how children think through their actions:
1) I'm sorry for .... list specific action, not "being mean" or "making you mad", but perhaps "saying that no one likes you and you can't play with us".
2) This is wrong because ... tell why it is wrong, and NOT because "I got in trouble". How about, "I can see how your feelings are hurt, and it was an unkind thing to say".
3) In the future I .... tell what I WILL do, not what I won't do. This was the trickiest one. Saying "I won't say it again" is less effective than "I will include you when you want to play and I will say kind things".
4) Will you forgive me?
We also talked about the good feelings that usually come when a person finds it in their heart to ACCEPT an apology too. I'm hoping we won't get TOO much practice these last few weeks, but it may be one of the most important things the children learn this year.