Why It Doesn't Make Sense to "Force" Kids to Apologize
Who does not know it, you observe a situation in which your child (in your opinion) shows misbehavior and you think it is necessary for your child to apologize for this. However, your child has no desire to do so or sees no need for it. Now the question, how do you deal with this situation; do you force your child to do this, or do you leave it at that? Are you possibly apologizing on behalf of your child, or are you taking consequences from the misconduct?
We often tend to force children to make an apology when we feel it is necessary. For us, this is an elementary part of politeness and is part of everyday life, like "hello", "please" and "thank you". However, a University of Michigan study of children between the ages of four and nine found that when children were forced to apologize, they developed resentment and even more anger toward the other child (whom they were forced to apologize to). . On the other hand, the children felt very uncomfortable in this situation. That means the apology totally missed the point and created even more resentment/unrest between the parties to the dispute.
The reason is easy to explain, the purpose of an apology is to show remorse (understanding that you have just harmed the other person), to feel/show sympathy and to get along, but this is lost through coercion. In addition, children do not learn to develop understanding for the injured person. This can lead to children finding it difficult later in life to understand other people or to feel empathy. Also, the aggrieved child will realize that the apology is not meant seriously or is sincere. So this study only confirms what we all already know, a forced action (in this case the apology) usually does no one any good and above all will not lead to children learning to apologize sincerely.
A child should be self-motivated to apologize when they cause another child/adult harm, whether psychological or physical. With the apology, the child expresses his remorse and shows empathy to his counterpart. Allerdings it takes a lot of skills and competences, among other things, the child must already be able to go into a change of perspective and already be able to feel empathy and remorse. Children up to a certain age do not feel any remorse or empathy. Children usually acquire these skills at the age of four and continue to develop them as they get older. This means that as long as they do not yet have these skills, in most cases they cannot mean the apology seriously and the compulsion to do so is absolutely not effective in this respect.
It should also not be forgotten that children often have their own way of apologizing, this is often done through actions, according to the motto "Actions speak louder than words" ;)
Of course, that doesn't mean that you should stand by completely uninvolved when your child wrongs someone else. It is important to intervene in this situation and first of all to focus your attention on the aggrieved child. Here it is important to comfort them on the one hand, but to clarify if your child's behavior was inappropriate. You can also verbalize the child's feelings here again, this will help your child to be able to classify the situation. Instead of forcing your child to apologize, help them understand why and how the affected child/adult is feeling. In this way, your child can learn to understand and to feel empathy. That's why you should definitely discuss conflict situations with your child afterwards, explain how the other child felt, etc. In the acute situation, this usually makes little sense, since tempers are very heated and your child is very likely to feel the situation too have to digest first.
Last but not least, apologizing is like so many other things, your child is learning by model and that is you. So if they see you apologizing for misbehavior and do it in an authentic way, your child will in the long run adapt.