How to teach kids to say sorry in a meaningful way

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We all make mistakes. As adults, we generally (although not always!) know when and why to say sorry to others when they hurt or offend them. Children don’t always recognise when an apology is necessary or deliver a quick “sorry” with little feeling.

Adults often force children to say sorry after a fight or incident with other children. But there are better ways for our children to learn about owning their mistakes and learning to say sorry meaningfully.


Children don’t always recognise when their actions have hurt or offended others. As adults, it’s our role to help them understand the consequences of their behaviour. It’s helpful to skip the lecture, though.

  • Consider asking questions such as:
  • How do you think your brother felt when you hit him?
  • How would you feel if Jack didn’t let you play his game?
  • What were you feeling when you broke that toy?
  • What do you like people to do when you are sad?


Sending a child to their room or making them sit in a corner might be an easy fix, but it doesn’t solve the problem. Rather than focusing on punishment, concentrate on how to fix the situation. This is where your child might suggest saying sorry to others and can be done with more feeling and intent.

Some other ways we can solve problems are:

  • Starting over or playing a different game
  • Taking turns to choose what to play
  • Fixing or replacing broken items
  • Playing in different areas or spaces.


Sometimes apologising and problem-solving are just too difficult for children to figure out. That’s where you come in. Show them how it’s done by modelling or role-playing. Use questions to guide and support behaviour but don’t take over completely. Once you get things started, the children might not need much support at all.

Saying sorry is important in many situations. But apologising is about so much more than saying one word. Learning to say sorry meaningfully is a skill that can help your child right throughout their life.

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