Researchers of University of Michigan has shown that parents who force unremorseful kids to apologize to others before they're truly sorry may do more harm than good.
Children are likely to dislike the apologizer even more after the insincere apology than before. Only if they are truly sorry repair of relations by apologizing truly works. This is the conclusion of research due to scientists of University of Michigan, the results of which are published in the journal Merrill-Palmer Quarterly.
The study distinguishes between willingly given and coerced expressions of remorse. The findings suggest that exploring ways to help your child learn to have empathy for the victim, thus ensuring a sincere apology, is more constructive than immediately coercing a reluctant "I'm sorry."
"Make sure the child understands why the other person feels bad, and make sure the child is really ready to say 'I'm sorry.' Then have them apologize," said study author Craig Smith.
"Coercing your child to apologize is going to backfire. Other kids don't view that apologizer as likable. The teachable element of having the child apologize has gone away and the goal of the apology prompt--to help your child express remorse, soothe someone else's hurt feelings and make your child more likable--is lost."
How can parents help their young children respond with empathy after they've upset another person, and ultimately deliver a willing apology?
"When your child is calm, help them see how the other person is feeling, and why," Smith said. "An apology is one way to do it, but there are lots of ways. Research shows that even preschoolers value it when a wrongdoer makes amends with action. Sometimes this is more powerful than words."