We all know a forced apology when we see one. The eye roll. The huffing under his breath as he quickly says, “Sorry” with a slight attitude. Nothing about that is a sincere apology.

I’ve been in the place where I ask one of my kids to apologize to the other and get this exact response. This quickly leads me to prompt my child to give more of a sincere apology. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t.

We all know this isn’t just any issue that kids struggle with. I’ve worked with many people in my therapy practice who struggle to own their mistakes and have difficulties genuinely apologizing in a heart felt way. They are too overwhelmed with emotions like shame, defensiveness, stubbornness, and pride to humble themselves to give an apology.

If you don’t want your child to be one of those adults, it’s important to understand, teach, and model these 3 tips to a sincere apology with in your home:

Recognize Cause and Effect

Kids need to realize that their action caused some sort of negativity for someone else. Whether they caused physical pain or emotional hurt (on purpose or on accident), a child will not be sincere in their apology until they realize that their choice had a negative impact on someone. The goal is not to shame your child, but to teach him. Make sure you focus on the child’s behavior being a bad choice and not the child himself being bad for doing it. You want him to develop the skill of understanding cause and effect in a way that he will think before he acts next time.

Have Empathy

Putting yourself in someone’s shoes is a good way to understand the hurt that was caused. If a child feels what it must be like for the victim, he will realize why the person is hurt. Being connected to another’s feelings can help your child develop healthy relationship skills and emotional intelligence that will make a big difference for him in life. Asking a question like, “Would you be upset or hurt if that happened to you?” This helps your child think about  what that situation would be like if the roles were reversed.

Don’t overuse “I’m Sorry”

Have you ever noticed how often people use the phrase “I’m sorry” too much? People say this for things that aren’t even their responsibility. “I’m sorry” is used when something out of your control goes wrong or when someone else causes pain. Why should I say I’m sorry when a friend is feeling sad about the state of her marriage? It’s not my fault. Why say sorry when the movie I picked wasn’t too great? I didn’t direct the movie. When we over use the phrase “I’m sorry” when it doesn’t really apply, the message gets cheapened. Our kids pick up on this and utter these words without sincerity because they see it done around them. Teach your kids when it’s best to use these words so there is no confusion of their meaning. This will help strengthen the sincerity of your child’s apology.

How do you help your kids learn this important relationship lesson?