How connection before correction might work for you:
Calm your own expectations or fears (remember your child is imperfect just like you). Enter into your child's world, think about the experience from their point of view. Listen to what your child might have to say.
Focus on solutions and creating opportunities for children to learn how to make amends. Below I go into depth with solution-based heartfelt approaches, this is also a great opportunity for us to reflect and learn. It’s also great to let children know, that you yourself are still learning life: let them see you make mistakes, cry embrace and learn, we need to become advocates of our own teachings. And never expect too much from these little souls: yes, they will make the same mistakes that we once made, and that’s perfectly fine. We can’t always be in control and neither can they. I call this reflective learning from what we see in the mirror, whilst knowing that we are also our children’s mirror on learning and understanding.
We are to guide them to be the best they can be from learning about themselves and also learning from us - you have to “know thy self” as they say. And children are doing this daily, it’s just in a more raw, unique and untainted way. We are not to alter this if we can help it.
1. Listen with curiosity not judgement
When your child has hurt someone or made a mistake and you believe they might need help making amends, try to find out their side of the story. Before insisting that your child say sorry, stay open and curious about what happened. It might sound like “Can you tell me what happened?” or “I’d like to know what is going. Maybe I can help.”
2. Avoid blame, you and them
Aiming for understanding without blame translates to your child, making them feel like they are safe to express themselves honestly, even if they did make a poor choice or unnecessary choice. Having a blame and shame free conversation can lead to the child feeling a fruitful sense of regret.
3. Activate Empathy
Encourage your child to notice how they are feeling about the situation or mistake. And then also encourage them to think about how someone else is feeling and what they might be thinking. Even pre-schoolers can answer simple questions like “How are you feeling about what just happened?” These are all small but important steps towards learning how to channel empathy for making amends.
4. Patience and Flexibility
A hurried sorry is not nearly as esteemed as a thought-out apology. People often need time to process their mistake before they feel genuinely remorseful and ready to make amends. Admitting a mistake can be tricky and emotionally traumatic! Allowing time and healing for genuine feelings to emerge (which might involve tears and denial before acceptance kicks in) is more “teachable” to a child than being rushed to express feelings that are made up from what the adults wants rather than from the children. This also works for adults. Always think would I like this if this was me?
5. Notice the Sincere Apologies
Apologies from children that are truly genuine and heartfelt tend to be spontaneous. A smile, a big hug, or offering to share a favourite toy, a letter, changed behaviour, tone of voice or facial expressions. Encourage this when done - expression in these forms is great, it can lead to story making, vast imaginations and even poetry and letter writing.
Children might apologise in ways that we adults just don’t expect, and this is ok. We aren’t to expect, but just to aid and to help enhance.
Blog post written by Joss Cambridge-Simmons, known as the UK's leading 'super manny', and founder of Jossy Care, a leading childcare service, established in 2007.
We recently recorded a podcast with Joss - you can listen here.