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Sorry, I Forgot to Ask

Kids don’t always ask for things or permission the way they’re supposed to. Then, they’re not always sure how to apologize for not asking. Using these tips when you teach these skills can help your child learn to ask before acting, and to say “Sorry” when he or she forgets!

  • Give children reasons why asking for permission and making sincere apologies are necessary skills they need to learn and use. Reasons could include: Asking adults for permission makes it more likely they will say “Yes” now or later and helps kids stay out of trouble. Making apologies helps maintain good friendships, helps others forgive the mistake, and makes it less likely they will carry a grudge or stay mad. 

    For example, say to children: “Asking me for permission will keep you out of trouble, and the more often you ask appropriately, the better the chance there is I’ll say ‘Yes’” and “Saying you’re sorry can help you become a better friend, and help others forgive you when you make a mistake.”
  • Teach children to accept responsibility for their own behavior and actions. (For example, don’t accept statements like “the milk spilled”; instead, encourage your child to say, “I spilled the milk.”) Help children learn to admit to their mistakes instead of finding fault with others or making excuses.
  • Make a conscious effort to model the skills of asking and apologizing. For example, ask your child for permission to do something – “May I please use your pen?” Also, genuinely say you are sorry when you make a mistake or do something you regret.
  • Thank and praise children when they ask you for permission.
  • Teach young children that their actions affect others. (“If you pull on a cat’s tail, it will hurt and the cat will cry. If you pet him nicely, the cat will purr.”)
  • Explain to children that being sorry is an action, not just an expression.  Sometimes saying they are sorry won’t be enough to rebuild trust or fix a problem. Teach children to make amends by saying they are sorry and admitting to what they have done wrong. Then help them come up with a plan to either correct the problem or prevent the same mistake again.
  • When your child doesn’t ask permission or won’t say he or she is sorry, deliver consistent consequences. Children need to know where the line in the sand is and what will happen to them if they choose to cross that line.  When their misbehavior or rule breaking hurts someone or disrupts the home, have them make an apology before they can resume normal activities or regain privileges.


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