Just like any toddlers, my daughter is not perfect. I mean, she has her meltdowns, is sometimes mischievous and behaves like, well, like a 3-year old should do. But if there's one thing that I'm very proud of is that, at a very young age, even before she learned to say the word, she already knew how to say "sorry".
I can still remember, when she was one and a half year old, whenever I called her attention because she's not "listening" to what I'm telling her - of course, that would make my voice firm and a little louder than usual - she would immediately come to me then hug and kiss me. At that time I didn't know what she's doing or what she's up to. Eventually I realized it's her way of telling me she's sorry for whatever she might have done or for not listening to me. Soon she's able to talk and could "articulate" her feelings of regret. It melts my heart every time she does it.
So, how did she learn to say these 3 precious words? I am not claiming to be an expert in this matter but my experience has taught me that these "steps" (or whatever you may want to call them) really work for us.
Start early. It is never too early to teach our children the kind of values we want them to have.
As early as possible we should exert effort to inculcate in them the beliefs that hold true to us.
Teach by example. It is one thing to say it, doing it is entirely a different thing. Our actions speak volumes to our children more than the words they're hearing from us. As far as I can remember, I didn't tell my daughter at that age to say "I'm sorry" whenever she "offended" me or her dad. My thought at the time, "How will she understand it? Wait until she turns two." However, whenever I did something wrong (that would mean, I got mad at her for no reason or I had misjudged her actions), I was quick to say, "I'm sorry, baby. Mommy, didn't listen to what you're trying to tell her. I'm sorry. I won't do it again. I love you so much." Little did I realize that that left a deep impression in her heart- that there's nothing wrong with admitting you're wrong and it's okay to say you're sorry.
Sometimes the challenge with us adults, or parents for that matter is that, we're too "proud" to acknowledge our own mistakes. We think that because our children are "just kids" and we're the grown ups, we are always right. As a result, we don't say sorry to them and in turn, they won't as well.
Be a good model. Growing up, my siblings and I would say "I'm sorry" whenever we would offend anyone among us or even our parents. Why is that? Fortunately for us, my mother is a good role model. As a result, I have carried that "habit" until now. Being a couple, my husband and I are quick to admit our faults and say "sorry" to one another when we know that we've offended each other. We're unabashed to acknowledge our mistakes before each other and even in front of our daughter. And I believe that made a great impact to our daughter. Remember, in the eyes of a child: If daddy and mommy are doing it, then it must be right.
Commend the act. One of the things I do after our daughter say, "I'm sorry" is hug her. Since her primary love language is physical touch, mommy hugging her after she admits she's wrong makes her feel forgiven and loved. I believe that just like us adults, it takes a lot of courage for a child to confess she regrets the wrong she's done. So appreciating the act will encourage the child to bring out the same positive response when a situation calls for it.
I hope these simple steps help you as well in teaching your child/children say "I'm sorry" and other common courtesies. Can you think of other ways/steps? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comment box below.