Chiding your kids publicly to apologize can make them less 'likable.' Here's why.
Maybe you both need a time-out.
- A new study finds that making children apologize can make things worse.
- When kids say fake "sorry" their victims dislike them even more.
- Children respond most positively when regret is sincere.
"You did what? You apologize right now!
That may be the sound of a grownup making a mistake. According to new research published by the University of Michigan this year, forcing a child to apologize when they don't mean it usually does more harm than good.
"Coercing your child to apologize is going to backfire," says the study's author, Craig Smith, of the university's Center for Human Growth and Development. "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."
Ask a child
Photo credit: Alexy Trener via Shutterstock
The study asked children between the ages of 4 and 9 for their reactions to three types of apologies:
- unprompted genuine apologies
- prompted genuine apologies
- coerced apologies
Tallying up the kids' responses, they found that all of the children — the 7 to 9-year-olds especially — felt worse with the apologizer after receiving a coerced apology, viewing them as not-nice people. The subjects did, however, appreciate sincere apologies, whether or not they were prompted.
Kids also picked up that the transgressor felt worse about themselves after being forced to say "sorry" — do they feel bad about their original action or about being forced to apologize? The older children felt that the forced apologizers were more concerned with themselves than with their victims, worrying about punishment and their own concerns rather than feeling regret for making their victims feel hurt.
A slower, more productive approach
Photo credit: Anastasiya Shylina via Shutterstock
Smith says that a more effective approach is to first encourage empathy for the victim of a misdeed:
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.
It may be best to take a personal timeout before correcting the transgressor, letting the conflict cool down a bit for you both. "When your child is calm, help them see how the other person is feeling, and why. 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."
We should note that this isn't to say there's no value to a coerced apology, especially in situations where there's little opportunity for full conflict resolution, such as during a busy school recess. Elementary school principal Anders Hill notes that, "Even if the person is less than sincere, it is important for the person wronged: It lets them know that adults took them seriously and helps model the restorative practice."
Otherwise, where there's a chance for converting a misdeed to an opportunity for learning, the study is clear: Building empathy is likely to be a better investment of everyone's time.
- Here's what works better than forcing your kid to say sorry ›
- Children Are Wired For Empathy And Insisting On Apologies Is Not ... ›
- Should Parents Make Their Children Apologize? | Psychology Today ›
Former president of the ACLU Nadine Strossen discusses whether our society should always defend free speech rights, even for groups who would oppose such rights.
- Former ACLU president Nadine Strossen understands that protecting free speech rights isn't always a straightforward proposition.
- In this video, Strossen describes the reasoning behind why the ACLU defended the free speech rights of neo-Nazis in Skokie, Illinois, 1977.
- The opinions expressed in this video do not necessarily reflect the views of the Charles Koch Foundation, which encourages the expression of diverse viewpoints within a culture of civil discourse and mutual respect.
A new paradigm for machine vision has just been demonstrated.
- Scientists have invented a way for a sheet of glass to perform neural computing.
- The glass uses light patterns to identify images without a computer or power.
- It's image recognition at the speed of light.
A consortium of scientists and engineers have proposed that the U.S. and Mexico build a series of guarded solar, wind, natural gas and desalination facilities along the entirety of the border.
- The proposal was recently presented to several U.S. members of Congress.
- The plan still calls for border security, considering all of the facilities along the border would be guarded and connected by physical barriers.
- It's undoubtedly an expensive and complicated proposal, but the team argues that border regions are ideal spots for wind and solar energy, and that they could use the jobs and fresh water the energy park would create.
"A monkey has been able to control a computer with its brain," Musk said, referring to tests of the device.
- Neuralink seeks to build a brain-machine interface that would connect human brains with computers.
- No tests have been performed in humans, but the company hopes to obtain FDA approval and begin human trials in 2020.
- Musk said the technology essentially provides humans the option of "merging with AI."