On Rosh Hashanah the Book of Life is opened and on Yom Kippur it is sealed. The blast of the shofar is meant to awaken our slumbering soul and we are given a chance to reshape our life in a better image. This period is devoted to careful examination of who we are and a time for reflection and forgiveness. But what does this really mean to our youngest children? How do we teach the idea of forgiveness to our children? What does it really mean to say “I’m sorry” when you are 2 years old?
Teaching kids to apologize when they hurt others is important, but it should not be forced. What really matters is teaching your kids to be attentive to others’ feelings from a very young age. All kids make mistakes and act in ways their parents wish they wouldn’t. When they inevitably bite another kid or ruin their sibling’s painstakingly assembled puzzle, it’s natural for us as parents to demand they apologize. On a good day, the child will give an apology without a fight and because it’s been memorized as the proper reaction. But whether or not they mean it is questionable. Some kids are too young to realize why they’ve hurt someone’s feelings and can’t grasp what “I’m sorry” means. Sometimes children just say “I’m sorry” because they are following an instruction and trying to get out of whatever just happened. Having them check on the person they hurt is helpful to understanding forgiveness and empathy. Kids need to learn how their actions impact others and what to do about it. Children can learn to identify the harm they’ve caused and decide on their own that they need to make amends. Here are some strategies-
Feeling sorry about stomping another person’s sandcastle requires empathy and building empathy is a process. Once they understand why they are saying “I’m sorry” helps set a boundary and show that something was not okay. It shows children we respect and care about feelings and that we take responsibility for our mistakes. If we help show them how to do it, let them feel how much it matters, they will learn to really mean it when they apologize. When we teach children this level of emotional intelligence they understand how to recognize their feelings, figure out where these feelings come from and how to deal with them. These are the most essential skills for success in life!
Early Childhood Center Director