An Appropriate Apology

For those of you that are familiar with sports, there have been an awful lot of apologies taking place these days. The most recent with a famous receiver from Philadelphia got me to thinking about what a good apology is. When I first got into Residential Childcare I didn’t know much about apologies and I didn’t receive much training, so I had to learn on my own and from others. I realize this should be basic knowledge for a childcare worker, but if I didn’t know it when I was new, maybe somebody else doesn’t either.

The typical scene when I was new went something like this:

ME: “Jane – apologize to Suzy for taking her money.”
Jane: “I’m sorry Suzy.”
Suzy: “That’s OK.”

I have since learned that would not be an appropriate apology. An apology should always contain a “because” or something similar. And if something happens that needs an apology, it’s not OK.


1. An apology should always contain “because” or something similar. Unless there is more to the apology than just “I’m sorry”, the only thing Jane could be sorry for is the fact that you are making her apologize.

  • Jane should have said something like, “I am sorry I took your money because it was wrong and it hurt you, and know you don’t now have enough money to buy your mother that gift you were saving for. I will pay you back when I get my allowance next week.”
  • For a hitting incident – Jane could have said, “I am sorry I hit you; I now feel bad that it caused you pain and left you with a bruise.”
  • When you are teaching a child how to apologize, at first, it will take a great deal of prompting. But the more they do it or see it done the easier it becomes.

    2. If something happens that needs an apology, it’s not OK. The person receiving the apology should never respond with, “That’s OK.” If somebody hurts you, it’s never OK. The person receiving the apology should respond with something like:

  • “I accept your apology, next time please don’t take my stuff without asking. I probably would have shared with you had you asked.”
  • “I accept your apology, and I forgive you.”
  • If the recipient is still hurting and not ready to forgive they could say something like, “Thank you for your apology, but I am not ready to forgive you right now, please give me some more time.”

    Giving a proper apology allows the giver an opportunity to reflect on what they did and the pain they caused, while allowing the receiver to heal and to be able to express their emotions and pain.

    Final Note: You may have to allow Jane some time to reflect before she gives an apology so that when she apologizes it can be sincere. If Jane never reaches a point of sincerity or refuses to apologize you may be left with the task of helping the victim heal. You could say something like, “I feel bad for you that Jane won’t apologize, I know what she did hurt you and hope you can heal and move on.”

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