"My daughter is almost 3. When she gets in trouble for something, she apologizes SINCERELY and hugs me or my husband. I don’t think she’s old enough to be manipulative.
The trouble is, the apology doesn’t change the behavior. Example: today, NOTHING would get her to clean up her blocks. We put her on a timeout. She kept trying to go apologize but still wouldn’t clean up the blocks (we tried making it fun, my turn your turn, find all the GREEN ones now, lots of strategies), so we ended up putting her back on timeout every time she defiantly said no. And she would tearfully and sincerely apologize again.
How do I appropriately acknowledge the genuineness of the apologies while teaching her the importance of listening to us/cleaning up/whatever the issue?"
RELATED QUESTION: How Should I Have Handled My Child’s Outbursts?
TOP ANSWERS (AS SELECTED BY MODERATOR):
“If I’m being honest, she sounds like any other 2-year-old. It’s great for kids to start doing things on their own. I clean my daughter’s mess up without asking her to help. I make sure to do it when she’s watching. Every single time, she comes to help. I make sure to praise her every time and thank her. I personally don’t believe an almost 3-year-old understands an apology or how to be genuine with it. I wouldn’t punish her for not cleaning. I would pick up and make her watch. Explain to her the importance of cleaning “If we don’t clean, we can trip and get hurt” etc. It’s all about repetition for children.”
“She’s still a baby. These kinds of things take time. Most adults can’t comprehend the importance of sincere apologies.”
“Ok. Well, first 3-year-olds can manipulate. 2nd, just explain. I’m sure she thinks apologizing makes it all better and that’s how you get done with timeout. That’s not actually how apologies work though, is it? Tell her that she can only say she’s sorry if she plans to make better choices going forward. “I’m sorry means I am ready to make good choices now.” You go in timeout for making poor choices. You can say sorry and get out of timeout, but ONLY when you’re ready to make good choices. If you say you’re sorry, and you keep making poor choices, then that’s not being sorry, that’s lying. “We never ever want to lie about being sorry.” Maybe it’s time to start the steps to an honest apology. 1. You say you’re sorry. 2. You say what you’re sorry for. 3. You say how you plan to fix it. 4. You give hugs and kisses and follow through on your apology promise. You’re technically supposed to go through those after each timeout. She’ll get it fast enough.”
“She is physically unable to empathize until she is about 5. It’s good she at least apologizes but she just won’t get it yet.”
“Oh, sweetie. She’s 2! Give her a break, it’s just blocks! The fact she’s apologizing is massive, keep punishing her and she won’t do that. It’s OK for them to show their independence, say no, not always do everything you ask. Doesn’t mean they’re going to grow up to be messy or defiant, just means they’re still 2 or 3, or 4, or 5. Practise will make perfect on these learned habits. Your really expecting a bit too much from her at such a young age. That’s not to say don’t ask her to pick up toys, most of the time she’ll likely comply. But if she has a burst of independence and says no, don’t make it an all-day standoff.”
“Take her blocks away and make a big deal over it. If she wants them back she has to start picking up her messes. 2-3 is that stage where they test boundaries. They know exactly what they can and can’t get away with. In our house, if you don’t do what you’re supposed to do after timeout, then you get straight back in timeout and sit for exactly how long it takes to change your mind. I ignore them while they throw fits and if they get up, they know they’re in trouble. She’s not sorry because she’s ruling the roost. 3 is old enough to learn. Kids are so much smarter than we give them credit for. Don’t make excuses for her behavior. There isn’t an excuse.”
“Never tell her ‘it’s ok’ when she apologizes. Tell her ‘thank you’ instead. Then explain why what she is doing isn’t ok. Like ‘thank you for saying sorry, but it’s not ok for you to tell mommy and daddy no, you have to clean up your toys.’”
“The way we did it with my niece, 2 yo, was with an egg. We broke it and apologized then asked her if it fixed the egg. Then we explained that sorry it’s very nice but doesn’t fix what happened which is why next time we won’t hurt the egg and will be more careful! It’s seemed to work so far but kids also learn based on repetition so you might have to do it a couple of times to get the point across! Hope this helps!”
“I tell my girls that they can apologize and apologize but if there actions stay the same the apology means nothing. I then show or tell them how to change their actions.”
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