Our eight year old son was visiting friends and apparently was spotted by Play Place Security blocking entry to a certain area of play. As was the procedure, he was taken to my adult son before he was asked to exit the play area. My adult son told his younger brother to go and apologize. A few minutes later, my oldest son was approached by the owner who said in her twenty-five years of working with kids, especially kids who had erred in judgment, our youngest son’s apology was the sincerest apology she has ever heard.
Apology is important. In fact, apology is the glue that holds all relationships together. Truly apologizing is an art. Each of us will have to sincerely apologize to someone a few times in our lives. We found that this four-step apology system works best. (We’ve had lots of use with our own kids)
Acknowledge what you did. State your action or inaction. For instance, if a child snatched a toy he or she might say I should not have taken the toy from you. With your mates, you might say I should not have responded curtly to your request. The importance of this step is we do not make excuses for what we have done. We own the behavior.
State why the behavior was wrong. With a child she might say it was wrong because I should respect you as a person and not grab the toy from you. For our children, this helps them to understand the offenses and therefore the child is less likely to repeat the action. An adult might say my responses was wrong because I was not fully listening to your request. Instead, I was playing on my cell phone. The wronged individual then feels heard. This is an important step in reconciliation.
State what you will do differently in the future. A child might state. “In the future I will fill in the blank. A child might say in the future I will ask you can I play with the toy, even if I really want to play with it. I will find another toy rather than snatch a toy form you. An adult might say I will put down my phone and practice active listening, like the Carters suggested in their marriage seminar.
The individual asks the other person, if he would forgive him or her. This step is vital because the wronged person must forgive at this point and not revisit the transgression. Now, in cases of severe emotional or physical abuse, counselling coupled with prayer may be necessary. We often speak with couples where there has been infidelity and the wronged partner is continually brow beat for perceived unforgiveness. Sometime forgiveness is a process.