Helping Kids Regulate Emotions: Learn through Doing

I had a conversation recently with someone who is a childcare provider. She was telling me how she does not believe in making a child say sorry to another child when they have done something wrong. The reasoning was the child is typically not sorry and the other child knows that so the apology doesn’t do very much for either party. I can’t argue with idea that the child is often not remorseful. Likely, he feels justified in his actions. What I believe was overlooked in this rationale was that children learn through doing.

We don’t naturally think about other’s feelings, consider how others could feel differently than we do, or how our actions might have hurt others. A majority of empathy is learned. I believe it takes practice to learn to have empathy when we are upset. Going through the steps helps us learn what we ought to do even when we do not feel like it.

Saying sorry, accepting an apology, telling someone what you did wrong and how you hurt them are skills that we need to be successful in most relationships – family, friends, romantic partners. Although the forced sorry doesn’t produce results now, the hope is that it plants seeds and patterns that children will build upon as they grow up.

Jennifer Patterson

Licensed Marital & Family Therapist

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