I cannot take credit for creating this, a quick google search will show several different variations. All I know is we have been using this in our home for over a month now and the difference is phenomenal.
So what is the Four Part Apology?
1. I’m Sorry For….
First you need to state what you are sorry for, no just “sorry”, but instead “I am sorry for not listening.” “I am sorry for throwing a ball at you.” “I’m sorry for screaming.”
By stating what they are sorry for this makes the child stop to think what it is they even did, as you might be amazed at how often they don’t know (or pretend to forget).
2. This is Wrong Because…
This is sometimes the tricky step, as the child (or parent) needs to say why what they did is wrong. “It is wrong not to listen because it is not respectful” “It is wrong to throw a ball at you as it could hurt you” “It is wrong to scream as it hurts peoples ears”
At first you might need to prompt and guide with this and help them figure out why it is wrong. This step is huge in helping kids think about their actions in relation to others and help the child be able to understand what the other person may feel and even help develop empathy.
3. In the Future I will….
This is where they state what they will do differently next time. It should not be a negative statement (I the future I will not hit) but a positive one- “In the future I will keep my hands to myself”, “In the future I will talk in a quieter voice”
This will help them realize that there are better ways to react to situations and even give them ideas as to what they should and could do next time.
4. Will You Forgive Me?
Then after the first three steps they ask for forgiveness.
Let me tell you, it has been amazing to see the reactions of both the offender and the offended as they go through this process. Since my family knows this is what we are doing, often the person who was harmed immediately softens as soon as the other begins this apology.
My kids have even helped guide each other through the steps when they forgot what step comes next.
We have it printed, hanging on our refrigerator in case anyone forgets.
You cannot teach this four part apology in the heat of a moment. We used a family night to talk about it and even practiced little scenarios. My 4-year-old doesn’t quite get it yet, but even he has done it a couple of times with the help of his siblings, but for my 9 and 7-year-olds it has been amazing.
It has also worked for me too. A couple of weeks ago, Lucas was playing Minecraft early in the morning. I told him it was time to shut it off and start getting ready for school. He ignored me at first and finally on about the 4th or 5th time that I asked him (when I was in the other room making lunches), he cried out “I was!”, as that time he finally was shutting it off. He then proceeded to get really upset accusing me of not paying attention as he was shutting it off. He even went into breakdown mode saying he wasn’t going to go to school, etc. etc. (Girls are not he only ones who are dramatic).
Now I will admit, at that moment I wanted to retort that if he had shut it off the first several times I asked that wouldn’t have happened, instead I felt prompted to take a different approach.
I took a deep breath, and said “Lucas I am sorry for yelling at you and telling you to turn it off again. This was wrong, as you were turning it off and I didn’t check to see if you were before I said something. In the future I will make sure I check before asking you again. Can you forgive me?”
The most amazing part, as soon as I got to the words, ‘this is wrong because’- I saw his head poke up, his tears stopped and a smile came to his face.
As soon as I was done apologizing, he too apologized without any prompting. He used the 4 part apology and apologized for not shutting it off the first time I asked and said in the future he would. It was a very good parenting moment.
I love that as parents we can always grow and learn more, we can always find what might work better for our family and for my family The Four Part Apology has been a game changer.
I would love to hear your experiences if you implement this in your home.