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Say 'I'm Sorry!"

Devotional by Karen Schoeppach

Did you hear that when you were a child? Have you said that to a child? “Yes” to both for me. It’s a common thing to hear and to say, but is it a good thing? Is telling a child to say they are sorry producing a genuine apology? Is it a real expression of regret or repentance? The answer, in many cases, is probably “no”.

Instead of just “telling” children to “say” they are sorry, we need to first “teach” children to “be” sorry. We need to explain what was wrong about what they said or did. You may be thinking that it’s fine to do that with someone 5 years old or older, but at 2,3, or even 4 years old that will be over their head. Maybe, maybe not. Even if it is, the more you try to explain, the more likely it is that the words will start to make sense, to have meaning. If we want our children to progress beyond baby talk, we start speaking to them using words and phrases they will need as they get older. We work with them until they are able to dress themselves. Until they can use a spoon, a fork, and then a knife. We work at potty training until a child achieves success. These are vital skills for children to acquire. Why do we neglect apologizing?

We all know how it feels to receive an insincere apology. Isn’t a forced “I’m sorry.” from a child the same thing? If we encourage children to just say “sorry” without the feeling and meaning behind it, what is the lesson they are learning? For some children, and I’m sure you know at least one, they feel it doesn’t matter what they say or do a long as they say “I’m sorry.” afterwards. After years of this behavior, they may well become adults who no longer bother to apologize as it doesn’t have any meaning for them anyway. They might find themselves less empathetic or sympathetic. We don’t expect children to learn other life skills on their own. Why do we miss this one? Why are we surprised by the results this omission brings?

I admit that I have been guilty of this omission. I don’t claim to have all the answers or that it is easy to do. I just know that I want to be a good example to the young ones in my life. I don’t want to find myself apologizing for skipping an important lesson.

God help us to teach the youngest of Your children the importance of true repentance and regret. Give us guidance as we seek the right words for explanation. We pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.


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