Apologizing to Kids: Who’s Really Taking the Blame?

I’ve written a few posts here about the fact that I apologize to my kids, and the circumstances around why I do it.   I can honestly say that it truly helps my relationship with my children and teaches them lots of good social skills.

But when it comes to apologizing to kids, it can be super hard.  It’s hard to take responsibility without still blaming the child by adding a “but you”.

“I’m sorry I yelled, but you weren’t listening”

“I’m sorry I was mean, but you hit me”

“I’m sorry I grabbed you, but you hit your bother”

I’ve really had to think about it.  When I apologize to an adult I don’t say I’m sorry. but you…   I take responsibility for my own actions.  I despise it when others apologize to me, but then still blame me for their behaviors.

Apologizing to Kids: Who's Really Taking the Blame?

When I think about how I want my children to learn to apologize, I don’t want them to think that it’s ok to say you’re sorry, yet blame the other person.  I want them to learn to take responsibility for the part they played.

It’s tricky.  I don’t want them to think that because I’m apologizing their behavior is ok.  But, I also don’t want them to think that my behavior is ok either.  So, I take responsibility for my mistakes, and expect for them to take responsibility for theirs.

It usually looks something like this…

“I’m sorry I yelled, I just get so frustrated sometimes.”

“I got frustrated that you pushed your brother, but it’s still not ok for me to yell at you.  I’ll work harder on that, and I’m sorry.”

“I saw that you were playing and your brother got in your way, so you pushed him.  I know he made you angry, but  I won’t allow you to hurt him.”

From there, I work with him on how to solve this problem.

Click here to watch a video about how I problem solve with my 3.5 year old.

I stick to the facts. “I got frustrated when you pushed your bother”

I take responsibility. “It’s still not ok that I yelled”

I let him know that I understand his feelings. “I know it made you angry”

Then, I let him know that what he did is not ok. “I won’t allow you to hurt your brother”

Then we focus on solving the problem.

I think it’s a good well-rounded approach, and it seems to be working for us…for now.

One of the best outcomes of this is that my son’s apologies are have changed.  Sometimes he will still flippantly say “I’m sorry” without really any thought.  But there are times when he’s sincere and he can tell me exactly why he’s sorry.  Those are the times when I’m truly proud of my guy.


So, do you apologize to your kids?  Do you ever say “but you…” when you do apologize?  I’d love to hear your point of view on this.

Want to read about some of the times I’ve apologized?

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    • Amanda says

      I bet most people do, it’s hard not to! I’ve really had to practice and watch myself, especially when I’m angry about something. It’s possible not to though..just takes practice.

  1. says

    Such a great point Amanda! I catch myself doing this as well. My favorite behavior related books/articles that I have read involve thinking about how you would react if it was an adult. It always leads back to respecting our children, just like we would another adult!
    Heather recently posted…I Think It’s A Blue Day?My Profile

  2. Lauren says

    To put two of your posts together, I notice that I stop apologising for my behaviour when I’m in a Mom funk. Then I feel like an insensitive, bad mother, and get funkier. Like cleaning when I only want to check Pinterest, biting the bullet and apologising sincerely and calmly seems to trigger an upward trend for both parent and child. My husband is a “sorry, but” person, a habit I am trying to break him of!

  3. says

    Definitely something I struggle with, without adding the but … very aware at the moment how important it is for my 4 year old to see me accepting blame if she is going to have the confidence to say sorry meaningfully herself.
    Alice @ Mums Make Lists recently posted…Summer CleaningMy Profile

  4. says

    Hi Amanda! I love your blog and I agree that we need to model good social skills for our kids and build a positive relationship with them. Apologizing helps with that. I’m totally guilty of the “but you” and you’ve reminded me to be mindful of that. Thank you!

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