Once a tantrum has ended or a misbehavior has stopped…should you expect your toddler to apologize?

Should Toddlers Say, “I’m Sorry?”

All children need to be taught manners. But apologizing after a misdeed may take a few years to learn. In general, quiet, shy kids learn to apologize faster than stubborn, challenging kids.

Try this instead: After your child misbehaves, ask for an apology, but don’t insist on one. Making a huge issue about saying “sorry” only invites a power struggle. (Mom: “Say you’re sorry!” Child: “No, you can’t make me!” Mom: “I’m warning you!”) You want to avoid battles you can’t win…and forcing your tot to apologize is impossible if he really digs in his heels.

If your child shows no regret, then it may be time for a little kind ignoring. Say, “You’re still mad! You say, ‘No way, I don’t want to say I’m sorry!’ Okay, sweetheart, I’ll check on you in a minute and see how you’re feeling." 

How to Encourage Your Toddler to Apologize

Plant seeds of kindness by pointing out when other people apologize and include apologies in your fairy tales and role-playing. 

If your child does apologize, don’t make a big deal out of it. Simply say “Thanks.” But, later on, gossip to his toys or Grandma about how good you feel when he says he’s sorry. And praise him during your bedtime sweet talk routine

And of course, lead by example! Parents may feel like they have to know it all or get it right the first time…but that’s not real life. Like kids, adults are human, and we all make mistakes. So, the next time you lose your temper with your tot or snap at your partner, you can show your child just how powerful those two little magic words—I’m sorry—can be by using them yourself.

About Dr. Harvey Karp

Dr. Harvey Karp, one of America’s most trusted pediatricians, is the founder of Happiest Baby and the inventor of the groundbreaking SNOO Smart Sleeper. After years of treating patients in Los Angeles, Dr. Karp vaulted to global prominence with the release of the bestselling Happiest Baby on the Block and Happiest Toddler on the Block. His celebrated books and videos have since become standard pediatric practice, translated into more than 20 languages and have helped millions of parents. Dr. Karp’s landmark methods, including the 5 S’s for soothing babies, guide parents to understand and nurture their children and relieve stressful issues, like new-parent exhaustion, infant crying, and toddler tantrums.

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.