A friend shared this formula for teaching children to apologize. I loved the inner two steps! This is Shepherding a Child's Heart at its best!
1. Apologize for the specific action done.
Being specific is the key to this step.
2. Explain why the action was wrong.
Focus on the heart of the issue. The Fruit of the Spirit or characteristics of God are a great place to begin.
3. Share what how the situation will be handled next time.
Teach the child to give a positive action in place of the negative that was chosen or a simple "I won't do it again" response.
4. Ask forgiveness.
Let's place this formula into a common scenario in our home.
1. I am sorry for stealing your toy.
2. It was wrong because it hurt your feelings and because I was selfish thinking only of what I wanted.
3. Next time I will wait for you to be ready to share the toy with me.
4. Will you please forgive me?
Because this is much deeper than a simple "I'm sorry" answer, it will take time to train your child.
I have begun the training by making these steps part of the parent/child conversation after an offense has occurred. For starters I wrote the steps on a piece of paper and placed it on the refrigerator. When a child has done something that needs forgiveness, we walk to the refrigerator and go through the list together. Then when it is time for the child to seek forgiveness, I walk the child through what we have already discussed.
As these four steps become more and more familiar, the children will be able to take more responsibility for each.
The sharer was unable to remember the source of this idea. If you know, please contact me so proper credit can be given. Update: I was told this idea is found on many places on the web but one place is here. I don't know if this was the original place or not.