Why Avoid Forcing Toddler To Apologize

Children, just like grownups, make mistakes and behave in ways their parents do not approve of. It’s inevitable for your toddler to hit someone at daycare, snatch a toy from another kid, ask a stranger a disapproving question, or drop something angrily on the floor. When your toddler behaves this way, it’s natural to feel you should demand they apologize.

Sometimes, your toddler will say sorry without a fight, and other times she’ll resist. But does she actually mean it? Or is she just saying sorry because you asked her to? Your toddler is too young to realize that she’s hurt another person or their feelings. So, can she understand what it means to be sorry? And should you make her apologize? Or does forcing her fail to teach her the true meaning of forgiving? Read on for more.

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Your Toddler Doesn’t Care About Hurting Other People.

According to Parent, Your two-year-old doesn’t care whether he’s hurting another person’s feelings. Even though you may force him to apologize, he has no idea what the words you’re forcing him to say mean and why he has to say them. It’s hard for children and grownups alike to develop empathy.

Family Education adds that your two-year-old lacks a hard-wired, internalized conscience. He’s not intellectually old enough to reason (usually starts when he’s 2.5 years old.) So, making him apologize and insisting that he does so for you to let him go has no long-term effect. This punitive strategy just teaches your toddler what he needs to say to get back to whatever he was doing.

However, according to studies on empathy, just because your toddler still can’t grasp the perspective of others doesn’t mean he can’t exhibit empathy-related behaviour.

For example, you’ll notice your toddler will hug you when you’re sad or offer a friend his toys when he notices her crying. While studies have proven that your two-year-old toddler can show concern at someone else’s distress, other studies prove that he can only see issues from another person’s perspective when he’s around four to five. But just because we can’t force our toddlers to say sorry doesn’t mean that we don’t teach them that they can’t always have what they want.


You should not force your toddler to apologize, but it makes more sense to encourage the behavior. Teaching your toddler to apologize when he hurts others shows him that not everything is acceptable. And, it’s easy to ensure that your child learns to apologize through hugs, sharing his best toys, saying “I’m sorry,” etc. The point is to teach your child to be attentive to the feelings of others from an early age.

RELATED: Don’t Be Afraid To Apologize To Your Toddler

How You Can Deal With The Situation

Here’s how you can handle this, instead of forcing your child to apologize:

  • Remove your child from the situation – At this age, your toddler’s social or language skills are yet to develop fully. Since she lacks interpersonal skills and verbal ability, she resorts to hitting or other aggressive behavior to express her anger, frustration, etc. Removing your toddler from the situation and redirecting her attention elsewhere works wonders for this age group. Also, firmly tell her that hitting and biting hurts, and it’s not allowed. Then, leave her to connect your absence with her misdemeanor. Over time, she’ll change her behavior. Doing so works better than forcing an apology, scolding, lecturing, and time-outs.
  • Pay attention to the situation – Rather than force her to apologize, pay attention to the scenario and explain it like it is. For example, if your child has taken all the available toys and doesn’t want to share, don’t grab the toy and give it back. Instead, get to her level and explain what happened, “You’ve taken Adam’s toys, and now he has none. He’d also like to play with the toys. Can you share them with him?” Correcting gently while showing warmth is likely to make your child empathetic. And if she is still resistant, ask her to give you the toys. Your child still thinks of herself as the victim at this age even when she hurts another child. So, she doesn’t want to share the toys, and it makes more sense to ask her to give them to you instead.
  • Talk about feelings – According to Today’s Parent, it’s important to help your child figure out what she was feeling and how those emotions may have caused the problem behavior. You may ask, “How did you feel right before taking your friend’s toy?” Maybe she wanted all the toys to herself because she was jealous of her friend’s toy or was tired and needed some downtime. Whatever their motive, emphasize the actions being the issue, not their emotions. All emotions are fine; what matters is how we deal with them. So, it’s important to give words to feelings; otherwise, your toddler may get lost in her feelings as we do at times. Once they’re aware of their emotions and behavior, talk about the other person’s feelings. Do this by connecting the scenario back to something similar to someone else did to them. For example, maybe her brother took something from her without asking and didn’t return it. Ask your toddler how that made her feel, and then point out that her friend felt the same way when she took away their toy.
  • Be a good role model – The The most effective way for your child to learn to apologize is by watching you. Your toddler is constantly copying you. So, if you practice what you preach, you’re reinforcing what a genuine apology looks like.


Sources: Parent, Family Education, Today’s Parent


Getting Your Toddler To Apologize Can Be Simple With These Steps

Getting Your Toddler To Apologize Can Be Simple With These Steps

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