Controversial I'm sure to say, but should we really make a child say sorry?
Do they understand what they are saying or does that little 'magic word' get them out of trouble, keep the adults happy and enable them to get back to what they would prefer to be doing sooner? How many children have learnt to say sorry and quickly say it after an incident? "I said sorry, I said sorry" and off they run.
Is a young child able to understand what feeling sorry is? Do they have that capability? Having empathy, putting yourself in another's shoes, having an awareness of what your actions have caused requires a maturity beyond most young children.
But a child should learn to say sorry I hear you cry! I would ask is it more important to learn to say the word sorry or to to be empathetic? To understand why you should feel remorse towards another person after you have hurt or upset them.
In our setting we encourage children who are emotionally developed enough to imagine how the other child or adult may be feeling, why they are sad or hurt. We also encourage the child to see how they can help or improve the situation that they have caused, maybe a high five, hug, picture or even a drink. This provides an opportunity for the child to reflect, understand consequences for their actions and to learn how to empathise. The child is supported to ask what would help first though, not all children are going to appreciate a hug after being hurt! Our practitioners also discuss with the children why the incident took place, what might have happened to have caused the situation and how it could be avoided another time.
So how do children learn to say sorry in our settings? Through modeling by our practitioners. When they see a child hurt or injured by an unjust moment they apologise (even if not ther fault) "I'm so sorry you were hurt at nursery today would you like a hug?" Our practitioners apologise when they need to whether that be to a child, parent, visitor or colleague. By observing the children gradually learn when it is appropriate to use the word sorry and naturally begin to use it.