What If Adults Were Forced To Apologize Like Children Are?

21 months.

My wife and I are having to daily remind our son Jack that hitting us is not something he is allowed to do. We offer him an alternative, which is petting us like a dog or cat, instead.

Yeah, I know, it sounds goofy but so far it’s helping him understand the difference between being friendly and being offensive.

Every time he does hit us or bite us, we put him in time-out upstairs in his jail cell, I mean bed, and after we remind him of why he was being punished, we make him apologize to the parent he physically attacked.


That’s his version of “I’m sorry” and we always gladly accept it. We force him to apologize to help him realize that he must be held accountable for his actions when he hurts others. It’s important that we lay that foundation now.

However, there is a downside to being taught to apologize to a person when you hurt or offend them: You may grow up to become an adult who believes you can’t forgive someone until they apologize to you first.

Two weeks ago I published “The Difference Between Punishing And Disciplining My Child” which explored the stark difference of how we discipline our children in hopes of making them better people, meanwhile we privately or publicly wish harm upon our enemies.

It’s easier to wish ill upon them, as opposed to honestly wanting them to change their ways.

So today I share with you the sequel to that thought:

What if adults were forced to apologize like children are?

More importantly is this question: Do you personally require offenders to apologize to you before you can allow yourself to forgive them?

Last Friday night on 20/20 I watched the 2 hour Diane Sawyer interview with Jaycee Dugard.

I was humbled by the way Jaycee was able to forgive her captors, recognizing that by becoming bitter and requiring their apology to move on would mean that she is continuing to give them power of her even though she has been freed from her captivity and torture.

Despite all they took from her, she now refuses to allow them to take away anything more. But it took forgiving them to be at that point.

It’s safe to say that the majority of us have never experienced anywhere near the level of hell that Jaycee Dugard did during her 18 years of captivity.

Yet she chose to forgive and finds liberty in it.

Yes, I will continue to force my nearly 2 year-old son to apologize when he bites me on the shoulder like a rabid wolf.

But as he grows older and is able to understand, I will also teach him that being apologized to is not a prerequisite to being able to forgive a person. Apologizing is what good people do once they realize they’ve done something wrong.

So it should be no surprise when bad people don’t apologize.

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  1. by Tracy

    On August 30, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    Is it not contradictory to say that being apologized to is not a prerequisite to being able to forgive a person but that good people do apologise once they realize they’ve done something wrong?? If the person doesn’t apologise, does that make them a bad person? Should children therefore be taught that to forgive anyone – sorry or not, good or bad?
    I’m an adult and I’m very confused by this message. Imagine what a child must feel.

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    On December 18, 2012 at 11:36 pm

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