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Communication Problems:
“How do I get my daughter to apologize and actually mean it?”

Dear Annie,

My 12-year-old daughter who has lost the ability to apologize. She wants to say she is sorry, but her apology is filled with rude, defensive comments. We are at a point of not accepting her apologies for they are not heartfelt. And, we are trying to express that saying sorry is more than words.

So Sorry

Dear So Sorry,

Part of the problem is the fact that as a 12-year-old your daughter is living with a lot of self-doubts (remember yourself as a 7th grader!). To have to admit publicly that she messed up in some way, well, that may just be too close to her own current view that "I can't do anything right." The other part is that we live in a culture in which saying "I'm sorry, I made a mistake," and really meaning it, is all too rare. People in the public eye who make mistakes are more likely to offer excuses and justifications. Kids are watching those leaders and celebrities.

The same may be the case in your own family. How do you and others in the family deal with apologies? Is the person who's made a mistake acknowledged for coming clean and taking responsibility? Or is he/she ridiculed? When you or the other significant adults in her life mess up in some way (as all humans do) how do you apologize?

Think about the last time you apologized to your daughter. If it's been a while or if upon reflection it seems as if your own apologies to her and others in the family have not been "heartfelt," I'd suggest that you apologize to your daughter today. You might tell her that you just realized that part of your responsibility as a parent is to model for her the behavior you'd like to see her master. Apologize, if you need to, for not being a better role model in this area of apologizing. Tell her that you are, indeed, very sorry to have missed some opportunities to help her learn this. Tell her that you will be doing a much better job in the future and expect that she will be doing better at it too.

I hope this helps.

In friendship,

Annie

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