Family Life

what is sorry anyway?


When I was growing up I was alway told to say “sorry” when I did something wrong. Nothing much has changed really. Hitting someone else, not doing as you are asked, throwing things, pushing… my daughter is doing it all at the moment during her “terrible twos”. But does she really know what sorry means?

She can not say sorry. Her language is not 100% there. Yes, she has hit a few times, pushed, and done some not nice things to others. But does she really understand sorry?

I can not help but wonder if this is a word we expect our children to use whenever they have done something wrong? Is this a word we are using maybe a little too much?

The other day Little E pushed her cousin. They were having a little rough and tumble but she went that little bit too far. I took her aside. Spoke to her. Gave her some time out to calm down. And explained that we do not push anyone. What happened next completely took me by surprise…

“Is she going to say sorry?”, my sister-in law asked.

Yesterday my friend described a situation where one boy pushed another yet both were expected to say”sorry”. It was not about who was right and who was wrong. Who pushed who and who didn’t. Rather her rational is about teaching them both empathy and responsibility and even handiness.

Is this fair? Is this now the right way to approach such a situation?

I was always taught to say sorry if you mean it. Otherwise it becomes just another word. We can all say sorry (well… not my 2 year old), we can all use the word.. but doesn’t it become a little meaningless if we don’t mean it? Doesn’t it just become another word?

I am a strong believer that children need to understand when they have done something wrong. They need to know what is acceptable and what is not. Boundaries. Limitations. Consequences. Empathy and remorse for when they have hurt someone else. So does this include the word “sorry” every time?

Dad always used to ask me.. “what are you sorry for”? I then had to think about it. Rationalise my apology and understand for myself what I was sorry about. It was not just another word.

I want my children to grow up with compassion, understanding and empathy for others. Care for others and remorse. I don’t want there to be resentment for feeling they have to do something when they don’t believe it. I want them to own it. Take responsibility. And be proud for themselves when they can acknowledge their apology and need to be sorry.

But then again, what would the world be like if we all just a little bit more sorry?

What does sorry mean to you? Where are you sitting with sorry?

linking up with Diary of SAHM


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  • Ai Sakura

    We always try to reason and explain the logic behind the things we ask Pumpkin to do. Don’t push others because it will hurt them that kinda thing, but yes we do ask her to say sorry too. I shld add that extra line and ask her “what are you sorry for?” to make sure she understands..

    • Tahlia

      With youngsters it is so so different isn’t Ai… A whole other rationale process involved xx

  • Lyndal

    i like the point you have made that ‘sorry’ can so easily just become another word that is expected of so many of us, and is just an automatic response – which is why i love what your Dad instilled in you about thinking about what you are sorry for – im definitely inclined to work more along those lines.
    it makes me think of other things people can automatically say without much thought or weight at times… like i love you.


    • Tahlia

      when we just say it it loses it meaning. Maybe sometimes it is not what we say but HOW we say it too xx

  • Rachel from Redcliffe Style

    I think I may be guilty of the ‘over sorry’. We do use it a lot but we have lots of discussions on why we are saying it. My girls are 6 & 8 so have a better understanding of the word. I guess I don’t believe it’s overused if you are saying it with meaning. Rachel x

    • Tahlia

      Exactly. With meaning it is a whole other experience. Funny you say ‘over sorry’ … My girlfriend told me the other day she too says sorry all the time… “sometimes I forget I am saying it” she told me

      Thus the meaning coming back into it… Xx

  • Chrissie

    I am pretty bad for saying sorry. I say it for everything. My 22 month old has started saying it. Though not always at the right time!

    • Lexi

      I’m only 12 but sorry was my first word and i said it at 10 months old.

  • Sonia Life Love and Hiccups

    I too am guilty of overuse! but I do try and make sure my kids act it as well as say it. Nothing worse than a half baked sorry in my mind – it would be better to not have an apology at all. xx

    • Tahlia

      That was what I was taught Sonia, mean it when you say it. Show you are sorry… We all have had those sorry’s from people and feel a bit peeved off when we know there was no heart in it… Well I can remember a few actually! xx

  • Fi @ My Mummy Daze

    My daughter finds it really hard to say sorry, she’s too stubborn to admit fault. But my son is much better at it. He’s very polite like that! Personally it depends who I’m apologising to, but mostly I apologise far too often and unnecessarily. Unless it’s in my marriage! Because that’s never MY fault ;-)

    • Tahlia

      Hehe…never never…I can see my daughter being the same… Those stubborn girls! xx