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Episode 64: Guiding Kids Beyond 'Sorry'

Updated: 4 days ago


Girl in long sleeved white shirt covering her eyes


This is Episode 64.


"Welcome to 'Wellness in Every Season,' the place where we explore the rich tapestry of motherhood and wellness in all its forms. I'm Autumn Carter, your host and guide. 



Welcome to Episode 64 of "Wellness in Every Season," titled "Emotions in Action: Guiding Kids Beyond 'Sorry' brought to you by the Reclaim Your Time program. In our upcoming episode, we will delve into the vital subject of teaching children to express themselves without relying on automatic apologies. Listeners will learn about the importance of fostering emotional honesty over perfunctory apologies and how this approach can help children develop emotional intelligence and resilience. We'll explore strategies for active listening and open communication, providing parents with practical tips on how to model these behaviors effectively.

Throughout the episode, we will discuss how to help children accurately identify and express their feelings, using simple exercises that can be incorporated into everyday family life. These discussions will empower parents to guide their children in reflecting on the impact of their actions on others, promoting deeper understanding and empathy.

Listeners will also discover the significance of patience and consistent practice in changing communication habits, and we'll offer strategies for maintaining these practices even during busy or stressful times. The episode will provide a comprehensive look at how families can build a foundation of trust, empathy, and genuine communication, enriching their emotional landscape and preparing children for a lifetime of healthy, respectful relationships.

Join us as we navigate these topics, complete with real-life scenarios, expert insights, and a mindfulness practice segment tailored to help both parents and children enhance their communication skills. This episode will not only inform but also inspire listeners to create more meaningful and empathetic interactions within their families.

Key point #1

Welcome back to our ongoing conversation about the power of words and the importance of using them meaningfully. Today, we’re building on our previous discussion about why it’s crucial for us as moms to avoid saying "sorry" when it isn’t truly meant. As a mother of four, I’ve been reflecting on this topic deeply, especially in how it applies not just to us as parents, but also to the lessons we’re teaching our children.

Lately, I’ve noticed how frequently my children say "sorry" to each other—often as a quick fix to move past conflicts, much like the automatic apologies we discussed last time. This observation has led me to question the effectiveness of these apologies. Are my children learning to mend their mistakes with genuine understanding, or are they just checking off a box?

In this episode, we will explore how to shift from encouraging automatic apologies to fostering deeper, more meaningful exchanges. We’ll delve into what we can teach our children to say instead of a reflexive "sorry," helping them to truly understand the feelings of others and the impact of their actions.

Join me as we explore practical strategies to enhance our children’s emotional intelligence and help them build sincere, responsible communication skills.

Key point #2

In our home, like in many others, "sorry" has become a staple response. It’s a habit my husband and I unknowingly encouraged among our four children. But after recording our last episode about the misuse of apologies, I've started to notice just how frequently our kids resort to saying "sorry." And, oh, how often it surfaces! Particularly when a bout of tattling is about to unfold—yes, the eyeroll is necessary, especially when these apologies interrupt our adult conversations or those rare moments of solitude, even if it's just a quick escape to the toilet.

This constant stream of swift "sorries" made me realize something crucial: our children are using "sorry" not as a genuine expression of remorse but as a knee-jerk solution to escape further scrutiny. It’s their go-to tactic, whether to avoid disappointing us or to hastily smooth over disputes with their siblings.

Reflecting on this, my husband and I are now questioning how we can shift this dynamic. We aim to raise children who are not only polite but also truly empathetic, who understand their boundaries, and who can resolve conflicts independently without immediately seeking our arbitration.

But how do we foster this environment? How do we teach our children to pause and consider the weight of their words, to truly comprehend the situation before defaulting to a conditioned apology? This episode will delve into these questions. We'll explore strategies that encourage our kids to articulate their feelings and thoughts more authentically and to engage in meaningful dialogues with each other. We want to empower them to manage minor conflicts on their own, reflecting real understanding and respect, rather than relying on us to mediate every dispute.

Join me as we navigate these challenges, sharing insights and practical advice on nurturing more thoughtful, empathetic communication within our families, but first let’s pause for a mindfulness practice. 


Segment: Mindfulness Practice: 

Welcome to your mindfulness segment focused on redirecting your children from instantly apologizing and fostering more meaningful interactions.

Find a comfortable position, close your eyes if you wish, and take a deep breath in, letting it fill your lungs. As you exhale, release any tension or stress you may be carrying. Let's begin.

Take a moment to reflect on how often your children say "sorry" and the situations that typically prompt this response. Consider whether these apologies stem from genuine understanding or are merely a reflex to ease tension. Let these observations guide your approach as we move through this practice.

Envision yourself guiding your children to pause before they apologize. Picture yourself teaching them to assess their feelings and the situation, encouraging them to express what they truly feel and think instead. Imagine these interactions as opportunities to cultivate deeper emotional awareness and empathy in your children.

Acknowledge any feelings of frustration or impatience that might arise in you during these teaching moments. Embrace patience and replace any critical thoughts with understanding and encouragement. Silently or aloud, affirm to yourself: "I am helping my children learn to communicate with sincerity and thoughtfulness."

Now, focus on grounding yourself in the present. Feel the weight of your body on the chair or floor, sense the support beneath you, and let it anchor you to this moment. Take slow, deep breaths and use the rhythm of your breathing to stay connected to the present.

Bring your attention to your senses. Notice the feeling of your feet on the floor, the sensations against your skin, and any sounds in your environment. Let these sensory details help ground you further, pulling your focus away from distractions and towards the task of nurturing authentic communication.

Continue breathing deeply, and gently scan your body from head to toe. Note any areas of tension or discomfort. With each exhale, imagine releasing this tension, allowing it to flow out of your body. Invite calmness and clarity into every part of your being with each breath.

As we conclude this practice, express gratitude for the time you've dedicated to enhancing your parenting and your children's emotional skills. Carry this sense of purpose and the techniques you've visualized with you as you guide your children away from automatic apologies towards more meaningful expressions of their feelings.

When you feel ready, gently open your eyes, bringing this mindfulness practice to a close.

I hope this session helps you teach your children to pause and reflect before apologizing, fostering a family environment rich in sincere and thoughtful communication. Remember, be supportive and patient both with yourself and your children as you embark on this journey together. You are not alone in these efforts.


Key point #3

In this segment of our podcast, we delve into why integrating mindfulness into our parenting approach is not just beneficial but essential. We'll also explore the scientific backing that supports this practice.

Mindfulness means paying deliberate attention to the present moment without judgment. For us as parents, practicing mindfulness enhances our awareness of our own emotional states and reactions. This heightened awareness allows us to respond to our children's behaviors more thoughtfully, rather than reacting on impulse. For instance, instead of encouraging an automatic apology from our child, we can foster a discussion about what they felt and why they acted a certain way. This promotes a deeper understanding and teaches empathy, helping our children grasp the impact of their actions.

Scientifically, mindfulness has profound effects on the brain. Studies show that regular mindfulness practice can decrease the size of the amygdala, the part of the brain involved in processing emotions like fear and stress. At the same time, it enhances the functionality of the prefrontal cortex, which manages higher-order brain functions such as decision-making and impulse control. These changes help in improving emotional regulation and reducing reactivity—key components in fostering a calm and reflective household.

The benefits for children are equally significant. Mindfulness helps them develop the skill to pause and consider their responses, which is crucial for managing emotions and improving social interactions. This not only aids in their current social interactions but sets a foundation for managing future relationships and conflicts constructively. Furthermore, mindfulness in children is linked to enhanced attention, better academic performance, and lower anxiety levels.

When a family practices mindfulness together, it transforms the dynamics within the home. It fosters an environment where emotions and needs are communicated clearly and respectfully. Growing up in such an environment provides children with a strong emotional foundation, crucial for their overall emotional development.

So, how can we incorporate mindfulness into our daily routines? Simple practices like engaging in a few moments of mindful breathing together or enjoying a quiet minute before starting a meal can make a significant difference. These small practices help reduce stress and improve the emotional well-being of the family.

Understanding the science behind mindfulness and its benefits can motivate us to make this practice a regular part of our family life. It not only supports each family member's personal growth but also strengthens the emotional bonds within the family, building a foundation of mutual respect, empathy, and emotional resilience.



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Key point #4: 

In this section of our podcast, let’s discuss the crucial role of fostering a family culture that prioritizes emotional honesty over mere perfunctory apologies. It’s important to clarify that our goal is not to eradicate apologies from our children’s vocabulary. Instead, we aim to nurture apologies that are meaningful and reflect a true understanding and remorse for their actions. This approach is key in helping our children develop emotional intelligence and resilience, essential qualities for navigating interpersonal relationships thoughtfully and empathetically as they grow.

Creating this culture starts with the values we instill and the behaviors we model as parents. By emphasizing the importance of understanding the feelings behind actions, we teach our children to reflect before they respond. This reflective practice encourages them not to rush to say "sorry" simply to smooth over disagreements or because they feel pressured to apologize. Instead, it teaches them to consider whether their apology is genuine and what other emotions might be present—like frustration, disappointment, or misunderstanding—that need to be addressed alongside the apology.

Additionally, active listening and open communication within the family play pivotal roles in this educational process. As parents, it's crucial that we model these behaviors by giving our full attention to our children when they express their experiences and emotions. This means listening without rushing to judge, criticize, or offer solutions right away. When we listen actively, we validate our children’s feelings and show them that their perspectives are important. This validation not only boosts their self-esteem but also enhances their capacity for empathy.

By actively engaging in these practices, we lay a strong foundation for our children to develop the ability to listen to others empathetically. This skill is vital for building healthy relationships, as it helps children understand and appreciate different perspectives and manage conflicts in a constructive manner. The ability to listen and communicate openly also contributes to deeper family connections, creating a supportive environment where every member feels heard and valued.

Through fostering a family atmosphere that values emotional honesty and teaches active listening, we equip our children with the tools they need to engage in more meaningful interactions, not just within the family but in all areas of life. This preparation is essential for their ongoing emotional and social development, helping them become compassionate and thoughtful individuals.


Building on the insights from my last solo episode, let's create a "lifehack cheat sheet" specifically designed for children. This tool is an excellent way to guide our kids in expressing themselves clearly and respectfully, moving away from the automatic "sorry" and towards more thoughtful communication. This cheat sheet offers alternative phrases that children can use in a variety of everyday situations, aiding them in effectively communicating their feelings and needs. Let's explore how this cheat sheet can empower our children:

When They Need More Time or Space:

   - Instead of: "Sorry, I'm busy."

   - Try: "Can we do this a bit later? I'm finishing something important."

When Expressing a Different Opinion:

   - Instead of: "Sorry, but I don’t agree."

   - Try: "I think it's a bit different, here's my idea..."

When Someone Shares Something Sad:

   - Instead of: "Sorry you’re sad."

   - Try: "That sounds tough. Do you want to talk about it?"

When Declining an Invitation from a Friend:

   - Instead of: "Sorry, I can’t come."

   - Try: "Thanks for the invite! I can’t make it this time."

When They Don’t Understand Something in Class:

   - Instead of: "Sorry, I don’t get it."

   - Try: "Can you explain that one more time? I want to understand."

When They Are Late:

   - Instead of: "Sorry I’m late."

   - Try: "Thanks for waiting for me!"

When They Accidentally Bump into Someone:

   - Instead of: "Sorry."

   - Try: "Oops! Are you alright?"

When A Friend is Upset with Them:

   - Instead of: "Sorry you’re mad."

   - Try: "I see you’re upset. Let’s sort this out together."

When They Need to Set a Boundary:

   - Instead of: "Sorry, I don’t want to."

   - Try: "I’m not comfortable with this, let’s do something else."

When They’re Having Fun and Get a Bit Loud:

   - Instead of: "Sorry for being noisy."

   - Try: "We’re just having a big adventure! We’ll try to be a bit quieter."

Encourage your children to pick one or two phrases from this cheat sheet to focus on each week, practicing them in relevant situations. This practice can help children feel more confident in expressing their needs and feelings while being considerate of others. Parents and caregivers can reinforce these new phrases by modeling similar behavior and praising their children when they use these alternatives effectively.

As a call to action, ask the children what other scenarios they find challenging and gather their input on different phrases they might use. This engagement not only helps them feel involved and valued but also enhances their learning and application of these communication skills.

Key point #5:

As we wrap up today's discussion, let's emphasize the crucial roles of active listening and open communication within the family. I encourage all parents to model these behaviors by actively listening to their children's experiences and emotions without rushing to judge or offer solutions. This practice is fundamental—it not only validates your child's feelings but also teaches them how to listen and empathize with others. By laying this groundwork, we cultivate an environment ripe for empathetic interactions, which are essential for healthy emotional development.

Furthermore, it's important to equip our children with the skills to identify and express their feelings accurately. Engage in simple exercises with your children like naming emotions, discussing what different emotions feel like, and exploring appropriate ways to express these feelings. These activities can be seamlessly integrated into daily conversations and are particularly useful during conflicts or when a child might reflexively apologize. Teaching our children to articulate their emotions clearly helps them understand themselves and others better, fostering emotional intelligence.

Additionally, help your children reflect on the impact of their actions by asking guiding questions. Queries such as, "How do you think your friend felt when that happened?" or "What could we do to make things better?" prompt children to consider the consequences of their actions and the feelings of others. This moves them beyond a mere apology to a deeper understanding and reconciliation, which is a critical aspect of responsible behavior.

Patience and consistent practice are key in this process. Changing habits doesn't happen overnight, and as parents, we should anticipate gradual progress and celebrate small victories along the way. Remember, every family is unique, and it may be necessary to tailor these strategies to suit your specific circumstances. Be forgiving and patient with both yourself and your children as you navigate these changes together.

In conclusion, by fostering a family environment where emotions are openly discussed and understood, we lay a strong foundation of trust, empathy, and genuine communication. This approach doesn't just improve how apologies are handled; it enriches our family’s emotional landscape, preparing our children for a lifetime of healthy, respectful relationships. Let's carry forward these insights and practices into our daily lives, ensuring our children grow up in a world where they feel heard, understood, and respected.


Segment: Coaching Questions

Here are ten coaching questions designed to help parents and children navigate the concepts we've discussed, such as understanding emotions, communicating effectively, and developing empathy:

For Parents:What are some moments this week where you observed your child using "sorry" automatically? How did you address these moments?


For Parents: Can you think of a recent situation where modeling active listening helped resolve a conflict or misunderstanding with your child?

For Children: How did it feel when you used one of the new phrases from our lifehack cheat sheet instead of saying "sorry"?

For Both: What emotions do you feel are hardest to express? Why do you think that is?

For Parents: How can you create daily or weekly routines that encourage open discussions about feelings and behaviors in your family?

For Children: What's something you could say or do next time you feel upset or angry, instead of just saying "sorry"?

For Both: When was the last time you felt truly listened to by each other? What made that interaction different?

For Parents: In what ways can you help your child reflect on the consequences of their actions before they apologize?

For Both: Can you think of a time when understanding someone else's feelings changed the way you responded to them? What did you learn from that experience?

For Parents: How can you consistently reinforce the new communication skills your child is learning, even in busy or stressful times?

These questions are intended to prompt deep reflection and meaningful conversations between parents and children, fostering growth in emotional intelligence and communication skills within the family.


Episode summary:

In today's episode, "Emotions in Action: Guiding Kids Beyond 'Sorry'," we offered practical strategies to help children express themselves authentically, moving beyond automatic apologies. Early in the episode, we introduced a mindfulness practice tailored for both parents and children, which set the stage for understanding how emotional honesty enhances communication and fosters resilience.

We discussed the vital roles of active listening and open communication, showing how parents can model these behaviors to encourage empathy and understanding. We also shared exercises to help children accurately identify and express their feelings, improving their ability to reflect before responding.

Throughout the episode, we emphasized the importance of patience and consistency in evolving communication habits, advocating for a forgiving approach as families make these adjustments.

By the end, listeners should feel equipped to guide their children in developing deeper, more empathetic ways of interacting, contributing to healthier and more meaningful family dynamics.


Next week I will be one with Lauren Rose from it hurts to mom, see you next week.



Thanks for tuning in to this week's episode. I'm Autumn Carter, guiding you through motherhood's seasons. I hope today's discussion inspired you and offered valuable insights.

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