This word is being discontinued from your child's vocabulary.

Early childhood educators say there is no value in saying sorry

My four-year-old says it through gritted teeth.

After much forcing.

He mumbles it behind his hand like I am trying to pull teeth from his mouth.

My six-year-old says it often, over and over like it’s a free pass to behave how he wants.

As for my two-year-old, when she is wronged, she demands it is said to her as recompense.


As soon as the magic word is produced the tear tap turns off.

The much debated issue of whether to make your child say ‘sorry’ when they are in the wrong is rearing its head again.

The Australian has reported that childcare educators are debating the value of children saying ‘sorry’ – with calls for the word to be dumped as children don’t know what it means.

Many childcare centres say they have already shifted their policies that way, and instead teach children empathy.

The Betty Spears Childcare Centre in Sydney told The Australian that her centre had moved away from making kids apologise to educators or other children because they believed it was an ineffective punishment and they learned nothing from saying it.

“I understand that parents and some educators might want children to say ‘sorry’ because they see it as being good manners,” Ms McCarthy said. “I believe that teaching children empathy for others and understanding about how your actions affect other people offers children far greater opportunities for learning than just saying sorry.

“At our centre, when a child accidentally or otherwise hurts another child, we might ask them if they would like to help the hurt child in some way, like getting them a tissue or cup of water.

“We have moved away from just asking children to say sorry, as we have noticed that it often does not seem to mean anything . . . often children will say sorry one minute then repeat the same action a few minutes later.”

“We were concerned that children were just meeting adult expectations by saying ‘sorry’ without really thinking about their actions.”


The issue was raised on the Early Childhood Australia Facebook page earlier this week with fierce debate.

One poster Erin Yates Hewett said I am an ECT and I believe we need to be very careful that with all our new ways of ‘guiding’ children that we are not raising generations that have no respect or empathy for others.

Others disagreed saying that saying ‘sorry’ was simply used as an excuse by children.

Poster Gail Ladds wrote “ I don’t believe in making children say sorry. I think it makes the situation too easy to get out of and can make children hypocrites, because often they are not sorry. I’d rather teach children empathy so they FEEL sorry.”

Child and Educational Psychologist Andrew Greenfield told Mamamia that saying ‘sorry’ is still an important thing to do.

“Saying sorry means that they acknowledge and own their behaviour. Not so much for the other person. More that they recognise what they have done.”

A quick quiz of parents at a Sunday afternoon BBQ –and I found most agreed with Andrew Greenfield. They wanted their child to take ownership of their actions.

But many also acknowledged that they weren’t sure their kids knew what it actually meant.

Many parents say their child does not really know what sorry means

“Sometimes it is about me” said one Mum “ I feel better when a child apologises to my daughter. I feel like the wrong has been undone.”

It seems though that Early Childhood Australia are intent on phasing out the word.

Samantha Page, the chief executive of Early Childhood Australia, the national children’s peak body told the Australian that forcing the word was the wrong approach.

“The evidence shows that forcing an apology could make children feel that they are not capable of working it out for themselves and keeps them reliant on adults.”

So over to you. What do you think? Does saying sorry work? Do children understand what it means?