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How can I get my almost 3yr old to say "sorry"?

My son will be 3 in 2 months and has been quite mean to his baby brother lately (not sharing/taking away toys and hitting and yelling) I've been asking him to say sorry but he shakes his head no and grunts. I put him in time out and explain that what he did wasn't nice and when we aren't nice we have to say sorry but he just won't do it. I'm not sure what else to do. Any tips?

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Asked by alinker at 1:12 PM on Jun. 24, 2011 in Toddlers (1-2)

Level 14 (1,666 Credits)
Answers (7)
  • making them say "sorry" isn't going to fix the problem, they have to understand that their actions affect others and at this age- it's kinda hard to grasp...

    here are a couple of links about little ones and saying sorry:



    Answer by charlotsomtimes at 1:27 PM on Jun. 24, 2011

  • How old is the baby brother? I only ask because I have a girl that was not 2 when son was born. As he got older, I didn't just scold my daughter, but sat on the floor at their level and talked to both of them and didn't place blame on either. They are 5 and 3 1/2 now and will say sorry to each other.

    Answer by nova.mommy at 1:33 PM on Jun. 24, 2011

  • baby brother will be 1yr in less than 2 weeks

    Comment by alinker (original poster) at 1:33 PM on Jun. 24, 2011

  • I was just reading a book that said that you shouldn't make your child say sorry. If they really are not sorry you are in a way teaching your little one to lie. I was shocked by this statement because I have always made my DD say sorry, but once I read this it made sense. I have learned that she says sorry on her own when she truly means it. As far as what your little one is doing to his brother you just have to be consistent with your way of dicipline. When he does acts naughty immediatly act on it. Good luck!

    Answer by amber1330 at 1:46 PM on Jun. 24, 2011

  • You definitely have the right start. It just sounds like you are giving up after a while. If he doesn't say sorry, NICELY, then you should ignore him until he does. He will probably break down an yell it, at which point you can reiterate ONCE that he needs to say it nicely. He will eventually do it, albeit after plenty of tantrums and whatnot. Lack of attention is the world's worst punishment to young children, especially at that age.

    Also of note, there could be something going on that is an underlying problem, causing him to lash out at his brother. First children often have a very difficult time accepting that a baby is there for good. He may have seemed before that he was fine with it, but it can come in waves. Remember that he is probably experiencing jealousy, of which he has never felt before, and doesn't know how to deal with it. Ensure that you are giving him plenty of attention (when he is good) and affection.

    Answer by cypressandsage at 1:50 PM on Jun. 24, 2011

  • In my exp., saying "I'm sorry" is something that comes from modeling & should be spontaneous. If a child connects to another, grasps the impact of an action on another & feels empathy, then expressing sorrow & regret will come naturally. (I have two-year-old twins, and I've experienced this with them. It was the same with my older daughter, though she had less to apologize for in general because she wasn't on a never-ending "playdate" with someone exactly her
    DH & I don't insist on things that are ideally sincere expressions, such as gratitude, consideration, remorse/apology. We model it by respecting our kids & each other, apologizing sincerely to them & each other, and thanking them & being generally gracious with each other.
    Kids who feel good about themselves generally are kind. It helps that we're connection-oriented (non-punitive & non-coercive) in our discipline so they aren't carrying anger/defensiveness.

    Answer by girlwithC at 4:05 PM on Jun. 24, 2011

  • nova.mommy touches on something that has been important in my approach with my kids. (She mentioned not placing blame on either child when there are conflicts.)
    Having twins made this particularly important or urgent to me, but it applies to having two children close in age, as well. (Actually, it applies universally.) When there's one child who does more of the antagonizing or instigating, or tends to be the aggressor, it can be easy to slip into negative patterns & feelings/attitudes. I knew early on that I couldn't view one boy as a problem/one as a victim (them being the same exact age made this obvious, but it's the same with a "big boy" in his twos and a baby, as well.) Connecting to the child you need to correct is so helpful, & that means being connected to his validity (not seeing him as a problem/wrong.) All behavior is needs-based (& you can always validate needs even if their strategy to meet them is problematic.)

    Answer by girlwithC at 5:10 PM on Jun. 24, 2011

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