Why We Shouldn’t Make Young Children Say ‘Sorry’: 

Young children have a very underdeveloped ‘theory of mind’. In essence this means that they have a hard time understanding the viewpoint of others. They struggle to understand how others are feeling, particularly if it differs from what they themselves are feeling. You might know this as ’empathy’.

Empathy is all about standing in somebody else’s shoes metaphorically and understanding how they are feeling at any one moment in time. Empathy however is one of the last social skills to develop in children. While some children have distinctly better empathy skills than others, it’s reasonable to expect a decent amount of empathy once the child starts school. Toddlers and preschoolers are notoriously lacking in empathy skills though.


Why does empathy matter when it comes to saying “sorry”? Because it implies that the child feels bad for what they have done, and in order to feel bad they have to understand how they have made another feel.


Sarah Ockwell-Smith

Parenting Author