Apology Training

How to Accept an Apology

Empowering Victims and Educating Aggressors


By Josh Schiering, Vice President of LINX, trainer, and lifelong advocate for building bully free environments


More than 95% of the time, the response to an apology is, “It’s okay.” Go ahead, test it out for yourself.  Even as adults, we tell Aggressors, “It’s okay.” Why do you suppose we do this?

Some answers are that it’s quick, easy, and we believe we can all move forward. But, here are a few questions to ask ourselves:

  • What do we learn from the quick and easy way out?

  • What do we teach others about how to treat us in the future?

  • Was the act committed against us truly “okay,” and if it wasn’t, then

  • Why do we tell the Apologizer that it was okay?


APOLOGY (noun: a·pol·o·gy)

An acknowledgment expressing regret or asking pardon for a fault or offense.


1) "We owe you an apology."

2) "My apologies for the delay."

3) "I make no apologies for supporting that policy.”

synonyms: expression of regret, one's regrets


The quick, “It’s okay” is counter productive to our goal of empowering the victim and educating the aggressor.  It sweeps the issues under the rug.  It might toughen up our skin for the next time, but what we really learned is to just ‘lookout’ for that person in the future.  We learned not to trust that aggressor.  We learned to hide our true feelings and not stand up for ourselves.  


Children are often “told” or “forced” to apologize by adults who do not take the time to truly process what has transpired.  People often need time to process what was done to them, what was said to them and how it made them feel.  Rushing into a quick apology and a quick acceptance of the apology is a BIG mistake.


I once had two campers, Johnny and Timmy. They got in an argument when Johnny ripped a Buzz Lightyear figurine out of Timmy’s hand while saying, “Give it to me dummy!” Well I immediately swooped in and made Johnny give back the toy and apologize at once!  Regrettably, moments later, the boys were at it again.  Johnny learned nothing from the “forced” apology and Timmy was not equipped with the tools to stand-up for himself, as he wept in sorrow for being overpowered, yet again.


Lesson Learned:  We must take our time when it comes to sincere apology giving and receiving.


SINCERE (Adjective: sin·cere)

Free from pretense or deceit; proceeding from genuine feelings.:

Example: "They offer their sincere apology to Lisa and Johnny."

Synonyms: heartfelt, wholehearted, profound, deep




The Apology Training Worksheet (below) teaches us how to empower the victim while educating the aggressor. The training is designed to establish the tone for the group and creates an environment of support, responsibility and accountability for one's actions. Admittedly, it takes a lot more time than the conventional method of facilitating a quick apology, but in the long run, the benefits outway the investment of initial time by a factor of 100.



  • Acts of meanness and bullying are to be treated as seriously as, and at times more seriously than, a physical act of aggression

  • While children are capable of amazing things, they can also:

    • Be mean

    • Hurt feelings

    • Cause each other to cry

    • Make someone not want to go to school or camp

    • Make people feel like they just don't belong


* Please note that adults are capable of these acts as well.  As people, and most importantly, as educators, we are also capable of doing the complete opposite!  




Listed below is a sample interaction between two children with a camp counselor assisting along the way (counselor could easily be a parent, teacher, bus driver, lunch supervisor, etc.). This scenario can be applied to any situation, at any age.



Johnny told Lisa that he didn't want to be friends with her because she was “gross.” The Facilitator observes the situation and has the two campers step away from the group. While kneeling down to the height of the campers to make eye contact and to not appear intimidating by looking down, he reviews what took place.



Johnny, do you have something to say to Lisa?


I'm sorry.


Johnny, please look Lisa in the eyes when you apologize. Please try it again and say what you are sorry for...


I'm sorry for saying you were gross (this time making eye contact)


What do you say, Lisa? (knowing that 99% of the time the child will respond with, "It's okay")


It's okay.

< here comes the training >


Facilitator to Lisa:

But was it okay, Lisa?


No. (Get her to acknowledge that it wasn’t okay.)

Facilitator to Lisa:

If you forgive Johnny, let him know you forgive him, but let’s also share why it wasn’t okay.


I forgive you, but it wasn't okay.

Facilitator to Lisa:

Now let's tell him why it wasn't okay.

The Facilitator now works with Lisa to help identify and articulate reasons why the aggressor's actions were not okay (i.e. it was mean, hurtful and made me sad). Then, the Facilitator guides Lisa to say the following...



It wasn't okay to do that to me because I am a person and you hurt my feelings with your words. I don't deserve that and it's not okay to be mean to me. Please don't do it again.

Johnny (with assistance from Counselor):

I am sorry and I will not do it again. You are right, you do not deserve to be spoken to that way.


I am very proud of both of you. Lisa, you did a great job sticking up for yourself. You never have to let people be mean to you.


Johnny, though you were mean, you apologized and took responsibility for your actions. I know you heard Lisa and now know that you cannot treat her that way again. I don't want you to treat anyone like that (Facilitator would ask Johnny how he would like it if he was treated that way, etc...).


Now, let's work together, be nice to one another and work to earn our group the Spirit Stick today. Campers agree, high five or shake hands and return to the group.



  • Empowered children who can trust adults and now have the support needed to stand up for themselves and who know justice has been served

  • Creation of an environment in which the Aggressors knows that the institution and the adults and children involved will not tolerate this behavior

  • Victims and Aggressors who now have the words to use the next time this type of situation arises



  • More confident children who know how to stand up for themselves

  • Children who can trust their adult role models to be there for them

  • Children who respect others and themselves

  • Team players focused on working together towards a common goal (being kind to others and earning positive reinforcement established by the leader)



The last steps include circling back to the children later in the day and week to make sure everyone is being respectful and supporting one another. Parents of both children may be contacted, as necessary, to inform them of the situation, how it was handled, and how it progressed for each child.  Parent conferences might be required as well depending on the severity of the situation.



Here is a great way to break the ice leading into this training session:

Circle your team up (up to 30 at a time) and have a staff member sitting next to you who is holding a piece of paper (perhaps a paper you handed out).  As everyone is settling into their seats, and the attention is now on you as the facilitator, harshly grab the paper from the person next to you, while saying aggressively, “GIVE ME THAT!”  You will get everyone’s attention really quickly.  Then, look to the person and hand them back the paper and say, “I’m sorry, my bad.”  The person will surely reply, “It’s okay.” You can then launch into the training by asking them, “Was it okay?... Was it really?”  Enjoy the rest of the training by using volunteers to role-play the scenario above.



It’s easy for moms, dads and caregivers to make use of this training.  You do not need a formal sit down, just do it and watch what happens!  It takes all of about three-minutes (typically).  Be consistent and do it the same way each time.  Eventually, you will be able to ask leading questions and they will start to do it on their own. Trust me, it works!  


Apology Cards are a great technique to use at home and school to get aggressors to reflect on their actions.  Instead of the quick apology, remove the aggressor from the situation and have them take the time to reflect on what they did.  Younger children can draw a picture and dictate the written apology to the adult, while older children (1st grade and up) can write the apology themselves (pictures can also be included and in some cases an art project can also be made - helps with tactile learners who need to use their hands).  After the “timeout/apology card” time is up, the aggressor delivers the note and apologize face-to-face.  Doing this really makes the aggressor take the necessary time to reflect and consider the victim’s feelings.  It also enables the facilitator to assess the situation and determine if parent interaction is needed (if there is no remorse I typically send the child home for the day and require an in person meeting with parent and child the next morning).    See sample Apology Cards below.




From 9 year old Marina From 7 year old Landyn 




For more on how to use the Apology Training or to learn how to create a positive work environment contact Josh Schiering at jschiering@linx-usa.com.  You can learn about how to Eradicate Bullying by visiting www.linxcamps.com.