We tell this to our children all the time. In those exact words? Maybe when they are little. As they get older we get more creative and maybe slip into a bit of a lecture. But let's face it, when they get older and you have to say again the thing you have been saying, nearly daily, all this time, you need to get a little more specific. Why should they say they are sorry? Interesting question, thanks for asking. Maybe they smacked Mommy on the back with their hand during a terrible two tantrum, maybe they knocked the side mirror off the passenger side of your car while dragging the garbage can down the driveway or maybe they just forgot to call you after school to tell you they were home safe and you don't have to keep glancing up at the clock on the wall at work and have the most awful scenarios running through your brain at a mile a minute while trying to keep your cool and stay focused on work. The reason is not as important as you may think. The lesson they learn from admitting a mistake and dealing with it timely and appropriately is the key. The best way to show them is, of course, by example. Tell your kids you are sorry. It might not be easy but it is oh so important. I didn't realize this until a few years ago and I felt much better when I did. It is not their fault if I had a rough day at work, came home all wound up and raised my voice at them over some stupid little thing. I apologized. It is not their fault that I bought a second puppy and two years later conceded that it was a poor decision for our family and had to give him up. I apologized. How specific are the apologies? That depends on the situation. You must be honest, or at least as honest as their age deems appropriate. "I am sorry I yelled at you. I had a really bad day at work. I am feeling upset about it but I am not angry with you. I love you very much and I will try not to do that again." "I am sorry we had to give away our dog. The life he had with us was unfair and he deserves a better home. I love him very much too and that is why I have to make this hard decision. Grown ups make mistakes too. This is a hard lesson for all of us and when you are older and consider getting your own pet, hopefully you will remember my mistake and how we all feel. Pets are a big responsibility and you need to be as sure as possible when you commit to them."
I hate to be wrong. I really do. If I expect my kids to apologize, I need to respect them enough to do the same.