20 Mar Saying “I am sorry”
Organic food, starting Kindergarten at 5 or waiting until 6, co-sleeping are all debatable topics with young children. Teaching them, or should I say making them, say they are sorry is also an interesting topic. Children, by nature, are concerned with themselves. Some may say “egocentric.” They aren’t overly concerned about what others around them are feeling, thinking or doing for the first few years of life.
Parents and Teachers become involved when two children have an altercation. Or something happens and they need to step in. After both sides are heard, often times the adult says “tell him/her you are sorry.” The child looks down and mumbles “sorry.” Then they run off and continue their day.
Maybe it is because I see people use the word “sorry” very loosely or maybe because if I say I am sorry, I am truly very sorry for the mistake I made. I watch it with my own children. My daughters tip over their water and spill it over the cooked food on a regular basis (they are 5 and 10 years old). The first time, their look of shock and apology was real. They felt badly they just ruined the hot food. Fast forward to the 10th time they did it and with the “how can we avoid doing this anymore question that arose” their response was “sorry, we didn’t mean to.” Obviously they didn’t, but the sorries aren’t also really helpful. Lets focus on stopping the action that requires the sorry.
For an effective apology, children need to understand their actions. They don’t need a lecture, per se, they do need to know the effects of their actions, though. They should know what result happened by their action. If they pushed a child off the slide and they got hurt, they should know they hurt the child. Again, not in a lecture type format but “Look at Johnny’s hand and knees, by pushing him off the slide, he got hurt.” The timing for this conversation is also important. Immediately after the action, the other child is likely screaming which is a loud environment to have a calm conversation with the child that pushed them. However you don’t want to wait for 10 mins and then go back and coach on behaviors.
The idea that I love the most is asking “what can you do next time” or “how can we make it right.” Taking it one step further, we can’t change the action or result of what happened but we can do something extra kind to the person we hurt or honestly any person as an extra step of understanding we need to be kind to each other. Since kindness is contagious, maybe that idea of doing something extra kind instead of focusing on saying sorry might have a strong rippling effect among children.
Lastly–as I always seem to wrap up–we are the adults. We are the examples. Show them that you are sincerely sorry when you make a mistake (and possibly take the “I will do this to make it right” path) to show that we are not perfect and we were kids too (long ago!)