Monday, June 15, 2009

I'm Sorry

I have issues, both general and specific, one of them being with the phrase "I'm sorry". I am sure I don't like apologizing any less or more than the next person and the issue isn't with me uttering the phrase so maybe this doesn't count as a "me" issue at all.

I don't make my kids apologize, usually, even when they do something wrong. This may make me very unpopular, which I am ok with. I have no problem with other parents making there kids say sorry, its just that I find it a little...hollow. If this is the definition:
Sorry: regretful: feeling or expressing regret or sorrow or a sense of loss over something done or undone
I am pretty sure my 2 year old doesn't feel it when she decked your kid for taking a toy she wanted, and forcing her to say it seems pointless. I guess I feel like empathy is a more important lesson than apology.

And then there is the whole power struggle aspect. I am bigger than my kid and can physically remove them from a situation where they are causing trouble. I cannot, however, open her mouth and force words to come out. I can make her sit somewhere until the word "sorry" comes out of her mouth but I am pretty sure what she will be feeling at the time will in no way echo the statements expressed above. I believe the point of apology is 3 fold; to make the other person feel better, to own up to a wrong doing, and to imply a change of action in the future.

We have a friend who plays a bit...rough. She has an intense personality. When she wrongs others, which is fairly often, her mom puts her in time out and then makes her say "I'm sorry" and give a hug. I tell you for a fact what this kid is feeling is not remorse for her actions at the time of the apology, she is a repeat offender and generally after she has smacked Elie, Elie doesn't really feel like giving her a hug. I am not in any way dissing this mom's parenting skills, she does what is best for her family.

I am not saying I let Eliana, or even Addilyn, off the hook when they wrong others.If Eliana takes your kids toys this is what you will most likely, on a good day, see me do:
First I ask Elie to look at her friend and tell me what they are feeling, we talk about how she made them feel that way and made the problem and she needs to fix it. She must give back the toy and think about how she is going to make the problem better, if she can't come up with any ideas, I will help (you could tell them your "sorry", you could tell then you won't take toys anymore, give a hug, get there lovey) If Elie is unwilling to try and make things better, she isn't being kind and isn't allowed to play any with us anymore and either she or I will remove her from the situation.

I don't know that what I am doing is right, but it at least feels a little more authentic. When my kids apologize, I want it to feel like more than words to just "get me out of trouble so I can go play again". One day, I hope my children come to a sincere understanding of what the cost of sin is and feel a hearts desire to apologize for there shortcomings to the One who can forgive us all.

If I have offended anyone, I'm sorry. :)


Kari said...

I've always applauded your "I'm sorry" and apologizing techniques. I think you bring attention to the bigger concern which is respect rather than a quick fix. For what's it worth, I think you're doing the right thing for you and Elie, and I welcome your strategy when I have my own kiddos someday. ;-)

Honeycutt Family said...

I like your strategy, Gretch, and respect it. The only thing I would add is that when I tell Grace to say "sorry" after she does something wrong to someone I know she doesn't totally "get it" yet, but I'm hoping she will understand it more as she matures and grows and that this will begin that process. Does that make sense? I'm trying to think of an example, but am drawing a blank. Anyway, thankfully for us it has never been a power struggle to get her to apologize to a friend because she just knows it is part of the process after you wrong someone. She has been hurt a few times when one of her friends haven't said sorry, but like you said, I can't make that kid apologize to her so I just say that they are probably sorry in their hearts. Thankfully 3 year olds have pretty short memories and move on to the next activity quickly! :)

Honeycutt Family said...

I thought of an example, but I don't know if it is the greatest or not--making them use good manners by saying "please" and "thank you" and "excuse me". Many times they don't know why they are saying these things, but we teach them to say the words and they learn to use them on their own and to mean them.

McHam Family said...

Love it Gretch :) You know I look up to you so much and I have always admired your parenting approach. I try to do this with the boys too - esp. T. P just doesn't get it yet but T does. Esp. when he takes P's toys we talk about what he can do to make him feel better or when he says something to me to just be ugly. Usually I get a hug and an "I love you Mommy." And I try to overlook the fact that he's probably just saying it to get his strawberry milk back! But hopefully I'm doing the right thing.....

curlyjo said...

I'm so offended; okay not REALLY. I do disagree with this one, however, and am firmly in Jen Honeycutts camp. It's about modeling; it's about teaching that we don't lead with our emotions. We DO the right thing, whether we FEEL like it or not. Forgiveness is an act of the will, not an emotion.

NLWilliams said...

Gretchen...I have a feeling I would like my kids to play with your kids!
I do make my E say she's sorry, but we also talk things through, probably ad nauseum, before the apology so she knows what she's apologizing for.
I think so long as you are purposeful and thoughtful and engaged, your children will learn the message and get the picture!