There will be no more forced apologies in this house from now on. I went to a parenting seminar a few months ago and they presented an interesting concept. For all you parents out there – when your unprovoked child socks somebody else in the nose and you witness the whole thing, what is your first reaction? You make them say they are sorry. But if they are not really sorry, what have you just made them do? Lie.
So many of us have gotten pretty used to telling our children what they should say and how they should feel. We are not giving them the benefit of figuring a lot of this out on their own. When we aren’t standing over their shoulders telling them how to feel they end up feeling lost. A wonderful idea is to lead by example. Give care and show empathy to the child who was socked and let your child witness it.
I was surprised when this scenario played out in my own home. My four year old pushed my one and a half year old onto the floor for no apparent reason, and pushed him pretty hard. Being the younger child he is used to taking some hits and some pushes, but this one really seemed to hurt his feelings also. Every cell in my body wanted to yell at her or scold her or at least give her “a look.” Instead, I went to my son, picked him up and told him I was so sorry he had been pushed. I comforted him for a moment and then we all moved on with the day.
It was actually easier on me after the initial momma-bear-retaliation moment. Staying calm for my son, I was able to move on and not have to deal with my own anger for as long. About thirty minutes later my four year old came to me crying. I pulled her on my lap and asked her what was wrong. She said she was sorry for pushing her brother. You could have knocked me over. I had long forgotten about the whole thing. My son was happily playing without a care in the world. But she had taken some personal inventory and was truly able to feel remorse because I didn’t force the remorse on her. She gave him a genuine apology and gave him a big hug. Talk about pulling on mom’s heartstrings.
What a valuable lesson for both of us. I try to remember that lesson frequently. Not many days go by without something that would have required an apology. Many times at the park or the store I hear a parent making a child apologize when they would rather spit in the other person’s food. It’s all I can do to not pull a soapbox from my purse and give a lecture. But then I figure that parent wants to hear my lecture about as much as their child wants to apologize… at least for the moment.