Say Sorry: What It really means to your child

Willy and Sam are siblings who seem to always be at war! They get into a fight. You break up the tussle, then demand they apologize to one another. The older sibling glares at the younger one and with a forced, begrudging and sarcastic tone and a snare on his face, says, “I’m sorry.”

Was that really an apology?!

His comment was merely a continuation of the original battle, but on a verbal level. They two will most likely slug it out again as soon as your back is turned! So they go again,

“See how he looked at me?”

“He stuck his tongue out at me first!”

“That’s mine”

“No it’s mine”

“I took it first”

“I used it last”

Mom and dad have used several tricks and hacks to get the boys to live peacefully together. Each time, just as the fight in progress seemed settled, in moments soon to come, another takes to the uproar.

Familiar right? I bet!

Siblings at war is perhaps one of the highest causes of stress and guilt for parents. In a bid to ‘settle’ a fight, parents usually come in to break the tussle and demand the perceived ‘guilty’ child to apologize and the perceived ‘victim’ child to forgive and forget. Children, been as smart and manipulative as they come, soon take advantage of this ‘model’ and before you know it, a child (the one who often times, is the first to report and so received the apology), at the slightest disagreement or perceived injustice or provocation, marches forth to report the ‘troubleshooter’. This unfortunately causes most parents to unintentionally, slip into a mode of taking sides, labelling a child and causing further rift.

If you are currently asking kids to apologize and that routine is working well, good for you!

Keep in mind however, that many apologies are really an exercise in hypocrisy!

Requesting an apology is often simply part of the child’s punishment and it is all so glaring in the tone and body language with which we hover to demand the apology. We often just go: Oya, say sorry! So it looks like we are doing something to intervene or restore the right of the child to whom the apology is intended. It is rarely a learning experience involving compassion.

In anger management, one of the eight tools for anger control is “Forgive, but don’t forget”. In the real world however, we are often bullied with the “forgive and forget” syndrome and this starts right from as little as when siblings have a misunderstanding. We like to solemnize and preach how godly it is to forgive others and forget the harm or wrong done to us.

We need to begin practicing a new way of being that creates peace and the place to start is in our homes. When we harass or force our kids to either say sorry or forgive and forget, we deprive them of the opportunity to learn conflict resolution techniques that results in win-win.

Parents have a great opportunity to contribute to world peace by dealing with children’s fight in a way that equips the children to learn to problem solve peacefully.

So you may be wondering: What other positive thing to do aside demanding children give an apology?

First, know that the importance of teaching values to children can never be over emphasized. Typically, these works well when there’s a deliberate plan to teach and model the values we wish our family adopt.

Second, test and evaluate the imbibing of these values when the children are in a squabble. This means that there’s a place to teach children to respect the right to others, apologize when they go overboard and model this in action. When the two are effected in the same scenario, it’s less effective.

If you insist on an apology, make sure that you are not simply asking your kids to lie!

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