But I’m NOT Sorry! What To Do When A Child Has Done Wrong

For years, as a Teacher, Parent Coach, and Passer Byer (I know. Passer Byer is not really a word but, eh, now it is.) I have heard very well-meaning, parents, teachers, and the like tell children to say, “I’m sorry” when they have made a less than desirable choice. I get it, really I do. Grown ups want children to apologize when they do things that are “wrong”. I just tend to wonder if an insincere apology is really an apology at all?

In some cases the child is NOT sorry. She DID mean to grab or push, so insisting on a “sorry” is insisting on a lie. Other times a child will say a fast sorry and be on his way. In these cases a child has not taken responsibility for her actions. They learn that they can do what they wish, say a quick sorry, and be on their way.

We may want kids to be sorry when they push or hit or take things away from other kids but, and I hate to burst a bubble, kids usually are not so sorry. I am not saying that they want another child to bleed or cry, they just want what they want. No, your child did not want to push Sam to the ground, but he DID want the car that Sam was playing with and since Sam was not giving it up, he had to take matters into his own hands, and so down went Sam.

They’re kids. They have a difficult time thinking outside of themselves and their needs. They have a hard time thinking about calmer ways to solve problems. They are not there yet developmentally. That being said, we CAN help them get there.

Now you are twisting your lips and thinking, “What? So I am just supposed to let my kids do what ever they want to people?” No, not really. Just take a breath and approach the situation in a new way. Start by asking why. Wait! Hold on! Don’t ask your kid, “Why did you do that?!

It will not end well. Go in slowly, like you do when going into a pool with
very cold water. You take it a bit at a time.

  1. First you want to figure out the motive. We all know hitting, pushing, kicking are wrong, but just focusing on the unwanted act will end up with your child missing a life lesson. Getting to the root of why it happened is a must, but as I said before, do not dive in, wade in. “Wow, there is a lot of commotion over here. What seems to be happening?” Obviously if a child is cut or has a bruise, tend to it and them first, then begin the conversation.
  2. As the explanations fly, stay calm. Remember that there are 3 sides to a story, mine, yours and the truth. That does NOT mean that a child is lying, just that she is seeing it from her own viewpoint.
  3. The next step is to have your child take responsibility for his actions. For example: If a child hits another person then the hitter has to take responsibility for the injury that she has inflicted. The child needs to ask the injured party if they are “O.K.” and “What can I do to make it better?”. Perhaps he can get the hurt child some ice. If the child cannot seem to stop hitting and pushing, she can sit down for a bit to calm her body.
  4. Help them find a better way to handle the situation. They can use their words (give them the words that you want them to use, the exact words), they can get a grown up. You want to focus, not only on removing an unwanted behavior, but putting a wanted one in its place. That is when those all important life lessons occur.

As a teacher my way seems odd to some. I tend to get the you don’t make your kids say sorry stare. No, no I don’t, is my look in response. I teach my kids not to lie and I am sticking to that lesson. I have my kids take responsibility for their actions, but not by saying a forced “Sorry”. They actually have to remedy what they do and logical consequences follow their actions. My kids know that a fast, “Sorry” does not allow them to quickly head back to their game OR allow them to make aggressive choices, since it only takes a “sorry” for them to get out of trouble. When I started this new path, I began to notice that by taking responsibility for the situation, my kids internalized the reactions to their actions more then if I had made then say “Sorry” and sent them on their way or banished them to a Time Out. And you know what? Over the year there is less hitting and snatching and from time to time I even hear a “sorry” and I smile because I know THAT sorry was real.

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Brandi Davis, ACC, is a professional Parenting Coach, Parent Educator, and Author of O.K. I’m A Parent Now What? She can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and be sure to catch her parenting podcasts on iTunes. The goal of Brandi’s practice is to bring respect, calm communication, teamwork, and FUN into the home or classroom. To discover all that Child and Family Coaching can bring to your family stop by www.childandfamilycoaching.com.

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The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the blog contributor’s. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider. Writers may have conflicts of interest, and their opinions are their own.

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