I was a 5 year old sitting in my friend’s room, playing with her Barbies! I remember it being a warm day, and I was wearing a pair of striped shorts that had super deep pockets. We dressed the dollies and brushed their hair. Made them walk up and down the stairs in the Barbie house and we took them for a drive down the “beach” in their light yellow jeep. After a while my friend was called downstairs to greet her Granny but I stayed in her bedroom and played. As I was driving Barbie and Ken around the bedroom I spotted this amazing sticker. It was white and blue with a lion on it. I knew that it was the local football club logo. It was awesome.
Somehow that sticker found its way in to one of the deep pockets, on my striped shorts.
I forgot about the sticker. I can’t say I intentionally meant to steal it, nor that I had an understanding of what stealing was, non the less, I had stolen this sticker from my best friend.
A few days later, my mum found the sticker as she was sorting the washing. She called me down and asked me where the sticker had come from. After I had told her that this sticker had “accidentally” ended up in my pocket and I had removed it from it’s owner, I was marched down the street and made to apologise as I returned the sticker. The shame and horror I felt when I realised what my actions did, was unbearable. Did I learn from the forced apology? No. did I learn from owning my misstake? Yes. But that didn’t happen as a result of my mothers actions. It happened as a result of empathy.
I can’t remember ever being forced to apologise before or after this, apologies were modelled and not really forced in our Swedish home. You were told what your actions had created but you made the choice to apologise when ready, if at all- little focus was placed on the actual word! I mean, we can all use actions to say sorry! Regret can be shown in so many ways! Through a smile or a quick hug. The word is irrelevant without the regret. The action of showing regret however, is not irrelevant without the words.
After all they do say that “actions speak louder then words“.
My kids fight a lot at the moment! They love each other and are the best of friends but they also have the most ferocious arguments. I try to let them find a way to interact and communicate, and I only involve myself if I feel that it’s truly getting out of hand. I believe that my interference will hinder their ability to resolve conflict in the future. When I do intervene I do so by assisting them in explaining their feelings to each other. I model empathy and respect and encourage them to use these tools when interacting with each other.
Or I did…
With a 3 year old and a 6 year old whom are a both a bit heavy handed I find myself reaching breakdown point about 4.30 pm! They are tired. I am tired. Someone hits someone and there are tears- followed by more tears and lastly me, in cooking stress, screaming from the kitchen –
“SAY SORRY TO YOUR SISTER/BROTHER.“
This is followed by a swift, uninvolved sorry from one to the other. There is no emotion in it, no regret. It’s just empty words.
In Britain we are very quick to ask our children to apologise. It shows other parents that we take the actions of our children seriously. It shows our children that they are in the wrong. But does it really?
Translate a “say sorry” scenario in to an adult situation. If I have an argument with my husband, one where I feel hurt, and as does he. We are both confused by what happened and we are both needing time to digest who said what and who did what- would it really be beneficial if someone came up and told me to apologise? How would I feel and what would the benefit be? Would I even mean it if I decided to say it?
Thinking back at that one time I was made to say sorry, I can imagine that if someone else asked me to say sorry to my husband I would likely feel belittled and unheard. Forced in to a corner I wasn’t yet ready to be in. As adults we have the right to apologise when we are ready. We have the right to resolve conflict as we choose yet when it’s a child (who has no consequential or logical thinking!) who makes a misstake (which will happen often as a result of lacking in impulse control) they should apologise within seconds, and if it’s not said instantly the “say sorry” goes on repeat until the child apologises- not because of feeling sorry. Not because of regret but as a “get out of jail” card.
“Sorry” is a word that shouldn’t be forced. It should be modelled. By modelling graciousness, kindness and empathy our children will learn these behaviours and repeat them. By encouraging our children to see a situation from another child’s perspective we are disciplining positively, not just asking them to say a word that has little or no meaning to these young kids.
I’m not sure where I got lost and I decided that shouting “say sorry” down the hall is sufficient! I don’t know when I found myself overwhelmed and turning to a response that isn’t actually one that I believe in! I do know that from now on I’m working on changing this. This isn’t the mother I want to be, and although 4.30pm comes like a sledgehammer every day, a forced sorry, isn’t going to make the sun shine!
I actually agree with what my mum did. I agree that I should return that sticker. Thing is- the sorry isn’t what I remember as shameful.
No. Saying sorry was the easy part. What was upsetting was seeing the sadness on my friends face when I returned her sticker. I felt awful because I knew that my mum felt ashamed that her child had been stealing and so sad that I had broken her trust. The fact that I quietly said a word, in the middle of this upsetting meeting was irrelevant. Yes, indeed- “action does speak louder than words!”
Much Love ❤️