I recently read (with a lot of interest) an article that was making its way around Facebook regarding teaching children how to apologize. If you are interested in reading it for yourself, I highly recommend it (http://www.cuppacocoa.com/a-better-way-to-say-sorry/#content).

I think the reason this stuck out for me so much also centers from our chapter 3 discussions regarding conflict. I often tell stories about my own childhood growing up with a sister that is just fifteen months younger than I. We had very typical “fights” growing up. As young children it centered around taking toys away from one another and not sharing. When we were middle school aged it was…well, taking things without asking and not sharing (I’m sensing a pattern here). I tell these stories to illustrate how important it is to actually teach kids how to resolve conflict with words and talking. Left to their own devises, kids are going to try to physically overpower one another. At least that’s what my sister and I did.

In my home, whenever one of us kids would go running to an adult with the phrase, “MOM! She took my…” my mom’s response (or maybe a grandparent, or an aunt or uncle) was usually, “you girls need to work that out.” I understand theoretically why this would be the response, however, I am also acutely aware of the reality of this response. The adults in my life were trying to teach us to be more independent, not to tattle, probably not to over-react. But, my sister and I routinely beat the crap out of each other because we were never taught how to express ourselves. Our emotions were completely in control of how we used our behavior. It was a very competitive spirit between the two of us and each of us wanted to be the “winner.”

I encourage people in my classes to teach others how to deal with conflict; how to communicate more effectively using “I” messages; and, how to affirm our own emotions so we can choose our behavior more effectively.

So, the article above regarding how to apologize is another tool about how to teach children to rise above their own emotions; how to be empathetic; how to really, truly apologize; and, how to be sincere about that apology. As the author points out it is one thing to roll your eyes and mutter “I’m sorry” because you are being forced to do so. It is an entirely different experience when you can truthfully say you are sorry because you have an understanding of what someone else might be feeling.

I used this recently with my cousin’s children. It took a minute for “G” to catch on to what I was asking him to do. Initially he looked down at the floor and blurted out “I’m sorry!” to his brother. I asked G to take a second and imagine what it might be like if his brother had just done the same thing to him. I asked him to think about what he would want his brother to say to him if the roles were reversed. It took him a few attempts to get close to what I was hoping for, but it was a much more sincere apology and it actually kind of took his brother by surprise!

G’s first attempt was something like, “I’m sorry I called you stupid because that wasn’t nice.”
His second attempt was better, “I’m sorry I called you stupid because it hurt your feelings.” In my book, close enough! I was pretty excited he was able to acknowledge that on his own.

Possibly the funniest part of this experience though, came when G asked his brother to forgive him. G used his brother’s name, “K, can you please forgive me for hurting your feelings?” K (all of 4 years old) looked at me, looked at G and then shrugged his shoulders. I prompted K to tell G if he was forgiven. He then said, “I want to play baseball” and grabbed G’s hand and ran out to the backyard.

Non-verbals being what they are, I’d say that was a solid “yes.”

Nikki Wince – Mandt Faculty Supervisor