In my humble opinion there is almost nothing more important to role model to our kids than how to make a good repair. For our children to witness us owning up to our mistakes and connecting and empathising with how this has impacted any other human beings, is one of the greatest gifts we can give them. This is not always an easy thing. I know my issues surrounding apologising are lifelong. “Sorry” was a bit of a dirty word growing up. No one ever wanted to admit they were wrong. No one ever wanted to be that vulnerable and most of the “sorry”s I issued in my younger life were forced and insincere.
On that topic, I may have another unpopular viewpoint. I don’t think we should force ANYONE to say “sorry”… not even young children. Sorry is meant to mean “I accept and admit my mistake and I want to make up for it…” and there is nothing less appealing or useful than an insincere apology, so why force someone to say something they don’t mean? I imagine this has a lot to do with why I’ve at times found it hard to say “sorry”, it brings up those feelings of shame and blame and it reminds me of a time I was forced to do something I didn’t want to do. It also fosters insincerity and makes an apology seem perfunctory rather than a way to repair a situation or circumstance.
So if my child does or says something offensive or hurtful to someone, I will apologise on their behalf and often I will hope that’s enough to prompt them because, let’s face it, it certainly does bring up some social discomfort but the reality is that that prompted “sorry” is nowhere near as beneficial to either party as the spontaneous “sorry” or the one that comes after going away and really thinking about.
This article is born in the moment (like soooooo many). Today is the last day of school before holidays and it’s been an 11 week term. EVERYONE is ready for holidays! Perfect setting for everything to go wrong and it did and everyone (yes, myself included) was displaying off-track behaviour. I got them both off to school but I don’t think anyone felt good and my eldest was up there wearing shoes too small as we couldn’t find any others and it just seemed like one of those tough lessons you need to learn (If you can’t organise yourself better then this is the “natural consequence”) but I didn’t feel good either. I thought about how many opportunities I missed to Staylisten to very valid big feelings, to use Playful Parenting to get us sorted and the fact that the way I had spoken was more child-like and off-track than my own child. Not to mention how the last day of term should be fun and feeling so full of emotions would get in the way of that even without having your feet pinched all day! So I looked for a decent pair of shoes and took them up to the school, came home and wrote this.
You don’t always have to “fix” your children’s problems. In fact, most of the time, they just need you to listen to their big feelings so they can come up with their own solutions. Emptying the “emotional backpack” and building connection allows room for clear-thinking for both you and your child but children learn from our example far more efficiently then they learn from our teaching. A great example is that I fastidiously taught one child manners and they often forget or don’t want to use manners because it seems like a bit of a chore and seems like something you do for someone else’s benefit, whereas I decided only to model good manners to the other child and they take a lot of pleasure in using pleases and thank you’s, etc.
I really love the concept of the Four Step Sorry that I found in an article, particularly as an adult trying to do some healing around the apology process, it really helps you connect with what you did and it’s impact and step number 2 helps put you inside the other person’s shoes for a moment. So it’s a brilliant modelling tool:
Step 1: Sorry for what you did
Step 2: Sorry for how it impacted the other party/ies
Step 3: “Next time…”
Step 4: “Do you forgive me?” (remembering that they don’t have to right then and there)
Nobody is perfect. We all say and do stuff we regret. Many of us miss many opportunities to connect with our kids and take the high road. The most important thing is that we acknowledge this and do our best to make a repair afterwards. There are times that this feels incredibly hard or times that there’s a voice in your head saying “I DON’T WANT TO SAY ‘SORRY’!” and those are the times you need to take care of you. Get yourself some Listening Time, find the space for some Self Care.
This will be a fun but challenging time for my fellow Australians heading into holidays so don’t hesitate to reach out and ask for Listening Time. I will also be doing a Hand In Hand Parenting Facebook Live on Listening Time on May 5th at 1pm Sydney Time and May 4th 8pm Pacific / 11pm Eastern in the USA.
Anything you need,
Just Ask xx