"Tell her you're sorry." - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 27 Old 01-29-2003, 02:51 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I have been noticing that parents prompt behaviors from their kids before the kids have the feeling inside. Most kids seem to learn to "say sorry" before they learn to feel sorry. I don't think that once they learn the feeling of sorry that it will be any problem to learn to say it...but most of the time what I see is a forced apology to get out from under the pressure of a parent, or teacher. And if anything, I fear that disrupts the natural development of that feeling. My son is two and a half and I'm quite sure he is not yet capable of empathizing, or it's a very young stage of development of empathy. He loves to torture the cats and watch them run, and I'll step in to protect them at times, but to expect him to understand the pain he causes them is beyond his development at this point. DH and I are both such empathetic souls I don't fear he will lack for teaching, but it takes time for him to learn.

But it's tricky then how to handle these situations. I try to let ds just take in the crying (or whatever emotional expression comes from the other person or animal) and he does watch. And likewise when he has been hurt, let him express himself without coaching anyone in the resolution, at least not immediately.

I'm just curious what others have observed about this, more than looking for advice.
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#2 of 27 Old 01-29-2003, 03:53 PM
 
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I never thought of it as any different than teaching them any other manners. I taught them to say "pardon me" when they fart, "excuse me" when they need to interrupt, "thank you" when grateful, etc. I do always explain "You didn't mean to, but you hurt Liza when you pushed her down. She is crying because she is hurt. You can let her know that you feel badly that she is hurt by saying "I'm sorry". I hope this helps them to identify their feelings and give them some power in how to deal with them, as well as their actions. I don't force the issue, but I do think that part of our job as parents is to teach our kids how to express themselves in a socially acceptable way. I do remember being older (9 or 10) and being told to "apologize right now or you're grounded!" I also remember choosing the punishment rather than apologize for something I wasn't sorry for.
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#3 of 27 Old 01-29-2003, 04:25 PM
 
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cindi - your post raises several very interesting questions, and I don't doubt that most of the time you hear a kid saying "I'm sorry" they either *aren't* sorry, or don't really understand what they are saying.

But I have to agree with 3boysmom. I see it as part of teaching manners and, as she said, "expressing themselves in a socially appropriate way". If your son doesn't say anything, but just "watches the other kid crying, taking it all in", YOU may understand what is going on, but I think I and other parents might wonder if the child is feeling *anything* and it may raise our suspicions a bit (whether that is right or not, it probably would). So I think it behooves us to teach kids basic manners because it will affect how others treat them, and I think that's an important part of how they grow to see themselves.

hope this makes sense!

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#4 of 27 Old 01-29-2003, 08:54 PM
 
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I tell my daughter to say she is sorry when she hurts another child, or takes their toys. She's just turned two. Usually after initial resistance she goes up to them, gives the toy back, and says she is sorry with a little pat on the back. the way she does it lets me know she does get it on some level. i don't think it's ever too early to start teaching *about* empathy, although it can be too early to expect him to have it.
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#5 of 27 Old 01-29-2003, 10:22 PM
 
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I completely agree with you cindi. I think it is a terrible mistake to try to force things like that on our children. I go through the same feelings as you with my dd who is 2 1/2. i admit I sometimes cave into the social pressure and try to force a 'sorry' out of her, but I do think the best thing for them is to show them by our example how to apologize and then let them do it on their own when they are ready. I don't think we need to stifle our childrens growth and development just to keep up with society.
A good example, i think, of how letting them learn it on their own is a good thing. Our dd, 2 1/2, loves to clean up, which dh and i find kind of funny since we arent the neatest people. But the other day I realized that perhaps she enjoys it because we never forced or pressured her to clean up as she was growing. She learned to do it on her own so It is not a forced behavior. We are planning to unschool our children because I think they learn everything in life better if they really want to learn it for themselves, not to please parents teachers or society.
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#6 of 27 Old 01-29-2003, 10:24 PM
 
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i also wanted to add that it can be a danger to make/let our children express fake emotions because we want them to be honest for their own good and others.
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#7 of 27 Old 01-29-2003, 10:48 PM
 
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Great thread Cindi.. You have raised some valid questions.

While I can understand wanting the child to recognize their feelings of another person & making the choice when/if to apologize but do young children have that reasoning? I believe the parent needs to guide them into what is the right thing to do. When you hurt someone, you owe them an apology regardless of how you feel, especially if it was intentional.

Kids have short attention spans. I believe things should be dealt w/ immediatey or they may be forgotten. Remorse comes later..

If my children don't apologize to one another, they have to go to their rooms until they're ready. But for them, by learning early on to be kind to one another they usually choose for themselves to apologize. They seem to be very aware of hurt feelings.

I agree w/ you ladies who say it's part of learning manners. They really do go hand in hand. General courtesy & respect for others.
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#8 of 27 Old 01-29-2003, 10:52 PM
 
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Great thread Cindi.. You have raised some valid questions.

While I can understand wanting the child to recognize their feelings of another person & making the choice when/if to apologize but do young children have that reasoning? I believe the parent needs to guide them into what is the right thing to do. When you hurt someone, you owe them an apology regardless of how you feel, especially if it was intentional.

Kids have short attention spans. I believe things should be dealt w/ immediatey or they may be forgotten. Remorse comes later..

If my children don't apologize to one another, they have to go to their rooms until they're ready. But for them, by learning early on to be kind to one another they usually choose for themselves to apologize. They seem to be very aware of hurt feelings.

I agree w/ you ladies who say it's part of learning manners. They really do go hand in hand. General courtesy & respect for others.
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#9 of 27 Old 01-30-2003, 12:26 AM
 
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I didn't read all the responses because DH needs to get online for his online course

I'm not happy about forcing children to say I'm sorry. I also don't force excuse me or thank you or please Well, maybe I force please, because I simply don't give ds what he's asking for until he asks nicely. He doesn't have to say please though, just say something other than I want X! in a loud tone. :

Anyway, I will say something like, "I think I'd say excuse me if it were me" or "It's polite to say excuse me when you fart, especially if it happens at school." But I don't enforce it. I might also muse on it aloud when I'm sorry comes up, such as, "It might be nice if you said 'I'm sorry' if you are." But I don't force it. Because I believe the feeling should accompany it. I can see when he does feel sorry. Yesterday he threw a toy at me in frustration and I told him that my feelings were hurt and that I was angry that he was throwing things at me, and that I thought it would be nice if he told me he was sorry when he felt it. About five minutes later I was getting something out for him, and he looked up at the sky and said, "I'm sorry." I think he meant it. He was smiling kind of as if he was embarrassed, but I think he was sorry. kwim?
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#10 of 27 Old 01-30-2003, 01:02 AM
 
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Oooh, this IS a good topic! I find myself having lots to say and knowing I won't remember it all (oh, good old mamahood!). Firstly, I do think there's something important about teaching children "manners," even maybe before they're old enough to understand. People, including those of the young variety, are often treated in certain ways based on how they are viewed by the one doing the treating. Thus, if my child "seems to be" a poilte, thoughtful and genuine little boy, even though he can't really yet possess all of these traits without my intervention (at 2 years old), others will treat him as such, and this will perpetuate his polite and thoughtful behavior. He will learn from others that he is X, Y and Z, and he will behave as such to fit the expectation. This happens for better or worse. Those of us who were formally educated to be teachers or psychologists learned a whole lot about the "self fulfilling prophecy" by which others' beliefs and expectations help determine how a person comes to be. I do teach my 2 year old the manners. That said, he absolutely refuses to say, "I'm sorry," and it's a TOTAL control issue for him. After he hurst me, he often cries, hugs me, even asks if I still love him. If that's not showing concern for his wrong- doing, I don't know what is. And that's much more genuine than the forced, "Sorry," so I'll accept it any day.
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#11 of 27 Old 01-30-2003, 01:03 AM
 
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I think 2 1/2 is plenty old enough to actually be sorry. My dd knows when she blows it ( her friend/sister crying thier eyes oiut is a pretty good clue.) and i insist that she does something to make the other person feel better. Whether it is saying she is sorry or showing it or undoing what she did or offering comfort. I don't think a child is ever too young to start learning that when we do somethinghurtful to others we need to do something to help make it better and saying your sorry is part of that.

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#12 of 27 Old 01-30-2003, 01:23 AM
 
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I'm more inclined to "teach manners" by acting the way I want my daughter to act rather than promting her- or directing her- to "say sorry" and "say thank you" and on and on.
I make a point to apologize, thank, etc. hoping she will learn.
I think the bigger goal here is for her to first feel appreciation, empathy, etc. and then to have the ability to genuinely express it. I think some parents do more of a disservice by the way they try to force this stuff too soon. I've seen the parents say, "What do you say...." and the kid absently blurts out "Thank You." I'd rather have the feeling of appreciation expressed with eye contact, a warm smile, a hug, or whatever words- Thank you or whatever else is heartfelt and genuine for the child at the time.
As a parent I try to encourage gratitude by saying things like, "wow, you worked so hard on making this gift..." or "You picked this out specially for us!" And the same with empathy..."I'm sorry that you got hurt. Can I help you feel better?"
~Great topic!!!
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#13 of 27 Old 01-30-2003, 01:52 AM
 
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I know that this thread isn't about general manners but I just wanted to interject one thing in here. I am very proud of the way my daughter has developed in terms of her manners, but more than that, I'm proud of the fact that for no other reason then she feels like it, she'll walk up to me, give me a kiss and say, "Thank you for being my mommy" (she's 2 1/2). She will often thank me for something hours after I've done it. Tonight, she thanked me at bedtime for having a picnic with her in her little tent at lunchtime. I really believe that she has learned this appreciation from my expectation that she have it. I also believe this to be true of the empathy that she shows to others. I expect her to have it, therefore she is developing it. It could be luck, it could be example - I'll never know.

I also agree with the momma who said that 2 1/2 is old enough to have empathy. Babies show empathy by crying when they hear another baby cry, I definitely think toddlers understand when they have hurt someone and can feel genuine remorse for it.

I also agree that you get back what you give. If you have a child who is well-mannered, they will be liked more by the adults and kids in their life because they will be seen in a more positive light.

If my child were saying rote "thank yous" then I would want them to understand that thanking someone and appreciating someone are two different things.

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#14 of 27 Old 01-30-2003, 03:36 AM
 
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Forcing apology doesn't apply to everyone including myself.
How can a person really "force" their children's behavior? Yes, there may be consequences but really in the grand scheme of things the way the child turns out is most important & we all do it our own way..

What works for some, may not work for another.

My 23 month old will say "excuse me" if she were to bump you. And voluntarily says "I'm sorry" much of the time.. She has better manners than many adults.. I may promote apology by saying "Look, you hurt your sister's feelings. Don't you want to say you're sorry?" A tough lesson in life is that sometimes other's feelings are as important as your own. Can never start too early.

Right on Mary-Beth. You brought up a great point. Setting the example is the key.. Respect works both ways.. When asking my kids to do something I always end w/ a "please". And I hope for the same.. And always a thank you. Who wants to take orders? That goes for both parent & child.. Positive reenforcement does work wonders & promotes children to make good choices..

The result of our families efforts have paid off tremendously. The love our girls show for eachother is priceless. They tell eachother daily they love eachother, hug, kiss..... And because of their closeness recognize when they've hurt the other.. And the one being hurt feels much better when they've recieved the "I'm sorry".

Taking care of the problem right away seems to bring peace & positivity very quickly.. I like to get rid of the negativity & do it fast..




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#15 of 27 Old 01-30-2003, 01:47 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm glad to see so many liked this topic. It's one I've been thinking about for a long time and wanted to start. I do feel that teaching manners too early has a detrimental effect, to the depth at which the feeling can be felt. I mean that focussing on output before input, short-changes a child in how much they can fill up.

The view that the behavior infuses the feeling, I disagree with. To me that sounds like not trusting the growing process. Let a kid be a kid. Sure another kid may need comfort, but let the adult give that to them, and protect a child that needs protection, hold back a child doing damage, etc. The young ones witness us in compassion and will in their time arrive at mature understanding. There may be a time when I help my son find words, as he seems ready to express the feelings--and maybe some of your kids are there now. But for now, I've tried and recognize he's just too young.

I think adults read an awful lot into the manners of children, often projecting more than is true for the child. My son, who hardly talks, does say "thank you" just about every time he recieves something. I don't think he is more appreciative than the children who say nothing, but just take. He is just playing with behavior he sees, mimicking me and others. It will be a future time when he makes a true evaluation of whether this behavior suits him or not. I fully expect him to drop the "thank you"s at some point in the growing process, as he explores other possibilities.

I say all this with so much respect for the purity of children. The longer it takes to grow, the greater potential you can fill. Let them take their time. I had model behavior as a child from an early age, and my parents were so proud of my maternal behaviors--never jealous of my baby brother two years younger, always gentle, never hurting feelings, etc. but I think I pleased my parents (and teachers, and society) and really feared their disapproval. And at the expense of filling myself up with feelings I needed for growing.
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#16 of 27 Old 01-30-2003, 02:31 PM
 
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Interesting topic. I hear everyone, you have all made valid points all over the board here.

Here's my take: Dd is almost two. I figure it's my job to model good behavior and help her learn manners (amongst other things) . So when she takes a toy from another kid or a similar situation ensues, I go in and ask her to give the toy back to little Janie, that Janie was playing with it right now, play with something else until Janie is done with it, then Dd can have a turn playing with it, etc. Then Dd usually gives the toy back and I ask her if she can say she's sorry. Sometimes she does and sometimes she doesn't, I don't push it. If she doesn't then I tell the kid I 'm sorry dd took the toy/pushed her down, whatever it was. I just want her to be acquainted with the process of polite interaction, KWIM ? I want her to know how I'd like her to handle such situations, but I certainly don't expect it of her.

Sometimes I really think she feels bad and wants a way to express herself...when I ask if she can say sorry she is eager to express her desires that way. I think sometimes she knows she did something to hurt someone, but doesn't know what to do about it, so "sorry" is a tool for her to help mend hurts she caused. It may not be the exact meaning for the words but it works for us.

And she is very capable of empathy (or not sometimes). If she hurts me or Dh, what she wants to do right away is give us a kiss for the boo boo. I guess that's sort of an apology in itself. If she sees someone fall in a cartoon or a movie she says "uh oh !" or "ow !". She has said "thank you" spontaneously since 18 months, just from modeling. We recently started talking about "sorry" cause I think she is ready to learn about it. Some of her playgroup friends tell her sorry if they transgress against her, and I think that too really makes an impression on her, ,that she is also the recipient to sorrys.


BTW I am also a strong advocate of the "each child is different" idea and I think that around this issue what's best just depends on the child, their personality/temperment, and the parents' personalities too. Obviously every mama here thought long and hard on it and does what she believes to be best.
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#17 of 27 Old 01-30-2003, 02:49 PM
 
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I think I have a fundamental disagreement with you about what manners are and why we use them. Manners are not intended to be a true reflection of your sincere feelings. In fact they are often intended to be just the opposite. They are the polite veneer that makes society a bit more civilized. If you step on my foot I don't really care if you feel sympathy or empathy or anything else for me (well, maybe I do a little, but that is beside the point.) What I really want is some gesture from you that says, "I didn't mean to do that and I would like to close the small breach this may have created in your good will towards me." That gesture is saying, "I'm sorry." I don't need you to feel it deeply to say it and if you wait until you DO feel it to say it I will probably have some anger and resentment in addition to the annoyance of the initial offense.
I don't think it is healthy to strong arm small children into saying these things but I think there is a lot to be said for suggesting it in an encouraging fashion.
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#18 of 27 Old 01-30-2003, 09:51 PM
 
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Kamawas that to me or Cindi or what ?
Quote:
I think I have a fundamental disagreement with you about what manners are and why we use them
I get what you're saying and basically agree with you
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#19 of 27 Old 01-30-2003, 10:06 PM
 
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Primarily to Cindi, based on her original post.
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#20 of 27 Old 01-31-2003, 05:38 AM
 
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Telling someone that you are sorry when you aren't is lying, and it's insulting. You can tell when someone isn't being sincere. I don't force an apology because I don't want to force my children to lie.

I will say "I am sorry my dd hurt you."

Inevitably she feels sorry when the heat of the moment has passed, and then, if it's possible i have her apologise.

I remember my mother being upset with me because I wouldn't apologise for something I'd done to another child, I bit her. But I wasn't sorry, so I refused to say it. I really hated that little girl, she was mean and nasty when out of earshot of parents. So I bit her, and I wasn't sorry....I'm still not sorry 22 years later. We lived next door to eachother for a little over a year. And after I bit her she wasn't so terrible to me anymore, she quit bullying me. No adult ever saw her act that way though.

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#21 of 27 Old 01-31-2003, 06:17 AM
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We see a differencee between apologizing and being sorry.

I apologize to someone when I have done something they find hurtful, yet I don't. I apologize because I have hurt their feelings, not because I feel sad that I did.

I say I am sorry when I hurt someone's feelings, and I am truley remorseful for doing so. When I hurt someone and didn't mean to.

Does that make sense?

We haven't taught Kailey to say sorry, because, IMO, it would just be an easy out. Instead we let her know something hurt, and give her an alternative action.

Ex:

Out of frustration Kailey hit me the other day.

I said, "Kailey, that hurts when you hit. It's ok to use soft touches and hugs, and to use your big girl words. It's not ok to hurt others." While I am explaining this I demonstrate behavior I would prefer her use.

I would prefer she hug someone she has hurt than to blurt out she's sorry.

I hope I've made sense. It looks so much better in person
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#22 of 27 Old 01-31-2003, 12:28 PM
 
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This is a very interesting topic!

I never did much prompting of "I'm sorry" with my dd when she was a toddler, because it just didn't sit right with me. I felt that she didn't understand it anyway, and I didn't want her to think that two words could excuse any behavior. Also, and I swear this is true, she really didn't do much that required apologies at that age. She never grabbed toys or hit or pushed, and she wasn't destructive. She never threw tantrums because she was verbally advanced, so the frustration thing wasn't a factor. Now, at age four, she does PLENTY to be sorry about and she usually apologizes on her own, and it is completely sincere. I guess she just learned it from modeling by myself and dh. We never hesitate to apologize to her when we have lost our tempers or accidentally hurt her or anything like that.

That said, I think it is okay for people to teach children to say "I'm sorry," as long as they are also helping the child develop a sense of empathy at the same time. Sadly, I know way too many kids who just blurt out a rote "I'm sorry" but it is so clear that they have no remorse or empathy at all. One examnple is the ds of a friend who will smack his baby brother on the head and say, "I'm sorry, Dylan" so automatically that he is practically saying it at the same time he hits him.

Another thing that doesn't sit right with me is when people teach their kids to hug the victim by way of apology. I'm not condemning anyone who does this, but I've also seen a lot of this being done in a meaningless way with toddlers, so that they learn, "Okay, I can hit him as long as I give him a hug afterwards." Seems kind of twisted to me. :
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#23 of 27 Old 01-31-2003, 01:34 PM
 
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Wow, this is such a good thread and giving me alot to think about.

I loved what you said in your second post, Cindi. I wish we could just let children wait until they are capable of truly feeling the apology. I agree that hearing a bland "thank you" from a kid who obviously doesn't mean it, or rather is just saying it because he's supposed to, is sort of lame!

OTOH, I do worry about the "self fulfilling prophecy" that teachma spoke of. It is sad but true, and I believe others will treat DD better if she does have manners. And in this context, I think kama'aina raised some VERY good points about manners and society. How many times have we greeted someone in passing with a smile and an enthusiastic "how are you?" when a) we really don't care to hear how they are and b) they aren't going to tell us anyway, they'll just reply "fine thanks, and you?". And yet I think everybody's day is brightened a bit by such exchanges.

DD is not at that stage yet, so I'll have to think more on this subject before then. I'm pretty sure that I will teach DD to say "I'm sorry" ASAP, and wait for her to "grow into it" hopefully by me modelling such behaviour to her. But I also fear what moondiapers said about the girl she bit (had to lol a bit at that one!): if DD *isn't* really sorry I want to know why (which hits on a huge frustration I had as a child: noboby wanted to hear my explanation of a situation, I just got punished and that was that!). If it's a good reason, I wouldn't make her say "I'm sorry".

I'm learning so much from this thread!

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#24 of 27 Old 01-31-2003, 05:25 PM
 
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My first reaction after reading the initial question was strong. Like, that red flag feeling I get when I know someone has pushed a button for me. One of the things I have always loved about Mothering and mdc.. Thank you all for your thoughts on this issue, so I could really think about MY thoughts on this, and not just my initial flare. And I have a teen-ager, an eight year old and a two year old. Never too old to think and re-think mothering notions.
I have always taught my dd's to say sorry. I know my dd, age 2 knows what that means, and has the empathy to go with and the understanding of the "I'm sorry." I don't think this was the case with my DD #2 age 8. I always asked what she was going to apologize for. Many times she had no idea. Way older than dd #3 is now. In fact, occationally she will not know exactly what she is being asked to "be sorry" for. She is mostly every empathetic and speaks up when she feels like someone is treating someone else unfairly, is genuinly sorry if she hurts someone, notices when others are hurt and asks them about their pain... but sometimes she can be purposefully mean, especially to her older sister, and not know why her sister thinks she should apologize. So, I am not so sure that asking her to say "sorry" really "took" the way I envisioned. DD #3, Is very empathetic and very quick to apologize, I have not ever pushed the issue much with her. But then, she has 2 older sisters that I have already indoctrinated....
So thanks for the thoughts. You all are so cool. Just having a place to talk about such issue's is a gift for me.
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#25 of 27 Old 01-31-2003, 08:47 PM
 
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Last night after dd#2 dragged the entire contents of #3s room into her room for the 7th streight night in a row i told her she needed to tell me she was sorry and instantly this thread popped into my head. Why did I want her to tell me she was sorry? i knew she she didn't feel bad about doing this and creating even more work for me (if she did she would have stopped several nights ago : ). What i wanted was for her to say "I was wrong. I shouldn't have done this. Will you forgive me?" that is what "I am sorry " means to me. And that is the meaning I have conveyed to my children. I guess in the end how you approach teathing them this depends on what it means to you and to them.

The truest answer to violence is love. The truest answer to death is life. The only prevention for violence is for the heart to have no violence within it.  We cannot prevent evil through any system devised by mankind. But we can grapple with evil and defeat it, but only with love—real love.

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#26 of 27 Old 02-01-2003, 12:15 AM
 
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I appreciate everyone's input on this topic. It's made me aware of my approach to conflict & how papa & I deal in those situations. I've realized we've just done what comes naturally.... Thank You Cindi for a great thread.

After being more aware the last couple of days I've looked at my reactions & the kids & realize that I'm not militant about apology. If the kids don't want to they will say so & I don't pressure it. We discuss the situation & they go to their rooms "IF" it was intentional & that depends on how hurtful the incident was. They come out when "they" feel their ready , & also make the choice to say "Sorry". Also, if I didn't see what happened between the kids, I don't assume the guilty party. Many times it's 2 egging eachother on.

My children don't apologize because they are forced, nor just blurt out "I'm sorry" as quick as somthing happens because they have to.. It's really about treating others as you'd like to be treated. I believe the girls feel it's the right thing to do because their feelings are hurt when someone intentionally hurts them & doesn't acknowledge it.

That said, I'm open to any suggestions, ideas & am curious how the other route works for other parents. Do kids show compassion on their own in say, a school environment? I wonder how teachers deal w/ conflict as well & if they promote apology.
I'm always evolving as a mother & am open to new ideas.


"believe it if you need it or leave it if you dare"
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#27 of 27 Old 02-01-2003, 06:46 AM
 
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I'm coming in late (we've been away), and I've just skimmed the other replies. My parents always made a distinction between saying 'I'm wrong, I shouldn't have done that' and 'I'm sorry'.

Growing up, if we'd done something to hurt someone else, we did have to tell them that we were wrong, and shouldnt have done that. They never forced us to say that we were sorry, unless we genuinely felt sorry.

I've never enforced the 'I'm sorry' with my dds, but both will automatically say it if they see that I'm upset about somethign they've done. It takes a bit longer to come when it's their sister they've hurt!

But I do think it is worthwhile to respect the distinction for the child...growing up, I usually said 'I'm sorry' because I was. But it was nice to know I didnt' have to say it if I wasn't. Sometimes just admitting I was wrong was hard enough!

Carolyn
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