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#1 of 97 Old 12-29-2008, 09:57 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My youngest son works at a grocery store and sees all kinds of examples of bad parenting. He came home and asked me why parents forced their kids to appologize.

I explained to him that when he and his brothers were little and did something "bad" I would appologize for them. They were so strong willed that they would want to say they were sorry themself and not want their mommy to do it for them. I don't think I ever forced them to say I'm sorry. They have grown up to be very polite young adults because they want to be.

: Grandmother , 3 Adult Sons

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#2 of 97 Old 12-30-2008, 12:40 AM
 
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It seems you're not really asking a question, but I hear this a lot from different families, ie: their "Apology Policy." Every family has one, it just might not be self evident or "enforced." I'm with you though. I don't force small people to do anything. Its so conterproductive I feel. I try hard to model good apologizing for my young people as best I can, so humbling... I think many children haven't seen good apologizing in action, and are unaccustom to that humbling feeling. Practice does help though. What I generally communicate with a young one is the need to apologize and the many forms that can take. You know, can you say you're sorry yourself or do you need help? I think true contrition on a child's part is not always forth coming either. So what if they truely don't feel sorry??? Well empathy and sympathy are learned feelings, and a basic discussion about feelings and encouragement to share feelings is deffinitely a step in the right direction. Two fav. resources include Positive Discipline (has a wonderful section of figuring out what a child is mistakingly trying to communicate) and Non-Violent Comm. Very well known to most and easy to recommend. Its astounding to me how much easier communicating is now that I have young people to humble me...don't get me started on comm. with dp... sheesh!
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#3 of 97 Old 12-30-2008, 02:22 AM
 
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I hate to get forced apologies. They aren't sorry.

When you force an apology, the child is now embarassed, and probably a little angry. The thing they are apologising for isn't even an issue any more, and they didn't learn anything.

I DO ask if they WANT to say anything. But, if they don't want to, I say "O.K".

If a child hurts someone, I Do expect them to do their best to fix what they have done though. Sometimes that is an "Are you O.K?", or a pat on the back, or an actual sincere "i'm sorry".

Otherwise, I wish the child would just keep it to themselves, rather than force out an apolgy to me or others. It just ends up feeling worse for everybody.
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#4 of 97 Old 12-30-2008, 02:25 AM
 
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I hate to get forced apologies. They aren't sorry.

When you force an apology, the child is now embarassed, and probably a little angry. The thing they are apologising for isn't even an issue any more, and they didn't learn anything.

I DO ask if they WANT to say anything. But, if they don't want to, I say "O.K".

If a child hurts someone, I Do expect them to do their best to fix what they have done though. Sometimes that is an "Are you O.K?", or a pat on the back, or an actual sincere "i'm sorry".

Otherwise, I wish the child would just keep it to themselves, rather than force out an apolgy to me or others. It just ends up feeling worse for everybody.
:

Apologies are never forced in our house. It just makes the whole thing worse.

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#5 of 97 Old 12-30-2008, 02:33 AM
 
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I agree that forced apologies are not very productive. However, I do try to facilitate admission of fault, forgiveness, and reconciliation.

I also model it (when I do something wrong that requires an apology).
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#6 of 97 Old 12-30-2008, 02:44 AM
 
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So...my boys are 4 and 6 years old. We have always required them to "make it right" before resuming play when they have done something wrong (ex. hit their brother). If they don't want to apologize, they are then choosing to sit and think about what they've done. We always talk about why an action was "wrong", how it made them feel, and how it made the person they acted against feel. We've found that doing this has led us to have very emotionally intelligent children, who are both extremely compassionate. I don't think this counts as a "forced" apology because they can wait as long as they want to fix it, there are just consequences for waiting (ie. not getting to continue playing). We also ask them "what are you sorry for" so that they can explain to us what they are feeling in their own words - I think this is far more effective them having them parrot a phrase without thinking for themselves!

Btw.... my husband's parents NEVER made him apologize for anything no matter how wrong he was, and they never apologized for anything to him. As an adult, he now acknowledges how hard it is for him to admit that he is wrong, and he really appreciates that we are taking a different approach with our boys.

Also, when we (as parents) screw up, we also will sit down and apologize and talk to the boys about our mistakes. For example, if I feel I've been grumpy or short-tempered with my kids, I will stop myself and sit down with them. I acknowledge that I was short because I'm feeling grumpy and tell them that I am sorry! I think this is so important because I don't want them to grow up thinking that daddy and I are infallible! My six year old is particularly appreciative of this, and I've found him to be quite sensitive when I let him know how I'm feeling "I'm sorry I'm short-tempered... I'm not feeling so good and I shouldn't be short with you - do you ever feel grumpy when you don't feel good?" This has opened the door to many great conversations about how he's feeling and why he acts a certain way in different circumstances...
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#7 of 97 Old 12-30-2008, 02:56 AM
 
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Btw.... my husband's parents NEVER made him apologize for anything no matter how wrong he was, and they never apologized for anything to him. As an adult, he now acknowledges how hard it is for him to admit that he is wrong, and he really appreciates that we are taking a different approach with our boys.
My brother who was forced to apologize growing up finds it very hard to say sorry even when he feels sorry because he has grown to associate it with "I'm not really sorry, but I want you to stop complaining so... yeah, sorry."

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#8 of 97 Old 12-30-2008, 03:01 AM
 
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My brother who was forced to apologize growing up finds it very hard to say sorry even when he feels sorry because he has grown to associate it with "I'm not really sorry, but I want you to stop complaining so... yeah, sorry."
Well, that's too bad. So, he is unable to discern when an apology is warranted?
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#9 of 97 Old 12-30-2008, 03:08 AM
 
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It's not that he doesn't recognize when he needs to apologize, but he says that he thinks his parents always made him feel like he shouldn't have to say sorry - and the stubbornness that they displayed and supported in him has been hard to overcome.

The reason we discuss the effects of their behavior on others with the boys is so that they can internalize the idea of cause/effect and hopefully grow up realizing that their actions have an impact on the people around them. As I said before, they both are extremely compassionate and definitely have shown genuine remorse without any prompting (ex - wresting this morning my 4 yr old bumped his head - my six year old was not at fault, but definitely showed concern for his brother's bumped head! Since their was no fault, he didn't apologize - but showed compassion. If he had caused the bump, however, I'm pretty sure he would have apologized without prompting because he loved his brother and does not like seeing him in any pain!) If we merely demanded a "sorry" from them when they did something wrong I don't think it would mean anything to them, and they would probably grow up like the above-mentioned brother - saying sorry to appease but not sincerely...
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#10 of 97 Old 12-30-2008, 03:16 AM
 
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We don't force apologies, but encourage them. Because of the way I was raised, I have a personal reluctance to say "I'm sorry." because I'm a little afraid of admitting culpability for my mistakes. My parents were big on covering one's own butt first.... I am ashamed of this reluctance and want my children to have more courage than I do. If they hurt someone else, I want them to take responsibility for it as a matter of course.

I also agree that there is an emotional intelligence issue here. Forced apologies are very uncomfortable, but I believe that sometimes the words "I'm sorry" are just part of appropriate social interactions with others. Just as I think it is appropriate to say "Thanks" sometimes when I don't particularly feel gratitude, I say "Sorry" sometimes when I am at fault even if I don't particularly feel deep remorse.

Is the meaning of the words "I'm sorry" a cultural issue for anyone here? I mean, as I type this, it seems very Canadian....and I have friends from Asian cultures who seem to use the words "I'm sorry" a lot more than I'm used to, even....

A big issue in my house lately is that we apologize if someone is hurt because of something we did, even if we didn't do it on purpose (big nuance here for my 4 yr old to learn)

And I will apologize/ attempt atonement FOR one of my children's actions (to another one of my children or to an outside party) if I feel that an apology is required.

"It looks like X isn't ready to apologize right now, but I am SO sorry that he hit you. Hitting hurts and that wasn't ok. Is there anything I can do to help?" (much attention to the injured party ensuing until reparations seem to have been made.).
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#11 of 97 Old 12-30-2008, 03:27 AM
 
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I think it is literally impossible, to live in the world, and not realize that one's actions/words can have an impact on others.
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#12 of 97 Old 12-30-2008, 03:29 AM
 
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Nice post, Aubergine68.
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#13 of 97 Old 12-30-2008, 03:49 AM
 
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Well, that's too bad. So, he is unable to discern when an apology is warranted?
Um, no... He's unable to see the "I'm sorry" as an acceptable thing. He often choose actions to show he's sorry then words. Unfortunatly many people misconstrue this as being rude or unable to admit he was wrong.

To him "I'm sorry" doesn't mean "I'm sorry". It means "I'm not sorry and I just want you to shut up about it!" because that's what he learned from being forced to apologize. You do it to get others off your back, not because your actually sorry.

That being said, he also has trouble accepting apologies for the same reason. Even if they are genuine, in his mind there's the "training" he recieve that's telling him "Is this person really sorry? Or are they just trying to avoid making amends for what they did."

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#14 of 97 Old 12-30-2008, 04:02 AM
 
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Nice post, Aubergine68.
Oh, that's very kind of you to say -- (sincere) thanks for using your 2000th post to express this opinion...and congrats on hitting the big 2-0-0-0!
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#15 of 97 Old 12-30-2008, 12:43 PM
 
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I don't force apologies, but I do try to help my children see when something needs to be fixed. It's probably easier to explain with examples...

DD says DS just ran her over. I cuddle her, etc. DS comes in seemingly ignoring his crying sister; really, though, he already feels so bad he cannot even look at her to see if she's hurt. (I think this is really common in children and often misconstrued as insensitivity.) I say, "DS, your sister might like a cherry stone pillow from the freezer." He dashes off, comes back as her hero, and suddenly is in the "right" and able to say all sorts of sweet words that moments before I could not have "forced" him to say.

Or, DS comes in saying DD has knocked down all his things. DD says he did such and such first. DS says he only did that because she did such and such. I say, "Wow! you're both pretty upset. What would you like to happen?" Usually, not always, they then work it out themselves. Sometimes, it involves me helping to reset the stage for whatever the game was, but most of the time, they would rather just go back to their play after they've cleared the air.

My littlest does not fit in these paradigms. She is about 3.5, and she is still enough part of me that she would much rather feel my love than a sibling's apology. I act as the mediator when she needs it, but in this role, I very carefully am showing her how to help make things right, or how her siblings are trying to make things right by her.

It sort of sounds like no one ever apologizes, and that's not true. However, I actually prefer actions to the meaningless phrase, "I'm sorry." I DO see how it is a social cue, and I have pointed out to my older two when these words would help to smooth things over. It's just that I'd really rather they acknowledge and fix the problem than think these words are the only thing necessary when we've made a mistake.
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#16 of 97 Old 12-30-2008, 03:21 PM
 
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It is true that "I'm sorry" isn't the only or even the best response to a conflict like these.

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I I say, "DS, your sister might like a cherry stone pillow from the freezer." He dashes off, comes back as her hero, and suddenly is in the "right" and able to say all sorts of sweet words that moments before I could not have "forced" him to say.
In our house, if anyone gets hurt, one hears "Do you need a rIce pack?" and the patter of little feet going to the upright freezer to get one out. We made a bunch with the toddlers out of odd socks and rice, while talking about first aid and how cold packs can help all sorts of owies feel better. They are semi-disposable -- if they get bled on they get composted. We need more.

Cherry stone pillows sound like a step up. I am seriously going to save the stones next cherry season and we'll make some more.
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#17 of 97 Old 12-30-2008, 03:24 PM
 
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We don't force it here. But they must here me say Sorry a lot, because my dd says she is sorry to everyone and everything. She bumped into her wipes box the other day and said "Sorry Wipes" lol I must say it a lot.

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#18 of 97 Old 12-30-2008, 03:35 PM
 
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Um, no... He's unable to see the "I'm sorry" as an acceptable thing. He often choose actions to show he's sorry then words. Unfortunatly many people misconstrue this as being rude or unable to admit he was wrong.

To him "I'm sorry" doesn't mean "I'm sorry". It means "I'm not sorry and I just want you to shut up about it!" because that's what he learned from being forced to apologize. You do it to get others off your back, not because your actually sorry.

That being said, he also has trouble accepting apologies for the same reason. Even if they are genuine, in his mind there's the "training" he recieve that's telling him "Is this person really sorry? Or are they just trying to avoid making amends for what they did."
Learning to vocalize remorse is a part of living in our society. It's courteous to apologize when you've done something wrong to someone; actions should match the sentiment, but in our society (American, that is, for me at least) saying "I'm sorry" seals the deal.

I do tell my daughter to say "sorry," but she is only 2 and is just learning that if you do something you *tell* the person that you feel sorry as well as come give them a big hug and a kiss. All I can tell you is that when she wonks me in the head with a board book, it DOES make me feel better to have her say that she is sorry and come give me a hug.

All the same I'm not going to "shame" my daughter into it or demand an apology in front of people while she squirms. Like most things, there is a middle road here.
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#19 of 97 Old 12-30-2008, 03:48 PM
 
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DD is 2 and I don't force her to apologize.

I prefer to point out what has happen and the consequence.

eg. 'Oh no! You hit DC and hurt him. Now he's sad.'

From the very first time I tried this I could see in her reaction that she didn't like to see the other child hurt and she usually tries to make it better with a pat.

As her understanding grows i've been throwing in questions like 'do you feel sorry for what has happened?' but I really would only prompt it when I'm certain I'll get a 'yes'

and
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#20 of 97 Old 12-31-2008, 01:39 AM
 
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When my kids were young, I WOULD tell them to go and apologize after I explained what and why they did was unloving. Now they are older (6,7 & 10) and they will say it freely and on their own. If they don't want to apologize, they don't. But most of the times they recognize the consequences and see the response in the other person and they sincerely apologize.

I think its how you use your position of parent, what you model and where you heart is more than whether or not you have some 'apology policy'.
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#21 of 97 Old 12-31-2008, 01:43 AM
 
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Learning to vocalize remorse is a part of living in our society. It's courteous to apologize when you've done something wrong to someone; actions should match the sentiment, but in our society (American, that is, for me at least) saying "I'm sorry" seals the deal.

I do tell my daughter to say "sorry," but she is only 2 and is just learning that if you do something you *tell* the person that you feel sorry as well as come give them a big hug and a kiss. All I can tell you is that when she wonks me in the head with a board book, it DOES make me feel better to have her say that she is sorry and come give me a hug.

All the same I'm not going to "shame" my daughter into it or demand an apology in front of people while she squirms. Like most things, there is a middle road here.
But why force it, if in the end it will make them uncomfortable or feel like they are not really verbalizing their feelings?

We don't force apologies because we want her to understand that "I'm sorry" should actually mean you are sorry.

Someone telling me they are sorry when they aren't doesn't make me feel better. It just makes me feel uncomfortable.

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#22 of 97 Old 12-31-2008, 01:45 AM
 
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We just say "Oliver, is there something you'd like to say to your sister/friend/etc?" He's only a little over 2 so he doesn't really get it but usually says it. I always apologize to the person though to set an example and because I am truly sorry that he/she got hurt.
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#23 of 97 Old 12-31-2008, 02:06 AM
 
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i don't force apologies, but my kids are really good about apologizing now. my son sometimes needs a little more time to cool down, but he will always make-up with me and say sorry once he's had time to calm down and process it. my dh used to try and force apologies. he doesn't anymore though. he now recognizes a genuine apology is heartfelt & sincere. i think forcing an apology misses out on the opportunity of being able to process what happened and feeling remorse over it, and then being able to make amends for it. to force "sorry" creates a power struggle and a diversion from the reason behind the apology needed to begin with (imho). honestly, i think some adults have pride issues with saying "sorry" because they never learned how. i would rather a genuine apology any day over someone saying it because they "had to". when my kids were smaller, i always apologized on their behalf if necessary though.

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#24 of 97 Old 12-31-2008, 02:13 AM
 
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Someone telling me they are sorry when they aren't doesn't make me feel better. It just makes me feel uncomfortable.
Someone NOT saying they are sorry when they are clearly in the wrong pisses me off. I'd rather have them fake remorse than not even bother to fake it. Obviously, true remorse is best (and I am not saying that fake remorse isn't also insulting), but sometimes you gotta fake it until you make it, ya know?

My concern for my kids is that not only do they learn core ethics about respectful treatment of others, but they also learn societal expectations and rules so that their actions won't be misinterpreted.

Now, of course the apology is not the end of the matter. As PPs have pointed out, if the apology is the "get out of jail card" then clearly, it is a pointless exercise. Remorse without restitution is meaningless. And restitution requires empathy.

So a big part of any apology has to be a method of attempting to make things right - a hug or an ice pack are great. Sometimes the restitution IS the apology - but I find that words are useful because they are more easily understood.

And of course, different ages are capable of different levels of empathy - and different children are capable of different levels of empathy as well. When I tell my 3 year old to apologize and to find a way to make it better, I am not expecting that he has the empathy to truly be remorseful right now, but I am trying to build up good habits so that when he does make an error in the future, he knows that he needs to express remorse, and then find a way to make it better.

And instructing a child to apologize does not need to be shameful - we often role play different interactions during quiet times so that my kids have words to use in emotionally charged situations - like when another child has hurt them and refuses to stop, or when my kids realize they have hurt someone.

Also as pp's have mentioned, dh and I model apologies with our kids and with other adults. So they see it as a normal form of human interaction. I do prompt them for an apology and make a recommendation for restitution as appropriate, just as I prompt them to use their tissue and not their sleeve, or to use please and thank you.

My 2 cents.

ETA: one element in my approach is the fact that my oldest has not great social skills - it takes him a looooooooonnnnnnnnggggg time to pick up on social mores that other children his age notice easily. So with him, we need to be a lot more explicit about social expectations because he just won't pick them up on his own - at least not until it is too late and he has lost friends. My second son absorbs social rules from the air, I swear. I don't need to be so explicit with him because he can watch the other person's face and body language and figure out what to say/do to make them happy.

You know the attributes for a great adult? Initiative, creativity, intellectual curiosity? They make for a helluva kid...
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#25 of 97 Old 12-31-2008, 02:17 AM
 
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Btw.... my husband's parents NEVER made him apologize for anything no matter how wrong he was, and they never apologized for anything to him. As an adult, he now acknowledges how hard it is for him to admit that he is wrong, and he really appreciates that we are taking a different approach with our boys.

i really think the issue here is that his parents never modeled it for him. parents need to be comfortable saying "i'm sorry", "i was wrong". "i made a mistake". and they need to know how to ask for forgiveness. it's so important to model this behavior.

also, not forcing an apology doesn't mean ignoring the issue that took place. it just means you can discuss what happened openly & definitely express parental perspective of what happened (my kids still have logical consequences for ill behavior, yk?). but if your child doesn't want to make amends through an apology, you simply don't force them too.

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#26 of 97 Old 12-31-2008, 02:52 AM
 
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Oh, that's very kind of you to say -- (sincere) thanks for using your 2000th post to express this opinion...and congrats on hitting the big 2-0-0-0!
I meant it!

I didn't realize I had reached the 2000....:
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#27 of 97 Old 12-31-2008, 02:59 AM
 
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Originally Posted by MusicianDad View Post
Um, no... He's unable to see the "I'm sorry" as an acceptable thing. He often choose actions to show he's sorry then words. Unfortunatly many people misconstrue this as being rude or unable to admit he was wrong.

To him "I'm sorry" doesn't mean "I'm sorry". It means "I'm not sorry and I just want you to shut up about it!" because that's what he learned from being forced to apologize. You do it to get others off your back, not because your actually sorry.

That being said, he also has trouble accepting apologies for the same reason. Even if they are genuine, in his mind there's the "training" he recieve that's telling him "Is this person really sorry? Or are they just trying to avoid making amends for what they did."
What actions? Yes, it is rude not to verbally admit when you are wrong.

Seriously, I can't imagine being so traumatized by a forced apology in childhood, as to not understand, as an adult, that saying "I'm sorry" can ACTUALLY mean, "I'm sorry".
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#28 of 97 Old 12-31-2008, 03:03 AM
 
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Originally Posted by lolalola View Post
What actions? Yes, it is rude not to verbally admit when you are wrong.

Seriously, I can't imagine being so traumatized by a forced apology in childhood, as to not understand, as an adult, that saying "I'm sorry" can ACTUALLY mean, "I'm sorry".
What do you mean what actions? Actions that make it better, or show he didn't mean it/regrets it.

If you're made to say "I'm sorry" because "It's the polite thing to do". Then you learn you only say it to be polite... .

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#29 of 97 Old 12-31-2008, 03:08 AM
 
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I mean, what actions?

I think that people are smarter than dogs, so I don't buy into the whole "training" diatribe.
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#30 of 97 Old 12-31-2008, 03:21 AM
 
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I mean, what actions?

I think that people are smarter than dogs, so I don't buy into the whole "training" diatribe.
It's the same idea behind parents passing on bigoted ideas. It's what the kid sees and experiences most of the time so that's how they interpret. It's not a particularly complex idea.

If you accidentally wack someone on the head with a book are you just going to sit there saying "I'm really sorry, I didn't mean to"?

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