by MW Cook
Have you ever been here before? Your kid is on the playground, having a blast with the other urchins (not sea urchins, mind you – they are not for children). Something happens. Someone gets hurt. Someone’s in trouble. A child goes to complain to his mother and, the next thing you know, you are in an awkward situation where a parent is telling you that your child has done wrong and something needs to be done about it.
And what is expected of a parent at this point? A stern look married with stern words. Perhaps some sort of disciplinary measure. And, the most important thing of all, an apology from the offending child to the
crybaby offended child.
And that is where everything, for me, falls apart. Because I am a rogue parent. I commit a great sin whenever my child does something he oughtn’t. I never, ever force him to claim he is sorry for something he has done.
Do you think that’s dumb of me? Hear me out first.
- When I force my child to ‘say sorry’, 95% of the time I’m telling him to lie. He’s not really sorry. In the heat of the situation he doesn’t care much about the offended sensibilities of the other kid or the angry mother.
- When I force my child to ‘say sorry’, I devalue the entire idea of regret and remorse. It means nothing if it can be forced out of you.
- When I force my child to ‘say sorry’, I am teaching him that saying certain words will get him out of a bad situation.
- When I force my child to ‘say sorry’, I am robbing him of the inhibitions that we all have to keep us from doing things artificial.
- When I force my child to ‘say sorry’, I am dancing to the beat of another parent’s drum. I care more about getting our of an awkward situation than about my own child’s development.
My kids don’t say sorry nearly as often as others, it’s true. But that doesn’t bother me in the slightest. Because when Joe, having done something wrong, comes up to me and says “Papa, please forgive me” (and, yes, he actually uses those words!) I can see in his eyes and tone that he is serious. When my son says that he feels remorse and that he is sorry for something, he actually means it. That’s worth a handful of awkward playground experiences, yes?