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Mindful Mothering: Why Forcing Your Kids To Apologise Could Be Training Them To Lie

“Compulsory apologies mostly train children to say things they don’t mean – that is, to lie.”

Alfie Kohn

I have discovered this great Facebook page called Nonviolent Parenting, which is where I sourced the above quote.

Anyone who reads my blog regularly will know that I’m all about compassion, love and humanitarian ethics; especially where children are concerned.  When I read this quote, it brought up mixed feelings in me.

I have always believed that you should never force a child to apologise.  

When a child does something destructive, it is generally never through bad intent.  Children react in the moment, without thought or consequence.  Experts agree that they do not reach cognition until between the ages of ten and thirteen, and so really have no logical thought process until that point.

When they do something destructive, it is not with pre-meditation.  

Even if they act as if they know it is bad, it is usually because they have been punished for it by an adult in the past, so they know that doing this bad thing causes punishment, but with no real understanding of why the thing was bad in the first place.

Yet, when I am in public and my children do something “bad”, I feel as if I want to force them to apologise, because saying sorry is good.  Saying sorry is the right thing to do, isn’t it?

Yet saying sorry for sorry’s sake is meaningless.  Have you ever had a fight with someone and you demand an apology from them and they say it in a monotone, I don’t really mean it, kind of way?  How do you feel?  Peed off, right?

When you finally get the sorry you wanted, you realise that you don’t want them just to say it, you want them to mean it.  

So what does it mean when we force our kids to say something that they neither mean, nor understand?  On one hand, we tell them that lying is bad, but on the other hand, we train them to say things they don’t mean: effectively, to lie.

Personally I believe that I’m sorry is one of the most powerful things you can ever say: if you really mean it.  I also believe that children would do very well to also learn why saying sorry is good.  But how much more of a powerful lesson would it be, if we took the time to teach them why the thing they did, was bad?  They probably wouldn’t choose to do it again simply because they understood the nature of the destruction.

Next time you feel the urge to force your child to apologise, think before you act.  Most often if you apologise to the parent on your child’s behalf, all is put right.  Then you can take your child on your knee later that day, establish a deep and loving rapport, and help them to understand why they thing they did may not have been the best choice.

I think you’ll see more of how you want the world to be, if you tackle it this way, instead of reacting in the moment.

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About kimconstable

I am Kim: mum to the gorgeous Corey, Kai, Maya and Jack. I own and run multilingual children's company (www.rainbowgardenni.co.uk). I am passionate about ethics and upholding humanitarian values through education. Above all, I am a people person. I love human to human marketing and am insatiably curious about what drives us to do what we do and be who we are. Thank you for reading my blog. You matter to me.

5 responses »

  1. Great article on teaching empathy without forcing it. 🙂

    I’m reaching out to parent education sites in an effort to share a project that I am working on. Would you be willing to “like” our Facebook page called “stop spanking” to help prevent child abuse by discouraging spanking?

    We are working on producing a documentary on the negative effects of spanking and what we are learning from the neurosciences on brain development that makes it clear, we should never spank a child. Thank you and please spread the word!

    http://www.facebook.com/protectchildrenfromviolence
    Robbyn Peters Bennett
    http://StopSpanking.org

    Reply
    • Yes of course! Personally, I don’t believe in any violence towards kids, whether it be harsh words, spanking, withering looks or any kind of communication that causes them to feel bad about themselves. Kids just act without premeditation or thought. They are defenceless and precious and I believe it is our duty to protect them. However, we cannot do this unless we first heal whatever it is within us that causes us to want to hurt them. A good first step though, is to control our urge to punish and hurt them, in the same way we do with other adults. Let’s not indulge our impulses, and seek to understand these amazing little beings. As Dr Charles Raison said “One generation of deeply loving parents would change the brain of the next generation, and with that, the world”. Let’s keep in touch Robbyn! xx

      Reply
      • Kim, Thank you so much for your supportive words for children. It is so true, words can be equally as harsh. I’m going to have to check out Dr. Charles Raison. Would you post to my Facebook or to the stopspanking.org site directly? I love your comments. I’ll keep you posted on our progress. Thank you so much! Robbyn

  2. Of course! Would be glad to. Similarly if you would like to use any of my content on your site, feel free. I can send you links to other non violence posts that might be useful? Let me know how I can help. I am passionate about kids and their upbringing and education. 🙂 x

    Reply
    • Yes, please send me links to any sites that would be sympathetic. We are preparing to launch a kickstarter campaign, and want to share the campaign with as many people as possible. Plus we are creating a series of short video clips that question popular cultural beliefs about spanking, such as “I was spanked, and I turned out OK,” or “What spanking teaches children.” My email is robbynpeters@comcast.net. Please send any links that you think would be helpful. I will be using your content for sure. I love this article on forced apologies and learning to lie.

      Thank you so much!

      Reply

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