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