Two of the most common words to leave my mouth are “I’m sorry.” I say it a lot. I believe that there are two kinds of sorry: the apologetic and the empathetic. The apologetic is for when you feel responsible for whatever you are apologizing for. The second is when you feel badly for some misfortune that happened to someone and you want to express that. Like “I’m sorry your dog died”. This doesn’t mean that I feel responsible for your dog’s death, but rather I recognize that this is a generally crappy thing that happened to you and you must be in a great deal of emotional pain, and I feel badly that you are sad.
I am quick to apologize for hurting people’s feelings, even if maybe I was in the right. It is who I am, and I am okay with that. At the other extreme is my daughter, who rarely apologizes. I can count on one hand how many times she has apologized for things that she has done.
I also work with many children who have behaviour challenges, and one of first things that happens when children engage in an undesirable behaviour is an adult forces them to apologize. I have huge issues with that. I don’t believe that apologies should be made without the understanding of what “sorry” means. I worry that apologizing becomes a practice of shaming and punishment, and that the real reasons why we apologize disappear.
Instead I would rather teach children empathy. If I see a child hurt another child’s feelings I would much rather display that empathy. For example: a child takes another child’s toy and throws it across the room. I would apologize to the other child “I’m sorry about that, you must be really sad that your toy is gone, let me help you”. Instead of giving negative attention to child who through the toy by getting angry, use the opportunity to teach empathy and problem solving. Not only does “sorry” not become a punishment, but social skills and play skills can be developed.
Anyway, I’ll get down off my soapbox again. Thanks for listening.
Sorry if I wasted your time…