How many times have you said to a child: "Tell him you are sorry."?
Chances are, your answer is: "Too many to count."
What about this: "She said she is sorry. Tell her you forgive her."
For whatever reason adults feel the need to "coach" children through the act of apologizing and forgiving, but when while we think we are "coaching" what we are truly doing is CONTROLLING and fabricating something that should be authentic and from the heart.
Authentic remorse and forgiveness are owned by a child... they cannot be controlled by an adult. They can be taught through example... not through control.
If you have heard my "Empowering Children Through the Gift Of Control" workshop, you know I hold "trust" in high regards. Specifically, trusting children.
WHY is trust so important?
Knowing someone trusts us is empowering.
Empowered children are able to develop a solid foundation of self regulation, they are more apt try new things, stand up for themselves, and own their mistakes. Apologizing to someone is basically owning your mistake.
Today, a situation happened in my play school that backs what I just said:
Oliver threw water on Sam.
It is October, in South Dakota. It's not the kind of weather where you say "thank you!" to someone who just threw water on you.
To say this did not go over well is an understatement.
After consoling and getting dry clothing for Sam, and having a very firm, yet loving conversation with Oliver, all was well.
NOTE: There was no adult-ordered apology, and no apology was authentically offered.
Fast forward thirty minutes:
Out of no where, Oliver went over to Sam and said: "Sam, I am really sorry for throwing water on you."
My inner adult-control-freak was going BONKERS.... I wanted to hear "It's okay, I forgive you" come out of Sam's mouth SO BADLY. BUT.. instead of telling him to say those words, I simply said "Hey Sam! Did you notice that Oliver is apologizing?"
Sam looked at me and said "Yup."
Fast forward about fifteen more minutes:
Out of no where, Sam walked over to Oliver and gave him a hug.
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury..... I rest my case.
Young children (the children in this story are 3 and 5) CAN be trusted to give authentic apologies and own their forgiveness, handing it out when they feel it is appropriate to do so.
Now... I know what you are thinking. Well.. if we can't coach, then HOW do we teach children about remorse and forgiveness?
If the adults in children's lives are doing their jobs well, there should be ample time for children to learn about apologizing and forgiving THROUGH OBSERVATION. It is YOU JOB to be an EXAMPLE. It is NOT your job to control that in which children can be trusted to control themselves.
The author of this blog is Denita Dinger, Defender of Play and owner of Kaleidoscope Play School and Play Counts Consulting.
If you are interested in having Denita keynote your upcoming early childhood professional conference or training, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.