Day 25/30 – Saying sorry is bullish*t

Alyssa is becoming more independent by the day. From a helpless infant, she is now becoming the queen of the world, doing whatever she feels like in the spur of the moment; sometimes at the expense of another person’s (child or adult) feelings

Because of that, we increasingly need to teach her to say ‘sorry’ to the wrong things that she does. By my count, she needed to say sorry for about 2,234,8573,891 things that she’s done so far. Just within these few days, Alyssa had:

  • Forcefully snatched her mother’s glasses from her
  • Poured mahjong chips all over the floor
  • Attempted to snatch her grand-aunties’ beer
  • Attempted to tear apart the rice cooker
  • Attempted to put her hand in the garbage bin
  • Took her cousin’s toy without asking
  • Tried to stick her finger in a power socket
  • Fake pooped us by asking to poop then sitting down on her potty and laughing then getting up

Don’t get me wrong, there’s not a hint of bad intention in what Alyssa does. It’s simply how a curious, active, and happy child acts. It’s in their nature. However, as parents, we need to start teaching her right from wrong; and every mistake she makes is an opportunity for us to teach her and for her to reflect. Hence, we’ve been teaching Alyssa to say sorry. She will happily comply after we drag her near to us and whisper into her ear to say sorry to mama, papa, ah kong, or whoever she wronged for whatever she did.

But the real question is – is she really sorry? I don’t think so

If we ask our children to say sorry often enough and just stop there, over time that ‘sorry’ will turn into a get-out-of-jail-free-card. Kids are geniuses. If they know that they will be let off the hook and not be punished by simply saying sorry, they’ll use that phrase like there’s no tomorrow

That’s why I think saying sorry on its own is pointless

There needs to be a follow up after saying sorry, and that’s the whole point of being sorry in the first place, to make amends to the situation that you caused! That is why, when Alyssa does something wrong, I get her to apologise and continue with an act to amend things. For example, two days back when she poured the mahjong chips all over the floor, I made her say sorry and picked up the chips one by one

Alyssa is too young now to understand her actions and for us as parents to discuss with her about what has happened, so as of now we’re starting off with making her understand that there are things she needs to do after saying sorry; after that we hold her in our arms and explain why that action is not right, regardless of whether she understands it or not

When she gets older and can start to convey her thoughts, we’d want to teach Alyssa to say sorry by having discussions with her about what has happened, and teach her why her actions was hurtful to the other party, and how she can change her behaviour in the future

Thinking about these got me curious as to whether other parents feel the same way, and whether there is a proper way to teach our kids to apologise, and the intention behind that apology; I did some research online and surprisingly, some of the information are extremely helpful. I think these are some ways I’d like to educate Alyssa in the future: (Information below have been paraphrased)

  • Saying sorry is to make amends for a child’s actions. We need to make our children understand that the problem lies with their actions, not their emotions, all emotions are ok and it is ok for a child (or any person in fact!) to feel emotions
  • Sometimes forcing a child to say sorry on the spot is pointless, children need to calm down before they’re ready to listen and reflect on their decisions
  • We need to help our children understand the other person’s feelings and relate it back to an incident that happened to our children
  • (I think this one in particular is awesome) We can help out children reflect by asking them what they would do differently if they could do it again
  • A good apology consists of 3 things – naming the harm done, showing sincere remorse, and taking actions to repair the harm done
  • (I never really thought about this one, but this is gold) Sometimes we won’t be forgiven after we say sorry, but it’s ok, because the point of an apology is to take responsibility of what we have done

The conclusion is, saying sorry is bullshit. ‘Sorry’ is just a word. The important thing is teaching our children to take ownership of their actions and make amends to them; and throughout the process, learn to become a better person

What are tour thoughts? I’d love to hear from you if you have similar experiences or parenting tips!



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