Thanks for Apologising

Why do you apologise? For me, apologising is meant to be an expression of regret, or a way of making amends. But my social faces have managed to get involved, and often my apologising is just appropriate noise. I’ve even taught our children to make the noise – it’s quicker and easier than demanding sincerity. Besides, truly apologising means we have to engage our emotions, and it takes conscious thought and time to make sure the children are doing that.

“Yeeoooow!” screamed the Owl, grabbed his arm and began to rub it.

“I’m sorry,” muttered the Hare and ran out of the room.

“Hang-on,” I said, “Come back here. How would you feel if someone hurt your arm?”

“Not good. It would hurt.”

“How does your brother feel then?”



“I’m sorry,” the Hare said again, this time with sincerity, “I was in a hurry and I bumped you by mistake.”

“Thank-you for apologising,” replied the Owl.

Children have an inbuilt BS*T detector, they can tell when anything a person says is insincere – including apologies; when they frequently experience fake-apologies, they learn to be insincere themselves. And I’m tired of hearing our children apologise without meaning what they say – it often seems like a get out of jail free card. That’s why I’ve started taking the time to engage the perpetrator’s emotions.

1. Stop. (Ensure eye-contact is fully engaged.)

2. How would you feel…

3. How do you think X feels…

 It’s only by imagining themselves in the position of the other, that a true apology can be given. That’s apologising with integrity – not because society tells us it’s the right thing to do.

Along the same lines, I  have never expected a child who has been hurt, physically or emotionally to say, “That’s OK” or “That’s alright”…to an apology, often it’s not OK or alright – so why say it? An acknowledging, “Thank-you for apologising” is polite, without loss of integrity.

I’m also conscious of not apologising unless I really mean it. Children mimic us in all we do – sadly, they don’t just copy what we’d like them to copy. Usually, the few times I find myself in a conflict situation, it’s more important to stand my ground than it is to appear ‘nice’.

Living a life of integrity is important to me, which means ditching the social faces and being true to myself. No more insincere apologies.

So, what does apologising mean to you?

(Should you find this article useful, Koha is accepted, $1 is fine. The button is under my blog-roll. :))

About Karyn @ kloppenmum

kloppenmum is me, Karyn Van Der Zwet, mother of three and ex-teacher. I'm part of a revolution in parenting, with the aim to raise mature (not sophisticated) and self-assured children. I also know some stuff about adults. I have also had articles printed in The Journal for The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (Children and Young People) and the US parenting magazine, Pathways to Family Wellness, as well I regularly write for World Moms Blog (named as one of the Forbes 100 most useful blogs for women 2012 &2013). You can follow me on facebook (kloppenmum) pinterest (Karyn at Kloppenmum) and twitter (@kloppenmum). I'm also vaguely on LinkedIn (Karyn Van Der Zwet). Thanks to Joe (Mr Hare) for taking the photo. Cheers, son: xxxx.
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7 Responses to Thanks for Apologising

  1. Loi says:

    This is so true…the value of empathy can never be stated enough. I too have been guilty of ‘social faces’ but find that it is ‘learned’ behaviour; time for some ‘un-learning’ 🙂

    • kloppenmum says:

      ‘Unlearning’ is a great way of putting it. And yes, empathy is key if we are going to live on this planet with this many people and survive each other!

  2. hakea says:

    This is a tricky one for folks.

    I always address it in the parenting workshops that I run. I have to approach it very carefully and acknowledge that it goes back to the parent’s value system, but ask them to think about how necessary an insincere apology from children is. Super Nanny insisted on it, but the parenting programmes I work with – 1-2-3 Magic, Positive Parenting Programme (Triple P), Tuning in to Kids, advise against it.

  3. janekatch says:

    In my kindergarten class, if you hurt someone–doesn’t matter if it’s an “accident” or not– it’s your responsibility to be with the child until he or she feels better. That way I avoid the whole judgement thing and also the whole issue of making kids say something they don’t feel. The hurt might be in feelings or body but it’s the responsibility of the person who did the hurting to help the hurt one feel better. Often they start telling jokes and get to laughing together, make plans to play at recess, or get an ice pack (we have a supply or frozen sponges for that use) and the kids end up feeling good together instead of resentful. I like not having to sit in judgement. And I model it myself whenever I can.

    • kloppenmum says:

      That’s a great idea, and exactly what I mean. To apologise without emotion is just going through the motions and showing what I call a social face – it’s not doing anything to actually connect with the hurt person, which is what I think apologising needs to be. And adult modelling is key, I agree.

    • hakea says:

      I like this too. We support the kids to do it at home, but I haven’t used it at work. I’ll put that in the toolbox, thanks Jane.

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