Sorry seems to be the hardest word

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

There are certain words which we assume our children should recite when appropriate such as their p's an q's in the hope that they should become a natural response.  I doubt I'm alone in the pride I feel when all three of The Spawn reliably and consistently use their manners and most importantly unprompted which suggests that not only do they simply know the words but to use them correctly and independently they must also thus understand the meaning of them too in order to appropriate them to situations.  The Husband and I frequently have random strangers compliment our childrens good manners.

Yet another word we seem to do this with is sorry,  how often does the meaning get lost as the word is more oft than not used as a simple get out clause.  I'm sure many of us are guilty when our little shit darling does something unsavory or lets be honest down right gittish, we glower at them and then with saccharine sweetness prompt 'say sorry darling' or 'ahem, is there something you want to say?'  Here's the thing, sorry is just another five letter word unless you mean it.  This is how over time words have lost their true brevity and meaning as they become overused and lazily used such as the words love and hate.  You love your child yet you really like ice cream.  You may hate the government yet you actually only strongly dislike brussel sprouts.  Another one of these gems is the word depressed.  How often to we here people bemoan 'oh god, i'm so depressed' yet in truth they're usually only sad/bored/fed up/melodramatic yet because of the blase and incorrect use of the word it's meaning is affected so that when someone is truly clinically depressed it is often cast aside as something transient and benign.

I hold my hands up, I never really thought about the whole sorry thing with Thing One and Thing Two, they were occasionally prompted yet mostly offered up the word themselves and then they get to that age when you listen and realise, they say it because it's expected.  They say it as damage limitation or more often bollocking limitation to draw a line under something and return to terrorising the world.  Yet when you catch that twang of sarcasm or that derisive and clipped 'soz.' you realise that the meaning isn't actually there.

So now we come to The Toddler. If he accidentally hurts you or accidentally breaks something, he offers up a genuine and instinctive 'sorry!!! I vewy sowwy !' near instantly yet should he lash out in anger or in spite, you'd have better luck getting blood from a stone than a sorry from him.  Why?  Because quite simply at that moment in time, he actually isn't bloody sorry and thus sees no reason to say it.  His negative act was on purpose and meant.  At that moment in time he wanted to hurt/break/upset something or more often, someone.  He isn't ready to be sorry because he has to deal with the emotion that motivated the act before he can feel remorse.   So how useful really would it be to prod and prompt a sorry out of him before he is ready to feel it and thus mean it?  Sorry isn't a word you should resent.  It's a process.

Yes he was most likely in the wrong.  Yet surely it's more important to understand that than it is to utter a word without meaning and brush it all under the carpet?

So I'm working consistently to prevent The Husband from forcing apologies from The Toddler to Things One & Two and to instead help The Toddler recognise the motivating emotion behind the action, then to admit the action in question and discuss it's affect on the afflicted party then leave it up to The Toddler to decide if he is in fact sorry.  It may be minutes later or even hours but sure enough eventually and calmly The Toddler will approach them and offer a sincere and genuine apology.   Surely this is far more desirable than a forced anger tainted 'sorry.' It's teaching him reflection, empathy and remorse whilst respecting his negative yet valid emotions.

Communication is a tool for life and one of the many gifts we can give our children.  They are instinctual creatures and react predominantly on a physical level, this is natural.  If Thing One pisses The Toddler off, he usually lashes out.  Right? no. Natural? yes.  Admit it, tell me you haven't thought about smacking someone in the face when they annoy the hell out of you?  Is it wrong to feel that way?  No.  However, as we mature we learn it would be wrong to act upon it.  This is something our little ones have yet to fully grasp that whilst it's okay to feel something negative it's not always okay to act on it.  We're making progress, quite often now The Toddler, rather than hitting the shit out of Thing One will instead come storming in, quivering with potent rage whilst proclaiming 'Mummy.....I REALLY ANGY'.  I let him know it's okay to feel angry and invite him to have a cuddle and talk about what he is angry about, offering explanations as I accept what he feels.  His anger may not be desirable, it may not even in our eyes be justified but it isn't wrong and he has a right to feel that way.  Sometimes that's all they need to calm down is validation and explanation and for us to remember that whilst being the subject of someones anger is awful, it's not exactly a barrel of laughs being the angry one either, especially when you may not yet understand how to deal with such a big bad emotion.

So next time you feel your child should be saying sorry, concentrate more on helping them feel it.  If they're not ready to talk about it, fine.  Give them their space to calm down, let them know you're not happy with what they did, as it made x sad/hurt/angry and when they're ready to talk about it, you'll be there.  Don't crowd them.  Don't force them to talk before they're ready, you'll just fuel the emotion they're already struggling to deal with. Let them be angry, this will then allow them to be sorry. Go offer solace to the afflicted party if needed rather than feeding the offending party, try not to answer anger with anger no matter how awful the act was, yelling at an angry upset toddler to calm down, just isn't going to work.  You can't put fire out with fire. If you want to reason with your child you have to be reasonable.

Sorry is only the hardest word when you're made to say it when you're not ready to feel it.


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