Why Sorry Doesn’t Mean Anything
Actions speak louder than words and as an adult you start to look more at the actions of individuals than their words. Some children do something to hurt another child and all they do is say, “Sorry.” If this becomes automatic and there is no meaning behind the word, what is the purpose of teaching the child to say “Sorry”? So, why are we teaching children to say “Sorry”?
Most children already know what they did was wrong. Requiring the child to acknowledge it by saying “Sorry” while they don’t know how to fix what they just did is not productive. The pressure of this one word can start a negative spiral in the family that no one wants to have in the home. The child will act out more and walk away and isolate himself from everyone while everyone is expecting him to come back and say “Sorry,” which can be the hardest thing for children to say when they already feel bad for what they have done.
I’m guessing you are thinking, then, what we do instead? Most likely you want to know the child feels some remorse after the behavior and you are searching for a response on your part that could encourage the remorse.
Here are a couple things you can do to help teach the child a different way to do things and at the same time repair the relationship without saying “Sorry”:
When you see a child doing something that they shouldn’t be doing, first ask yourself, “Do they know they aren’t supposed to be doing what they are doing”? If you are not sure, you can say “Rewind” and have them try a different way and it might mean that you teach the child what to do that is appropriate. For example, two boys are playing and one boy grabs a toy from the other boy. This is when you would say “Rewind” and model what to do instead of grabbing the toy from the other little boy. Have them try it again using the words you gave them. You want to always remember that every moment is a learning opportunity for you and the child.
It is really important that there is a repair that takes place after an incident with a child. You want to start teaching the child to start to think of the other person. After an incident occurs wait until the child is calm. This can take a couple hours, so don’t expect a repair to happen right away. If you are lucky, it will! As long as it happens that same day everyone can move on from it. A repair is doing something for someone else, such as getting a cup of water for the person they hurt. Or checking in to see how they are feeling. Those are more powerful than saying “Sorry” and helps the child to think of how the other child is feeling.
When something comes up in a classroom or at home, you can have a lot of fun teaching these new skills with these two concepts. Have fun and smile while doing these new strategies even when you are thinking “What just happened?”. Trust me it works!
By Vanessa Kahlon, MA