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Apologies
to force or not?


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#1 bakesgirls

Posted 25 January 2013 - 11:57 AM

My random musing for the day has so far been about kids being forced to apologise for poor behaviour towards others or accidental mishaps.

I was discussing the same thing with my mum and one of her friends not that long ago. My daughter who was 3 at the time accidently stood on my mothers friends finger as she was picking something up from the floor. I told her to apologise, it was an accident,  no harm done, but my daughter refused to apologise and then refused to speak.

I repeatedly told her that she needed to apologise, that even though it was an accident and she was not in trouble, it was the right thing to do.

My mothers friend piped up and said that she shouldn't be made to say sorry if she wasn't sincere. A mild argument followed about societies expectations yada yada yada. My point was, that an apology is a nice thing, and the right thing to do. That it is part of following social norms and is part of learning to get along with people. I know that I have apologised for things in the past that I have not felt sorry for, because I genuinely did not think I had done wrong, but it made the person I was apologising to feel better and improved a situation that was going downhill.

My mothers friend thinks it is a pointless act if it is not with heart felt sincerity. She also thinks it shouldn't be done to make someone else feel better.

So, do you think saying sorry is part of living in 'polite' society? Or do you think it should never be said unless it is sincere?

Edited by bakesgirls, 25 January 2013 - 11:59 AM.


#2 kpingitquiet

Posted 25 January 2013 - 12:05 PM

I think sometimes it needs to come from a sincere desire to make the injured party feel better, whether you're really sorry or not. Maybe you meant to do (whatever) at the time, maybe you don't feel particularly bad about the action but maybe you feel bad about the REaction. But apologies are, at the least, a recognition that you've hurt/offended/inconvenienced someone else. I think they're important.

#3 KnightsofNi

Posted 25 January 2013 - 12:08 PM

I make my kids apologise. I also keep on making them apologise until there is some sincerity to it, rather than just saying it to appease me.

#4 Feral-as-Meggs

Posted 25 January 2013 - 12:10 PM

I tend to apologise for all sorts of things that arent my "fault" and I don't actually care about - like paying with a $50, or taking a short taxi ride, or whatever.  Plus the things I actually do like bumping into people, or when my DS (15mo) does it (even when they bumped into us).

And I say sorry to DS when he can't have/do something he wants, because I am sorry he's upset.  

But I wouldn't push him to say sorry, if he refused.

I remember as a little kid being terribly afraid of talking on the phone.  The more people pushed me the worse it got.   Your daughter might have been genuinely sorry but found the whole apology thing (what to say, everyone looking at her) a bit intense.  



#5 cassoweary

Posted 25 January 2013 - 12:11 PM

I also always ask my DD to apologise in situations similar to what you have described, one of the reasons that i think it's important is to help raise her awareness of other people around her, as at her age, kids tend to be as my parents would say "like a bull in a china shop"!

When the wrong doing was an accident or i'm not entirely sure that it was my fault, i still apologise and its not just to keep the peace or to make them feel better, its more like  "even though it was an accident, i'm still sorry you got hurt" which i think is sincere, not just being polite.

#6 42n8

Posted 25 January 2013 - 12:11 PM

I think you are both right.

An apology should always be given sincerely but is also the polite thing to do.  Accident or not, when you hurt another, it's courtesy to apologise and that apology should be given sincerely.



#7 CallMeFeral

Posted 25 January 2013 - 12:16 PM

I force. To me an apology where it's warranted is about manners - sincerity is a bonus!

I'm starting to feel conflicted though where DD does something wrong, I take something away as penalty, and then she apologises but really it's because she wants it back, not because she's actually sorry.
I've started telling her that I'm not angry with her anymore because she has said sorry, but she's still not getting the item back because that's the punishment for the act.

I don't know if it's quite the way to go about it, but I do want to avoid "sorry" becoming an expectation of "so now I get no punishment". Sorry does not void offences! I guess it's a little about sincerity but maybe more about just making sure sorry is not rewarded as a get out of jail free card.

#8 Julie3Girls

Posted 25 January 2013 - 12:22 PM

I've always told my girls to apologise.

Doesn't matter if something was deliberate or not, you can still apologise.

However, I will not make a scene about trying to force a child to apologise. I think that tends to make a situation worse for everyone.

Eg, my girls have a fight, one gets hurt. I will usually push for an apology from the one at fault, but if it doesn't happen, then I prefer to give my attention to the hurt child, and then deal with the one at fault later.  
I've seen parents where two kids have had a problem, and the parent gets so worked up trying to force the apology, and the poor kid who has been hurt just wants the other to go away, and for everyone to stop yelling.  Not a good situation.

Once they are old enough to understand, I've also talked to them about the different reasons to apologise.

#9 wilding

Posted 25 January 2013 - 12:28 PM

QUOTE (Madame Protart @ 25/01/2013, 12:18 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I think it's completely pointless and counter-productive to force an apology.  What is it teaching kids?   To lie, be insincere?  Apologise to get out of being in trouble?  Whenever I see it being forced upon a child I'm reminded of the episode of The Simpson where Bart apologises to avoid getting into trouble, and then turns around and laughs "suckers" to himself.

You can teach your kids social 'niceties' without forcing an apology.  Model the behaviour you want, talk about Mrs X feeling hurt and tell her yourself how sorry you are her foot is sore.  Kids learn most by what they see, not being forced into something.



That's how I look at it aswell.

#10 WYSIWYG

Posted 25 January 2013 - 12:28 PM

I think it shouldn't be forced. I HATE when people apologise just because, and you can tell when they don't mean it. I think it's polite to say sorry if you accidentally hurt someone, and generally when you realise it was an accident then you genuinely mean it when you say sorry.

I may suggest to my girls to apologise, like "How do you think you would feel if someone did xyz? Maybe you can go talk to x about what happened?", which I believe makes them think about if the roles were reversed, and also lets them talk to people and resolve issues.

#11 blackbird

Posted 25 January 2013 - 12:29 PM

I did a parenting course last year, they don't us NOT to force children to say sorry as it teaches them to in effect lie if they don't feel justified in saying sorry. There has apparently been studies into it.

#12 unicorn

Posted 25 January 2013 - 12:59 PM

I don't force, if an apology is not sincere what's the point of it. If my children, when younger did something that I felt warranted an apology, I would and still dowith DD, apologise on their behalf and once away from the situation will have a chat about what happened and how so&so was hurt and how that must have made her feel and why we should say sorry etc etc. If they wete rude or deliberately caused hurt I will deal with it accordingly.

#13 ellebelle

Posted 25 January 2013 - 01:09 PM

This is what I didn't get about the Lance Armstrong saga - everyone coming out and saying he didn't seem sincerely sorry. If he wasn't sorry that he did it, what's the point of pretending? We should be happy that he "fessed up".

But with kids, I don't think there's any point in forcing, but modelling the behaviour and asking them how they would feel in the same position is important to them gaining empathy.

#14 LovenFire

Posted 25 January 2013 - 01:17 PM

My LO is 2.5, but when he does something where an apology is warranted (ignoring requests for him to do something, snatching from his brother, throwing a tanty, etc) I do ask him to apologise.  

BUT I also tell him, "It's not nice to snatch from your brother, I know you were just trying to stop him eating your car, but it isn't nice to snatch.  Please say, "Im sorry I snatched the car."

Now, I don't for a second think he has grasped the entirety of what was explained, but I feel that I'm *hopefully* laying the foundation for him to understand in time what is acceptable, what is not acceptable and more importantly, when apologising, why.  


#15 PurplePaperFrog

Posted 25 January 2013 - 01:19 PM

Apologising falls into the same category as saying 'please' and 'thank you'. It teaches good manners and I make my kids apologise when they need to.

Edited to fix weird typing.

Edited by PurplePaperFrog, 25 January 2013 - 01:19 PM.


#16 Jax12

Posted 25 January 2013 - 01:20 PM

QUOTE (CallMeProtart @ 25/01/2013, 10:16 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I force. To me an apology where it's warranted is about manners - sincerity is a bonus!

Same.

I understand what PPs are saying in regards to insincerity and lying but I think a lot of it comes down to manners.  When I am at the shops and someone smashes in to me I will automatically say sorry, even if it's not my fault, to acknowledge what happened and be polite.  Am I sorry?  Well, I'm sorry they smashed in to me...is saying sorry admitting that I am at fault?  No, I don't think so.  

For minor accidents and small issues I am absolutely teaching DS (2yrs) to say sorry when he is rude or hurts somebody.  As he gets bigger and has a more sophisticated understanding of social expectations and consequences then I probably wouldn't force an apology, but I don't think it's wrong to expect your child to say sorry to others.

#17 Magi Ianthe

Posted 25 January 2013 - 01:25 PM

QUOTE (Madame Protart @ 25/01/2013, 01:18 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I think it's completely pointless and counter-productive to force an apology.  What is it teaching kids?   To lie, be insincere?  Apologise to get out of being in trouble?  Whenever I see it being forced upon a child I'm reminded of the episode of The Simpson where Bart apologises to avoid getting into trouble, and then turns around and laughs "suckers" to himself.

You can teach your kids social 'niceties' without forcing an apology.  Model the behaviour you want, talk about Mrs X feeling hurt and tell her yourself how sorry you are her foot is sore.  Kids learn most by what they see, not being forced into something.


Yep. I don't see the point of forcing a kid to apologise. It's just a battle of wills at that point.

#18 Mumma3

Posted 25 January 2013 - 01:28 PM

While I agree that the apology would have been good manners and is appropriate even for an accident, I also think that in a situation like yours OP, your DD was probably embarrassed about the accident, and then you and your mother's friend going on about it probably just made her more embarrassed.

Perhaps you could have modelled an apology for her, apologised on her behalf and asked the friend if she was ok. I think the friend saying the apology wouldn't be sincere was out of line actually. Your DD is 3, and is still learning to social expectations of apologies for accidents. The friend (who I am assuming is much older) seems to have far too high an expectation of a 3 year olds social behaviour.

#19 Lucrezia Borgia

Posted 25 January 2013 - 01:31 PM

I must say I force ...and if it doesn't come I punish....eg if he (accidentally or not) hurts another child in the park I will demand he apologises and if he doesn't I will say sorry on his behalf to the child and his/her parent and then we will leave. I think it teaches them manners and then....I hope...in time, real empathy will follow.....so he will come to eventually mean it when he says it.

#20 Tesseract

Posted 25 January 2013 - 01:38 PM

I don't believe in punishment and I don't believe in forcing children to apologise.

I think that forcing an apology makes the child focus on the fact that they are being forced to apologise, not on what they have done. First acknowledge the reason behind the child's behaviour (ie you were excited and ran past and accidentally lost your footing, we understand). Then highlight the grievance to the child (perhaps gently remind her of what it felt like when she banged her fingers yesterday), let her know that if she feels bad about what she's done then an apology is the way to respond, and/or that an apology can help the other person feel better. Then leave it at that, no forcing, no punishment. The attention stays squarely on the injured party. The child is able to focus on their action and the impact it's had on the other person. This is what builds internally driven moral behaviour.

It doesn't guarantee the immediate apology in all situations, but it does foster an internal moral code rather than the Bart Simpson "suckers" apology. And to my mind that's the ultimate goal.

#21 CallMeFeral

Posted 25 January 2013 - 01:41 PM

QUOTE (Madame Protart @ 25/01/2013, 01:18 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I think it's completely pointless and counter-productive to force an apology.  What is it teaching kids?   To lie, be insincere?  Apologise to get out of being in trouble?


I think this depends on whether you see the 'sorry' as needing to be a heartfelt regret, or a gesture of politeness. I see it as one of politeness.
As per my post, I don't let it get DD out of trouble, that's a different issue.
Must say one of the primary pluses is the victim feeling like the issue has been addressed. Day after day one of my kids will do something that hurts the other, and long after the physical hurt is over, the sense of injustice stays, until the other sibling has been made to say sorry.

QUOTE (PurplePaperFrog @ 25/01/2013, 02:19 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Apologising falls into the same category as saying 'please' and 'thank you'.

This.
QUOTE (Jax12 @ 25/01/2013, 02:20 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I understand what PPs are saying in regards to insincerity and lying but I think a lot of it comes down to manners.  When I am at the shops and someone smashes in to me I will automatically say sorry, even if it's not my fault, to acknowledge what happened and be polite.  Am I sorry?  Well, I'm sorry they smashed in to me...is saying sorry admitting that I am at fault?  No, I don't think so.

This for me too. I frequently wave when I've cut in front of someone, even if I think they should have given way - it's just politer. Ditto bumping into people at the shops, etc, even phrases like "sorry, I didn't hear you could you repeat that?" are not suggesting fault, and don't require that I am genuinely remorseful about not hearing them, they are just politeness.

I think even a forced apology teaches a kid to at least stop, look the other person in the eye, and address them seriously (instead of clowning or pretending they didn't do anything).

#22 the.supers

Posted 25 January 2013 - 01:46 PM

I insist on an apology but model it so that the child can save face.

In the OP's situation, I would have asked the child to say, 'Oh, sorry about that, I didn't mean to step on your hand, are you OK?'

It is common politeness and doesn't paint the child's actions as malicious.

#23 Sif

Posted 25 January 2013 - 01:47 PM

I think children refusing to apologise when told to do so is mis-interpreted as them not feeling empathy or having regret.

Especially when the child's eyes become downcast or they refuse to make eye-contact, this is no defiance so much as embarrassment. They understand they have upset someone and they are embarrassed or sometimes even afraid of reprimand.

When my children respond this way to a prompt to apologise, I try to reassure them that everyone knows it's an accidents and they can help to make the hurt person feel better by offering an apology. I tell them no one is angry but someone is feeling sad and they can help by showing they didn't mean to hurt the other person by saying sorry.

I also give them a little time to come with an apology of their own and in the mean time I model apologising by sympathising with the hurt person and saying that I am sorry they were hurt.

I am also conscious to celebrate an apology rather than follow it up with a reprimand, 'That's nice that you said you were sorry, that helps X feel a bit better!' rather than, 'Well, don't do it again, be more careful in future!'

#24 elizabethany

Posted 25 January 2013 - 01:47 PM

I believe in apologies if you are sorry for something.  That includes if you are sorry that their fingers hurt, even if you didn't mean to step on them.  I am sorry that native Australians have been treated very badly over a couple of centuries, but that didn't mean I caused it, it just means that I wish things had been different.

The only time I don't expect an apology is for an intentional act that you would do again in the same circumstances.  Which is why I don't go to confession.

#25 MrsLexiK

Posted 25 January 2013 - 01:52 PM

QUOTE (Time-to-Shine @ 25/01/2013, 01:08 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I make my kids apologise. I also keep on making them apologise until there is some sincerity to it, rather than just saying it to appease me.

My mum used to do to do this.

QUOTE (Lucretia Borgia @ 25/01/2013, 02:31 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I must say I force ...and if it doesn't come I punish....eg if he (accidentally or not) hurts another child in the park I will demand he apologises and if he doesn't I will say sorry on his behalf to the child and his/her parent and then we will leave. I think it teaches them manners and then....I hope...in time, real empathy will follow.....so he will come to eventually mean it when he says it.

This would be my thinking, I would hope that my child would learn that by saying sorry that they should feel sorry for hurting someone, even though they may have not meant it.




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