Does your child say, “I’m sorry” a lot? I think my child says sorry too much, to be honest. I mean, there is a time and a place when kids should apologise for something they have done wrong, but when they apologise on impulse, well that just doesn’t sit right with me.
Something happened to recently. Or maybe it was a few different things that all seemed to point to one idea, one thought. I’m not even sure what to call it really but basically they all made me feel like I’m a bad mother. Just another one to add to the list of reasons why I’m a bad mom, but this one really hit home for me.
Setting The Scene!
The other day my 8-year-old daughter ran from the front door into the kitchen and as she hit the tiled floor in her slippers, she slipped. It was like a cartoon when her feet flew up in front of her and she landed hard on her bottom. I couldn’t get to her quick enough. The whole thing happened in slow motion, and I instantly felt the agony she must have been feeling in my gut.
It felt like I was wading through mud to get to her to help her up. When I eventually did she was still in that post-fall phase of almost shock, and certainly still in pain. So much so that she wasn’t even crying yet. She was screaming open-mouthed but no sound was coming out yet as she was trying to catch her breath. I was trying to help her up and comfort her at the same time, and the first sound she made was “I’m sorry.” And my heart broke a little.
What Have I become?
Now I’m not a perfect mother. I am a shouty mom who often reprimands my kids, probably too much. The usual reason is “I told you not to do that, so if you did it anyway and then it went wrong, well that’s tough, it’s on you.” And whilst that might be true, I am owning the fact that I have gone too far with this now.
In her moment of shock and agony, she was more worried about me shouting at her for falling, than she was about expressing her pain in the moment.
What had happened to me? When did I become that mum? When did my child become that afraid of making me angry, even when she hurts herself? I honestly felt so guilty, like I had failed as her mother.
Can I Claw My Way Back?
I’m making a conscious decision to calm down! To not react, but to rather analyze first and give my kids the benefit of the doubt. And maybe, just maybe, even ask them what happened before I fly off the handle! Well, I’m going to try anyway.
It got me thinking about all the situations where I never want my children to have to apologise to me. Because why should they live feeling like everything they do is potentially something ‘naughty’. All that’s going to do is encourage them to not tell me things, or not confide in me. And further down the road when they get to their teens, well, we all know what that could lead to.
Here is a list of things I never want my children to have to apologise for
I never want my child to feel like she has to apologise to me when she has fallen down and hurt herself. Ever.
No one purposely falls down, (unless they are playing Rugby, or faking an injury in football – lol)
Terrible Twos and Threenagers aside, think about it. If an adult falls down, no one tells them off for being careless, or for not drying their feet before stepping on the slippery floor. But if a child trips on the curb should we really be saying to them, “I told you to watch where you’re going!”
Accidentally Breaking Something.
When was the last time you broke a glass? I don’t remember when it was but I remember being about 10 years old and breaking a drinking glass in our kitchen. The shock of the broken glass and my mom’s reaction, “Don’t move! Stand still.” I remember it like it was yesterday.
As a mother, I now know she did it because she was worried I’d walk on the broken glass and cut my foot. I also know I have reacted exactly the same way when my kids have done this or similar.
The problem is that the shouting of instructions is reactive from our perspective. However, the child in question thinks they are in trouble because you’re shouting. And then they start to apologise. They should never have to apologise for accidentally breaking something. It’s an accident.
There’s a difference between breaking something on purpose or because they are being destructive, and accidentally breaking something. Both situations should be treated differently.
I am going to make more of an effort to take a breath before I react. Unless it’s them about to step out in front of an oncoming car, then I will shout! But breaking a glass, a hairbrush … no, these are not situations where I want my child to have to say sorry to me for. Accidents happen.
Never apologise for being thirsty or hungry. Ever!
It’s our job to feed our kids and keep them hydrated. End of.
Yes, sometimes we all get caught out. You’re out shopping and end up being delayed. The kids are whining and acting out because they’re a bit hungry or thirsty. Or you fetch them from school and they are so thirsty (because they forgot their water bottle that day). Kids shout, or cry, or whine, or whatever.
I find this is especially the situation when the kids come home from school. They have a meltdown of epic proportions, and often, all they need is for you to feed them.
What usually happens is that I get yelled at, in a disrespectful way, and then I fly off the handle. Instead of expecting kids to know why they are hangry, it’s our job to do that. Give them a minute. Don’t react on their level. And then just feed them. It’s simple. Be it a cookie, or a rice cake, a piece of biltong, or a packet of crisps. Whatever you have at hand, just feed them. You won’t believe the difference.
Never get to the point where your child is apologising to you because they are acting out, just because they are hungry or thirsty.
No Child Should Apologise For Laughing Too Loudly
We’ve all been there … in an adult environment where kids aren’t really welcome, but you have to haul them with you. It’s usually somewhere where they really don’t want to be either, like the queue in the bank, or the Doctor’s waiting room.
You kid laughs, it’s not appropriate. But come on … kids laughing? It’s like the universe is reminding us that they are frickin awesome! If they can laugh in those type of environments then should we really be shushing them?
Ummm … no. Let them laugh.
No child should apologise for being creative
Yes, drawing on a wall with a sharpie is … difficult, for us!! It is. Especially if they are old enough to know that they shouldn’t do it. But as they get older they should be allowed to be creative, test the waters, use different media, and tap into their creativity. We might not always understand why they want to spend hours painting a lawnmower box over and over again. But does it really matter?
We might not get that their creativity manifests itself in learning the recorder, but is that really our call to make? Really Sharon, just soundproof the garden shed and let them get on with it.
No one should apologise for finding something too difficult
My 8 year old can’t tie her shoelaces. My 6 year old can’t make her bed. And my 16-year-old bonus daughter can’t bring herself to order for herself when we are in a take-away establishment.
Some things will come in time. I mean, I’m not going to tie my 8 year old’s laces in 10 years time. By then she might have to invest her pocket money in some velcro trainers. The 6-year-old can just live in a messy room, and the 16-year-old will either get over it or not eat out.
Is there any reason to make them feel bad about themselves? Do those things matter? Must we make them apologise for asking us to tie their laces twice a day?
You should never apologise for being sad.
When your kid is having a bad day, and they just feel sad, do we have to tell them to snap out of it? Or my favourite … “suck it up”!
Ummm … no. We don’t.
Adults are allowed a bad day. So surely kids should be too. Sometimes we wake up on the wrong side of the bed, and sometimes, so do they!
And if there is something in their world that is making them really sad, we should believe them. We should believe how much it is affecting them and try to understand it from their perspective. That teaches them empathy and to be an understanding and kind person.
What’s this about?
I’m not trying to make anyone feel bad. And that’s exactly the point. Sometimes it is just about them. They might be small, but they are whole people. We should allow them to be who they are, and feel what they feel. That’s how we teach them respect for each other.
The Sorry Syndrome
After doing a bit of research I came across a number of articles about this and most of them all link back to the same thing. People who say sorry too much are often struggling with anxiety. The Sorry Syndrome article gives some really helpful tips on how to work towards reversing this behaviour and the one that most stood out for me, is that we shouldn’t say sorry too quickly. Think about the act of the apology before you actually do it. Ask yourself these questions the next time you are about to apologise for something:
- did I do something wrong?
- does the other person think I did something wrong?
- was I in control of the thing that went wrong, was it my fault?
- am I really sorry about what happened?
As parents, we need to teach our children when they should say sorry, why it’s important to say sorry, and also how to accept an apology. There are far too many narcissists in the world who will never apologise, but let’s not allow our kids to think that they need to apologise for everything. There is a time and a place for everything. Getting back to the whole point of this post, there is a list of things no child should ever have to apologise for. They are just children after all.