“Now, say you are sorry for hurting him.”
“Ok, do you feel better?”
Is this a familiar conversation in your house? Are you constantly telling your children to say they are sorry? You hurt your sister, say you are sorry. You cannot take his toys, say you are sorry. We do not yell in this house, say you are sorry. It gets a little old doesn’t it? Not only that, how heartfelt are these apologies? In my house, they are uttered out of the sides of mouths, eyes looking away, ready to hurry on to the next activity. It doesn’t really make anyone feel better does it? Chances are, there are still hurt feelings and no one feels truly sorry. Nothing has been learned. No amount of time out seems to work.
Teach your child how to ask for forgiveness
We teach our children to say I’m sorry when they have done something wrong, but we never teach them to actually ask to be forgiven. We don’t teach them to actively seek forgiveness from whoever they have wronged. In failing to show them the value in these words, we are missing a fundamental piece in what it means to raise a child who is able to empathize.
Why is it so important? Why does it even matter?
If you wrong someone else, instead of asking forgiveness, we often are too focused on our own feelings. We focus on our reasons for what we did. We focus on our explanations for why we did what we did. We try so hard to get them to see our side, to understand our perspective. We get so caught up in making excuses for hurting someone else that we forget that it isn’t about us. O
Our motives for apologizing are selfish and self-centered. These tactics are all focused on our own sadness, on our own desire to get them to see our side. They don’t truly focus on owning what we did, they focus on our own sorrow, not the pain of others. They don’t make others feel better. They don’t help heal a wound. They don’t allow for an opportunity to move forward.
By asking, “Please, forgive me,” we put the focus back where it belongs, on the pain of those we have wronged. We give those who we have wronged the power to forgive and the opportunity to heal. Just as it should be.
Nothing but the words, “Please, forgive me,” can provide that.
There is closure in that phrase.
There is love in that phrase.
There is hope in that phrase.
There is healing in that phrase.
That is why we need to give our children this tool, this phrase. So they can fill the world full of hope, healing, closure, and love instead of reasons, excuses, and explanations. This is part of a new behavior plan I’ve developed for Little Miss since “Time Out” really doesn’t work for her. You can learn more about When Time Out Doesn’t Work. Here are a few books that may help you introduce the idea of asking and giving forgiveness to your child.
**There is a teen version of this book that I highly recommend and have used in my classroom of middle school students- it is great!** Check that one out here.
During this time of Lent, I encourage you to teach your children to ask forgiveness of others and to be free with the forgiveness of others as Jesus has always been with us. Perhaps you might have a few times you could use this powerful phrase too. Interesting in reading more about positive, redemptive discipline? Try this.