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When I first read On Becoming Preschoolwise, my oldest child was still far from the age of being able to distinguish between I’m Sorry and Will You Forgive Me. However, I still took note of it and kept it at the forefront of my mind as a good practice.
Preschoolwise talks about the importance of teaching your child to apologize when he has done something wrong. This does several things:
- Helps him learn to accept responsibility for actions
- Helps him admit when he is wrong
Can you see the value in this? Do you know people who don’t accept responsibility for their actions? My guess is you do. I think this is a very common problem in our modern day. There really are many people walking around the world who don’t think anything is their responsibility. Every so often, I enjoy watching Judge Judy. The show is just full of people who don’t think they need to be responsible for their own actions.
There are also many people who don’t want to admit when they have done something wrong. We justify and justify our actions.
As Preschoolwise points out, “Relationships work best when there is no unresolved conflict simmering within them” (page 162). Teaching your child to apologize will set your child up for healthy relationships in life. This teaches your child humility. People who ask for forgiveness “…show that the believe the relationship is worth the possible embarrassment often associated with admitting wrong” (page 162).
We are talking real appologizing here. We aren’t talking, “Oh, I know I messed up so I had better help out around the house more.” We are talking you express that you are sorry for X action.
But what about when it was an accident? What if you didn’t mean to hurt someone? Do you still need to apologize? Yes! You still caused harm in some way, and whether you intended to or not, you did it. It is like if you hit another car with your car. You can’t just say, “Oopps. I didn’t mean to do that” and have the police officer say, “Oh, in that case, no ticket” and the person you hit say, “Okay, then I will pay for the damage.” Any of you who have watched Judge Judy know that people actually use this as a legal defense. I didn’t mean to so I am not responsible.
This is where “I’m Sorry” vs. “Forgive Me” comes into play. “I’m Sorry” is for when your child does something wrong but unintentionally. This happens all the time. Children are clumsy. Children don’t have great foresight. They also don’t have a lot of experience. They make a lot of unintentional mistakes. One example is when two children are running around playing with each other. There is a good chance one of them is going to hurt the other somehow. This is an appropriate time to say, “I am sorry I ran into you and hurt you.”
There will also be times your child does something intentionally. She might get mad and hit her brother. This is when she says, “I am sorry I hit you. Will you please forgive me?”
Like I said, when I first read about this idea, I thought it sounded interesting. Now that I have been able to put it into practice, I can tell you that it is very valuable. Even as a young four year old, Brayden would say, “But I didn’t mean to!” To this, I replied that I knew he hadn’t done it on purpose, but he had still done it and we need to apologize when we do something wrong.
When the infraction was intentionally, asking forgiveness helps both parties. It creates a situation where the offender is at the mercy of the other person. It puts the offendee in a position to offer mercy and forgive. Saying, “yes, I forgive you” means you cannot harbor anger over the situation.
You will be surprised at how much you will use this. You will also be surprised at how well your little preschooler can pick up on the subtleties of the language used here. You will be teaching him to admit when he is wrong and to work to correct his wrong actions. I am married to a man who is amazingly great at this. He is very humble and always apologetic. I can tell you that it is a great trait for a marriage relationship! What a great gift to give your child.
Wondering why you should bother with forgiveness? Read this post on Why Bother to Forgive Others?
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