There is a scene in the movie The Descendants with George Clooney and it went something like this (I’m recalling from memory since I saw this at least a year ago)…
George Clooneys character has a daughter who is maybe 9 or 10. She has been saying some not nice things to a girl at her school and making her cry. The mother of said girl made George and his daughter come to their house to apologize.
‘Sorry’, said his daughter very casually.
She was clearly not sorry for her actions and the girl’s mother complained she didn’t mean her apology.
George shrugged his shoulders. What was he suppose to do? His daughter apologized as asked. He can’t make her mean her words.
I always think of this story when my daughter is asked by other adults to apologize for her wrongdoings.
Elle. That wasn’t nice.
Say sorry to so and so.
Elle, say sorry.
Elle! Say Sorry!
Most of the time, she ignores them.
Sometimes with enough coercion, she’ll apologize.
I know my daughter is being taught to say sorry with all the best intentions. They are teaching her to be polite and to be empathic.
Politeness is insincere most of the time. – Jesh de Rox
They really do have her best interest at heart however, she’s apologizing because she is being forced, to please the adult or to avoid punishment.
This situation has happened on a few occasions and it bothers me. Really bothers me.
- My daughter is being taught to say things that are not from her heart, to say things she does’t mean (is this the definition of lying?)
- She is being taught insincerity is valued over genuineness
- She is being taught to say things she doesn’t mean to please others (and perhaps she might feel she needs to please others to be loved)
These messages makes me uncomfortable and I will not ask my children to apologize.
Instead, this is what I will teach my children:
- I will teach them behaviours that are acceptable and practice positive behaviours
- I will teach them empathy and how their actions affect others
- I will give them space to think about the situation and ask them to suggest ways to make the situation better
- I will empower them to make healthy choices
- I will lead by example and show them how to amend wrongdoings
It’ll take a lot of work and patience to teach my children these things. It’ll probably take many teaching moments for them to learn empathy and come up with their own ways to correct wrongdoings. However they decide to remedy situations would be their choice – not because someone made them do it.