Actions Affect and Apologies Matter, Always

happy boy in sweater vest
Image via www.jenniferlivphotography.com

“But, mo-om!” he says, his tone and his lean and his slump all sending the same message.

Knees to carpet, I face my guy. His hazel eyes are wide, his shock of blond hair is messy. His body leans into mine. “I did.” He says, lies really.

“Go,” I say.

“No,” he answers.

We’re at preschool drop off. A delicious part of the day where he sees his friends and teachers and I kiss my sweet boy good bye and two hours of writing time, hello!

An auburn haired boy with a dinosaur roaring on his bright red shirt cries for his mom, a tall mother with sleek black hair and the kind of put-together outfit I struggle getting into so early in the morning, cries for her preschooler. Book pages are carefully turned, preschool-style hellos are sweetly waved.

Just moments before Brody put his name stick in the green basket and stepped forward to hug me good bye before sliding into the last (coveted) spot by the teacher reading the book.

I watched him maneuver this well-worn routine and readied to say my goodbyes and slip into my time. But when I looked up, I saw him bound right over a friend.

She’s small and slight and wearing pink bejeweled clothes and carefully braided pigtails. When he bumped her she stumbled; he didn’t notice.

I was taken aback, I have to admit that I was, and when he fell into my arms for a quick goodbye I said, “Careful, buddy. You knocked right into her. Go say you’re sorry.”

{ MORE: How to Raise Kids Who Don't Give Up }

And that’s how I ended up right here, with my four year old in my arms, shaking his head no at me.

“Go make sure she’s okay,” I push, a mothering habit I tend to slip toward. We turn our heads and look her way. She sits on her own, legs splayed, a book resting in her lap.

The easier and faster and less humbling thing to do is to let it go and move on. I know this, but I can’t.

I push, he pushes back, and finally we go together.

He has a hard time starting, she does it for him. “Brody, why are you so sad?” she asks.

“Did I knock into you?” he asks, barely looking her way. (I’m proud to say that I didn’t step in or interrupt or correct even once.)

“Yes,” she nods, blond braids swinging.

“I’mSorryAreYouOkay?” He says in one breath.

“Yes,” she nods, braids swinging yet again.

He looks my way, “See?” He asks. “She’s fine.” He adds for good measure.

And just for an instant, I waver. Did I push too hard? Did he mean it? Did all of that matter?

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Glancing his way, I see him pat his friend on the shoulder as he gentles by her side and hands her another book, and I know that it does.

Because what I want him to know is this — actions affect and apologies matter, always.

Do you make your kids apologize? 

 

What do you think?

Actions Affect and Apologies Matter, Always

Galit Breen is the author of Kindness Wins, a simple no-nonsense guide to teaching our kids how to be kind online. She has a master's degree in education and a bachelor's degree in human development and was a classroom and reading teacher for ten years. In 2009, she launched a career as a freelance writer entrenched in social media. Since then, her work has been featured in various online magazines including Brain, Child, The Huffington Post, TIME, and xoJane. Breen lives in Minnesota with her h ... More

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12 comments

  1. Profile photo of Galit BreenAuthor Galit Breen says:

    Hi you! I so hear you — nothing is ever 100%, right? Thank you so much for the visit and note, I so appreciate both! xo

  2. Profile photo of Elaine Elaine says:

    I TRY to get my kids to apologize but I am not always successful 100% of the time. 😉 You handled this beautifully and so did he. xo

  3. Profile photo of Galit BreenAuthor Galit Breen says:

    Thanks so much for the note, and for the thoughtful weighing in, sweet friend!

    (I think they withdraw because they feel badly that they made a mistake? It melts my heart when what they feel, has to do with hurting others!)

    And yes, I so agree. They will get there.

    Thank you again, friend, I so appreciate you! xo

  4. Profile photo of Katie Katie says:

    I have been working with my son to learn his manners since he was 12 months and started talking, saying "i’m sorry" is still a struggle with him, unless he hurts me or I hurt myself… then he rushes over and says "I’m sorry mama you okay?" When I come home with scratches and bruises from work he always pats my "owe" and says he’s sorry even though he didn’t do it… but when it comes to others he is still withdrawn from apologizing or asking if they are okay, but I feel it is necessary for him to know that when he does something that he needs to apologize for.that he knows I will thank him for apologizing because it makes both of them feel better, just thanking him for apologizing makes him happy so I know he’s starting to get it. Your son will get it too and will be a better person for it.

  5. Profile photo of Galit BreenAuthor Galit Breen says:

    Thank you so much for your note!

    I agree with every last part of what you wrote! And my goodness, I love this: "Hopefully someday their heads and emotions will catch up to each other." That’s what all of the teaching right now is all about, yes?

    Thank you again for the words, I so appreciate them all!

  6. Profile photo of Galit BreenAuthor Galit Breen says:

    You and I are such SisterHearts! Yes to every last bit of that! I’m a big believer in the need to take notice! Thank you for your kind heart — I’m grateful for it, and you!

  7. Profile photo of Galit BreenAuthor Galit Breen says:

    I love that, sweet Ilene, so very much. (*And I do the same. It’s repair at its finest.) Thank you, for your words and your friendship.

  8. Profile photo of Galit BreenAuthor Galit Breen says:

    Thank you, friend, so very much — for the thoughtful words and InItTogetherness. Both mean the world to me! (And "a moment of vocalized empathy?" That wording is perfection!)

  9. Absolutely!! It’s a bit of an effort in futility (or so it seems) with an 18-month-old, but by God she will eventually understand! Apologies offer a moment of vocalized empathy (or they do eventually, when toddlers become adults who continue to recognize the need). Great post, Galit!

  10. Profile photo of Ilene Ilene says:

    Yes, I make my kids apologize. It’s important for them to take responsibility for their actions – but I also make sure that I apologize too – especially to them when warranted. . I think teaching by example is important.

  11. Profile photo of katbiggie1 katbiggie1 says:

    Yes, always! It’s so important for them to understand how their actions make a difference, what it feels like when they hurt someone or are hurtful to them, and that they need to take notice!

  12. I always made my younger kids apologized. I even remember telling my oldest (about 7 at the time) to apologize to our minister for something. I can’t remember what my son did but I do remember the pastor’s response. "Don’t make him say he’s sorry. He doesn’t feel it." Now he wasn’t trying to be snippy — I think his point was don’t make a child apologize when it is just parroting words. A true apology comes from the heart. That maybe be true. But I still make all mine say they are sorry to each other. Even if it is very forced. I think they have to know that it is the proper response — to think about how their actions affected another person. Hopefully someday their heads and emotions will catch up to each other.

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