Monday, May 08, 2006

"Love means never having to say you're sorry."

Today I was at my book club, and a couple of the kids had an altercation, and one of the moms was making her daughter apologize. Our hostess then says, "Oh, we don't make our son apologize in these instances, because that is teaching him to lie," as she finished her statement with a pouty lip.

I looked up in stunned belief. What?! I had never heard this parenting technique before.

I think another mom thought along the same lines I was, because she said, "What do you mean?"

The hostess went on to explain that she doesn't tell her son to say he's sorry, because if he doesn't mean it then she is essentially telling him to lie. She said, "What if he isn't sorry?" Instead, she asks him, "What can you do to make the other child feel better?" And if her son repsonds, "I can say I'm sorry," then she lets him.

I asked, "But what about teaching your child empathy? How do they learn how to apologize if they are never made to do it?" She responded that when SHE makes a mistake or accidentally hurts someone, then she apologizes, and then her son sees that in her and models her behavior.

OK, I rarely like to criticize other parents, because I know it is hard to find your way, your style of parenting. But I came home and laid it on my husband, saying I thought this was the most ridiculous thing I had ever heard and the reason why there are so many insensitive, self-centered people in the world today.

Is a child then taught that he doesn't have to do something he is supposed to do unless he feels like it? Unless he means it in his heart-of-hearts? What is he going to do when he grows up and faces a world where he will daily encounter something he doesn't want to do? Will he be allowed to let these obligations slip him by? "I don't want to show respect to my teacher, because I don't like her." "I don't want to be quiet in church because I want to scream a Wiggles song!" "I don't want to share my toys and so I will hit that girl until she lets go of it, and then I won't apologize because I am not sorry I did it because I got what I want!" I am lost as to how this teaches a child to function in the real world.

On the flip side, what about the child who just got hit in the face by a screaming preschooler? Is she supposed to sit there and take it? "Sorry baby, but that boy doesn't feel sorry, so you don't get an apology, or really any kind of justice, so you'll have to just deal with it and get over it." I wonder how the hostess handles an offending child that hits or screams at her little one?

Not to say I think the hostess is a bad parent by any means. I was just totally rubbed the wrong way by this parenting technique. Whatever happened to respect for those around you, to instilling a sense of duty and obligation into our children? Are those virtues taboo now? We have to do things often that we don't feel like doing, not because we mean them or are convicted, but because they are the right things to do. We have to live in a world with 4 billion other people, and we do things out of obligation and duty to the dignity of those other people. Apologizing and making ammends for our wrongs is one of them, even when we don't feel like it. There are too many people in this world whose conscious revolves around themselves and their feelings. I think the world needs more people who have taken down the mirrors they hold up in front of their noses all their lives and have exchanged them for some spectacles to better see those around them.

And on another note, how can we then teach forgiveness if we never teach a child to say he is sorry?


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