Years ago, when we were responsible for the care of a child who was 5 at the time, I had a moment of awareness one day concerning my tendency to tell her that she needed to apologize for ____________, as a way of guiding and teaching her how to interact socially in an appropriate manner.
I realized one day that it was entirely ridiculous for me to insist that she offer the words, “I’m sorry” when she didn’t issue them naturally of her own accord. I realized I wasn’t teaching or guiding her in anything but delusion, self diminishing, and false or fake interactions and feelings (or my feelings). From that moment on, I never once asked her to apologize to me or anyone else for anything, and instead when the opportunity presented itself, I would simply state in a forward and blunt manner the details, feelings, and aspects of the situation in a way that allowed the child to reach her own conclusions. If she then offered an apology because she felt compelled to from WITHIN her, not because of my influence in any way, it was appreciated and fully acknolwedged.
With my daugther now, who is 3, neither my husband nor I have once instructed her to apologize for anything. We will continue to openly discuss situations with her, offering as much perspective and objectivity as possible, while not trapping/refusing/avoiding/ignoring or diminishing/dramatising related emotions.
I suspect there are many discussions and articles available on this subject and would welcome your contributions/submissions. I would also like to encourage you to add your own experiences, dialog, and awareness/knowledge/understanding.
The following is found here: http://thinksimplenow.com/happiness/the-power-of-language
Below are portions pertinent to the subject of this document.
>>>I’m Sorry, I Don’t Know, I Can’t …
I find myself blurting out I don’t know as an instant answer to questions I don’t have immediate answers for. Lately, I’ve been noting how these simple words made me feel, and I’m starting to take notice that on some level, these casual words are effecting my emotions and self-esteem.
Saying I don’t know, I’m sorry, I can’t and “I don’t want to but have to” are slowly changing my mindset. Through my observations, I’ve noticed how common it is to use these popular phrases without giving them a second thought.
While our conscious mind is the captain of our ship, our unconscious mind is the guys in the engine room, making the ship run. The ship moves because of the work done by these engine room guys. They listen to the commands from the captain, without question. They are exceptional at taking commands and executing them.
Since the conscious mind has limited capacity and can only become aware of a very limited set of information, our unconscious mind only surfaces what we consider important. How does the unconscious mind know what’s important? It doesn’t. The unconscious mind determines this based on the frequency of commands it receives of the same topic from the conscious mind.
Each time we have a conscious thought, or we verbalize words aloud, or see a scene in our imagination, it gets fed into our unconscious mind. Like a command from the captain, whether it is our intention or not, the command gets executed in some form; it leaves an impression on the unconscious mind.
This explains why when we are shopping for a particular type of car, we start to notice it everywhere. We have given this car repeated conscious attention. Our unconscious mind noted it as being important and begins to surface this information whenever possible.
In summary, what we say gets noted by our unconscious mind, all the time. It then shows you more evidence to back up those thoughts. This is true for both thoughts which are conducive and un-conducive to our wellbeing.
We’re all familiar with and have casually used this in our daily communications. Here are some variations:
- I’m Sorry but…
- I’m Sorry
- Sorry about that
When we reply to an email two days after receiving it, many of us insist on starting the email with I’m sorry. Now consider this: have we done something wrong? Do we really feel sorry? Or are we just repeating a popular saying? What are we gaining as a result of saying this?
Try this: close your eyes. Repeat the words “I’m sorry” in your imagination. You can even say it out aloud. Now, observe your feelings. Do you feel a tightness subtly bunching up in the pit of your stomach? Or a light pull along your inner throat? Do you sense feelings of guilt?
Now imagine that this feeling of guilt is triggered in us each time we say the words “I’m sorry”, even when casually used. Remember how our unconscious mind takes orders of what we say? If we repeatedly tell it that we are sorry for trivial things, then it will note down that we have done something wrong, thus polluting our internal space, unnecessarily.
Additionally, we’ve created an association between that feeling and the action taken. So, if we repeatedly say I’m sorry each time we reply to emails after 2 days, then we’ve programmed ourselves to feel guilt whenever we do not respond to emails immediately.
Lastly, the more we repeat these words, the more we dilute their meaning. People are incredibly sensitive creatures, and can sense when we don’t genuinely feel sorry. This may come off as insincere to them. So we’re better off by not saying it. I recommend we reserve the words I’m sorry to situations when we really mean it, and need it to express our genuine feelings.
Suggested Action Items:
- Observe yourself in your daily life and see how often you want to say “I’m sorry”.
- Each time you type “I’m sorry” in an email or catch yourself saying it, ask yourself, “Do I really feel sorry? Or am I just saying it?” If the answer is “I’m just staying it to sound good”, erase it from the email.
- Try to reduce the frequency of saying I’m sorry. Reserve it for when you really mean it. Reserve it for when you truly feel sorry for something you have done that may have hurt another.
IN CONTRAST TO MY APPROACH AND UNDERSTANDING
The first sentence… never will I say this to my child, or any other person for that matter.
“When you hurt someone or destroy their stacked blocks, you should apologize and show genuine concern for their feelings. At their egocentric age of two, empathy for others is a low priority. For parents, it should be a high priority. So how do you cope with these two extremes?”
From my perspective there are a few things here that are worth addressing. She states, “you should apologize and show genuine concern for their (the other’s) feelings”. SHOULD sentences, concepts, and sayings/phrases are not honoring of the child, her autonomy or boundaries, and it is not guiding by example, it is imposing an expected behavioral pattern upon a being who is (as a child) not able to object, or (as an adult) must struggle with an inner conflict when chosing to object.
Feeling remorse for causing someone else pain or discomfort is something that we are inherently created with the capacity to experience. Given an environment of support, compassion, and modeled consideration (and the restitution of the lack of consideration when appropriate), the child will develop this capacity naturally and without force or guilt.The other thing she states is that two year olds are egocentric and their capacity for feeling empathy toward others is low. I disagree based upon the experience I have with my now three year old. At two, and now, she is self focused indeed (this is the job of her brain and its development at this stage), but she is also exceedingly compassionate, nurturing, and able to demonstrate empathy openly. None of these are traits that we have developed in her, fostered or instilled, or expected of her; these are her own, and unless we become blind, will remain her own.