For years we have taught our kids when they hurt someone to say sorry. When they do something wrong to say sorry. If they accidentally do something, say sorry. When they make a mistake, say sorry. Are we teaching them the value of this word? Or have we just given them a word to use to “get off the hook?”
I too taught my kids this. As a matter of fact, I remember when I had my twins, almost 8 years ago, as my son grew older, he would never say sorry. He was the one who constantly stepped on people’s feet, or spilled his milk on someone else’s plate, or took a toy from his twin sister. Still, there was never a sorry. I would say all the time, “you need to say sorry, when you do something by accident or when you do something you should not have.” He would just stare at me, but no “sorry.”
Finally, it was like a light switched on, and he would say sorry for everything. I was so elated, that he was saying sorry. Then I had to ask myself, what does “sorry” really mean? Why did I want him to say it so badly without prompting? It was about me knowing I was teaching my child empathy and compassion.
Is he learning empathy and compassion, when he is just saying sorry, to get out of trouble? When I thought about it, even more, I realized, does saying the word “sorry” really teach this? I questioned this for so long, because the more I focused on this, the more I saw how all kids, and even us adults, say the word sorry so much.
Nothing has a meaning but the meaning you give it ~Tony Robbins
What is the meaning I am giving to this word? Is it “I’ve done wrong, and I am taking accountability?” Is it “let me get out of trouble, so let me say sorry?” Is it, “the only way I can get something back is to say sorry?” These are the meanings I was hearing when someone said sorry.
I then realized my meaning of sorry, “I messed up, I am remorseful, I am aware of what I did, I have learned from this mistake and I will not do it again.”
Interesting, to find out how much I was saying sorry. The real issue, I was not congruent with this word, so how could my kids be? If I am saying sorry and then repeat the behavior, was I really sorry?
Change has to start with me before I can guide my kids. I STOPPED saying sorry. I now say, I am aware. By saying “I am aware” I am teaching my brain to become fully aware of what I have done, to take full accountability, and grow from it. Once I have truly shifted that particular behavior, then I can say, with full integrity, “I am sorry” and mean it.
I started practicing this. The clarity I was able to receive and the learning was beyond what I could even imagine. I felt congruent. I felt honest. I felt accountable. Now its time to guide my kids.
2 weeks ago, I started redirecting my twins to say “I am aware.” At first, they looked at me like I had 2 heads. I then asked them, “what are you aware of?” My daughter would say, “I took the remote from Samuel and he had it first.” I then would praise her for her awareness. I then would say, “what can you differently next time?” She said, “I can ask him for it, and if he says no, I can walk away.” It was at that moment, I realized, this is how we can teach our kids accountability, compassion and how to truly be sorry.
I want my children to know how to say what they mean, and mean what they say. If “sorry” continues to just be another word to get them “off the hook” it will have no value.