Do you remember that song by Elton John? I think the boy band Blue covered it as well.
Sorry seems to be the hardest word. Sometimes it can be.
How good are you at saying sorry?
Do you really mean it like Bridget does in the video at the top of the page or are you glossing a quick ‘apologies’ hoping that will do the trick?
Are you accountable for your part in a disagreement? It takes two people to have an argument and I have to regularly remind myself that I don’t have to attend every argument I am invited to (my boundaries are getting better!)
What does it feel like to be wrong for you?
Do you get defensive or embarrassed or maybe you even feel ashamed?
Do you attack the other person?
Do you beat yourself up because you should know better or worry about what other people are thinking or saying about you?
Have you been triggered? When your response to a situation is disproportionate to what has actually happened, you’ve been triggered and your child may have pulled the trigger, but they didn’t create it in the first place.
What happens in your family when somebody makes a mistake?
One of my little clients told me recently when he does something wrong, he gets told off. I asked him what happens when he gets told off and he explained that Mummy shouts a lot and he has to go away to calm down. ‘Except I am not mad, ‘ he says. ‘She is! So why I do have to go away?’
He looks at the floor. ‘Sometimes I tell her I am sorry as I don’t want her to be mad at me.’ I praise him for trying to do the right thing and highlight to him that he is not responsible for how Mummy chooses to respond to him. I remind him that he doesn’t have that much power.
He looks at me puzzled. I smile; ‘What are you a wizard? You would have to be able to cast magic spells on people to get them to feel things.’
He leans forward and shakes his head: ‘I’m not a wizard.’ ‘No.’ I affirm, ‘You are not a wizard and you can only think about what you say and how you behave and other people have to do that too.’
Silence. He is taking it all in.
I ask him: ‘What happened?’
He replies: ‘I was playing with my little brother in the shop and it all got a bit loud. My brother got hurt. I had to go and sit in the car.’
He is so honest. I love that. He is telling me his truth. He continues to tell me he isn’t sorry because he was trying to help Mummy but he doesn’t like the shouting. I commend him for his honesty.
‘Do you like going to the shops with Mummy?’ I asked him. He hesitates. ‘ I don’t mind, but not for a long time. It can take ages.’
‘So you were bored in the shop?’ He nods. ‘And you were trying to keep yourself amused and have fun.’ He nods and smiles.
‘Wow!’ I say, I think that’s quite wizard like. Are you sure you are not a wizard? He laughs. ‘No I’m not but I’m so angry because my Xbox has been taken away for the rest of the day and I had to come here and see you.’
I pull an ouchy hurt face: ‘Thank you for being so honest. I understand. I would be mad if I was trying hard to help and I lost my Xbox.
‘….but I said sorry.’
‘And she said it was too late to say sorry and she didn’t want it.’
‘Oh. I see. Mmm…’
‘And she still took away my Xbox.’ He cries. ‘I know and you are sad.’ I move across the room to sit close to him and hand him a tissue. ‘I will sit here with you while you are sad.’
He eventually stops crying and wipes his nose. ‘I wish I could change it.’
He has felt his feelings and he wants to do it differently. He is just 7.
Witnessing this experience through my little client’s eyes highlighted some very important things to me:
- A child will do ANYTHING to make sure you are happy (because if you are not happy, their whole world falls apart) even if that means dishonouring their own feelings.
- A child often operates on your agenda because they are dependent on you for lots of things whilst they are still learning. They trust you to show them the way. This is why empathy is your ninja parenting tool for reaching out to them as it reflects back to them how they feel, it shows them you understand how they feel and you are on their team.
- When we make a child responsible for how we feel, we are giving them way too much power. We are not in control of how other people think or feel. We are only in control of ourselves.
- When we force a child to apologise when they are not ready or not feeling it, it becomes more about doing the right thing because it’s expected of us and not based on their feelings. We are cutting them off from their feelings and intuition which are vital to thriving in the outside world. Our motivation is fear – fear that they will grow up to be rude and disrespectful.
- When a child feels disrespected or misunderstood they are less likely to co-operate and be guided by you. If your connection needs a tune up, why don’t you try my mini training which is 30 days to ‘Rediscover the Magic of Parenting in a Busy World.’
- When we can’t role model healthy conflict resolution at home, a child will not have the skills to cope with that outside of the home (whether that be in their peer friendship groups or with their siblings). Understanding what an angry child needs can stop things from escalating.
- We often see the worst in our children instead of acknowledging the intention beneath the behaviour – a child will try hard to please you or try really hard to avoid disappointing you because without our love it’s the equivalent of dying to them.
- It’s important to praise your child on their efforts. This little boy was trying so hard to please his Mummy and because she was caught up in getting her shopping, she couldn’t see him and meet him where he was (one of the many tasks Mums have to juggle – I know I’m not blaming this Mum).
- Having an open non-judgemental dialogue is a great way to help them figure it out for themselves (with a 7 year old and younger…they are smart these kids of ours)
- Creating a safe place to speak our truth makes a massive difference. Our child’s truth might be different to our truth, but being heard helps us to work out what we need to do next. We are like a mirror reflecting back our child’s experience.
- When we punish children and they fear punishment, they say ‘sorry’ as a reflex and to avoid punishment. They may start lying too. Punishment doesn’t work and it wrecks the trust and relationship you have with your child.
- Being able to set boundaries with your child is the kindest most loving thing you can do as a parent. What if that Mum had said ‘I see you are having fun playing but we need indoor voices in this shop.’ Or what if she said: ‘I can’t allow you to run around in this shop but if you are bored, you can help me find things or maybe you can think of a quieter game to play together. They are your choices.’
Children learn what they live. Do you remember that poem?
It’s not personal
Healthy repair after conflict is so important because children need to know everything is okay again when emotions have been running high. It’s unsettling for them to carry that over to bedtime or the next day or longer.
Have you ever been on the receiving end of ‘the silent treatment’? It’s passive aggressive and sh1tty.
If you find it hard to process your feelings and need to withdraw, communicate that to your child: ‘Mummy is feeling upset and she wants some time out to deal with her feelings.’
In conflict situations, lots of us are dragged back to being smaller versions of ourselves – we call this being triggered. Especially if healthy conflict resolution styles were not role modelled to you when you were growing up. If you had a parent who was shouty or made you wrong or was never wrong or accountable for their mistakes, it is likely you will be triggered when your child disagrees with you or disrespects you.
Notice how it feels to be wrong
Notice how it feels to let your child have their experience (which may be different to yours) but it doesn’t make either one of you wrong; just different.
Notice how you feel and work out where that comes from.
Would you rather be right or kind? If you have to choose between being right or kind. Always be kind and then you will always be right!
Less Judgement, More Kindness
Smiley’s Little Box of Kindness is made for all the people who are hard on themselves, who have been bullied, who don’t prioritise their self care, who are perfectionists or who live in angry houses where an injection of kindness could turn it all around. >> Click on the picture to find out more!