I bought this book in honor of one of my grandchildren who is often pretty resistant to saying “I’m sorry.” I know that refusing to say sorry is not that unusual, and that the issue can become a battle of wills – which no one wins. In Samantha Berger’s book, Martha’s family deals with the problem by leaving her out of fun activities and she decides to give in and apologize. I thought this book could be followed by brainstorming and writing about a time you should say “I’m sorry.” Here is a writing paper you might like to use.
The whole issue made me think about what is really important here. I believe that children need to realize that their actions affect other people. They need to develop compassion and learn to care about how other people feel. I’m not sure rattling off an insincere “sorry” really accomplishes those goals. But there is another part of the problem, apologizing is considered good manners and common courtesy. When a child refuses to apologize adults might look at him as uncooperative and even unkind.
I came across a blogpost that suggested requiring a child to do or say two kind things to make up for one unkind action or word. Here is a link to the post in you would like to read about it:
I think you will have to copy and paste it into your browser because I don’t know how to insert a link (sorry!)
I think this idea has some merit – it offers good opportunities to talk about how the other person feels, and what the child did or said that was hurtful. It also encourages helpful and kind behavior. But it doesn’t really help the child conform to the social expectation of apologizing. It kind of sounds like if you do something nice it makes up for doing something hurtful.
In my Kindergarten classroom I often used role playing for situations like this. Sometimes I would take on a role and exaggerate it myself. I might ask a child to pretend he did something unkind to me, and then refused to say “I’m sorry.” I would tell the child that I didn’t like what they had done. I would tell them that it was hurtful. I got into my role and acted a little silly, to make the kids laugh and get involved with the role play. Then I would stop and ask the class what the other child should do. Then I would prompt the child to say he realized he had done something hurtful and wouldn’t repeat the behavior. Sometimes I would re-play a scenario that happened in our classroom. Role playing several times helps children become comfortable with the language. It raises the expectations of the class that we will treat each other kindly and be helpful and not hurtful. It gives the children a chance to practice saying “I’m sorry.”
I still think the bigger issue is helping children learn to treat each other, and adults, with compassion and respect. Role playing can help with this. I also took every chance I could to talk about how characters in a story were feeling, in the classroom I would take the opportunity to talk about how children felt when there was a problem over a toy or an issue on the playground. This is something I brought to parents’ attention too, young children are naturally egocentric, but we can help them begin to think about other people’s feelings by talking about characters in books and on television.
Here are two other books that I used in my classroom.
Our school adopted the Bucket-Filler program one year. This book uses the idea of filling or emptying other people’s buckets when you are helpful or hurtful.
Heartprints, by P.K. Hallinan, really emphasizes how people can help other people feel good by doing acts of kindness.
I love both of these books and used them every year with my Kindergartners.
I just heard of a resource book called Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining, and Bad Attitudes… by Scott Turanksy and Joanne Miller. The emphasis of this book is helping children learn to honor other people. I am fascinated with this idea. I looked up the definition of honor – it is to regard someone with respect. I love the idea of teaching children not only to tolerate each other, but to honor each other. I haven’t read the book yet, but the reviews were very positive. Here is a link to copy and paste if you are interested.
So what are they doing about my little grandchild who refuses to say sorry? They are practicing at home. They are noticing every time anyone else says they are sorry and talking about it. They are encouraging and praising. They are appreciating all the wonderful things he does do, and loving him just the way he is.