10.15.2006

Please Don't Tell Me You're Sorry

Please Don't Tell Me You're Sorry

Iz says, "I'm sorry!" when presented with almost any corrective or contradictory statement. I am trying to help her purge that phrase from her everyday verbal toolbox, and put it back in her emergency kit where it belongs.

My reasoning, all of which I have told her in simpler terms than what follows, is that reflexively saying, "I'm sorry" dilutes the apology. Obviously tone, emphasis, and context are important, but if you say, "I'm sorry!" upon being reminded to clear your dirty plate, and also upon accidentally knocking a friend's homework into the mud, then it's not the powerful phrase it would be if reserved only for the latter scenario.

What is even more important is the mostly unconscious reasoning behind her word choice. "I'm sorry," means that she is acknowledging that she's done something bad, and that she needs to apologize. It means she is not doing what I want, and that she needs to step back in line and re-subjugate her will to mine.

I do not want her internalizing this mindset for every last minor infraction. I want her to save it for when it really matters, for the aftermath of an emotional or physical injury--intentional or otherwise. What I would rather she said after the small stuff is, "I understand." This, to me, means that she is acknowledging the correct course of action, and that she knows what to do, because she is a smart and able girl.

It all boils down to positivity versus negativity. You might think this is overthinking and overparenting, but for a highly distractible kid like Iz who needs reminding several times a day, I do not want her feeling as though every last thing she does is wrong, and that the majority of her interactions with me are punitive and dictatorial. She is a smart girl, and she does know what to do. She just needs reminding. A lot of reminding. That's the way her mind works, and she doesn't have to apologize for it twenty times a day.

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