Tuesday, July 8, 2014

How To Apologize, When To Forgive [HEALTHYBUTJUICY]

Republished from HealthyButJuicy.com.

I wanted to post this photo and give it a beautiful caption, like 'Blissful way to end the long weekend'. And it was, but that's only half the truth.

The real truth is that, yes, this was what the end of what our long weekend looked like— settled, calm, happy, loving, and together in a booth at a somewhat fancy, somewhat pricey (for us) restaurant— but it took a storm to get here.

My daughter is 2 years old, nearing three. Her 'terrible twos' days are numbered— I know, I've heard, three's are actually worse but I am in complete denial about it. I have to give her credit, though, because with me she's only had maybe one... ok, two, major public tantrums.

The first was in Trader Joes. She needed to go to the bathroom (bad) but we didn't have her toilet seat and she went hysterical, too afraid to use the 'big' toilet as is. She ended up peeing in her pants, which made the hysteria that much more amplified.

The second time was in the car at her school's parking lot. Maybe no one saw it (I'm hoping, but I'd again be in denial to really think that). She wanted to go back into the school to wash her hands, as I had asked when we were in there, but it was late and I wanted needed to hit the road because traffic was already bad and we have a long commute home.

This most recent time (yesterday) happened in the swimming pool. We were at the pool for a good 2 hours— I was going to limit the time to less than that because I was exhausted when we did that last time but that obviously didn't work. Nearing on hour 2, another family came to swim. We had seen and played with them last time, so knew they were good company. Shortly after, two other families came. It was like a party. I had just spent 2 hours carrying her back and forth in the pool, 'swimming', and my only child all of a sudden was at a pool party with kids all somewhat around her age.

But it was really time for us to go. We stayed another half hour and then I put my foot down, or tried to at least. All I can say is that she really wasn't ready to go. She let me know that, the other families, along with the whole neighborhood.

I always worry about times like these, where I am filled with insecurity and self-doubt. Am I a bad parent? What will these people think of me? Will I be reported? Yes, it goes that far. The media has done its job well— stories have successfully been sensationalized enough times and I, as a parent, have been sufficiently provoked. Thankfully, though, I'm pretty trained in self-talk as well, and can rationalize with myself that, that's ridiculous and I'm having idiotic thoughts.

When we got home and things settled down, was the time I took to talk to her, recap what happened, and teach her how to apologize for her actions. Previously, my method was three-pronged but, in between this latest hysteria and calm, I've made it four-. This is NOT something you should necessarily do with your child(ren) but this is what I did and will keep doing until I refine my parenting to do something else, hopefully better (more effective)?

First, I let her know she needs to apologize. Kids quickly learn and know when they've done something wrong, and when they need to do (or not do) something. As parents, we need to help them formally recognize these things by telling them direct. Their recognition skills are still underdeveloped. It's just like taking a shower. They know they need to do it but, still, they continuously need to be told for quite some time before they learn to actually do it themselves.

So she says sorry. But is sorry enough? That's a rhetorical question. I asked her why she was sorry. This is really important because just saying sorry is a cop-out— just saying sorry doesn't require her to think or reflect on anything. Asking why makes her think and learn to recognize the actual actions/behavior that warrants an apology. Hopefully, doing this enough times will sink in and she will be able to recognize the consequences of her behavior before she actually does anything.

Typically, then, after she says sorry and 'what for', I ask her if she's going to do it again, and if what she did is being good or naughty (translated from a different language). I do this sort of to summarize and drive home the message without dragging things on.

This time, however, I realized it would be good to add just one more piece to the apology: I asked her what can she do different for next time. I realized this was important because (clearly) she didn't know how to respond to something against her desires. In my original set of questions (arguably, a 'lesson'), she can recognize what she's done but, from there, doesn't learn how she can handle similar situations going forward. She obviously doesn't always know what she can do instead, so sharing some better options with her isn't 'cheating' by giving her the answers, but it can actually help her grow her 'good behavior vocabulary', so to speak.

Finally, I forgave her. I always do, once we've reached the end of the apology. This is actually what I consider one of the most important, if not the most important, steps of this apology process. Being able to forgive someone is an invaluable lesson to learn and skill to do. We gave each other a kiss and a hug, and said I Love You. Then, we kept on dancing.

Parenting can be tiring— after 2.5 hours in the pool, I was already drained— and challenging. But it can also be one of the most rewarding and strengthening things you ever do. My kid teaches me so much and continues to make me into the best version of myself... how's that for a sappy ending after all? :> 100% truth.

Below is a recap of how we apologize and when we forgive.
  • Say sorry...
  • Why are you sorry...?
  • Is that naughty or nice?
  • Will you do that again?
  • What will you do different next time?
  • Forgive: Kiss. Hug. I Love You. Keep on dancing.

How do you teach your kid(s) to apologize and forgive? Share in the Comments below, we'd love to hear! :>

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