Monday, October 20, 2008

The art of making amends

'Sorry' just isn't good enough.
That was something my daughter's kindergarten teacher told the kids when someone made a mistake. I must say that as much as I liked her - she really is a great teacher - I disagreed with how she handled the issue of apologizing. First off, the first step (and unfortunately it's often the only step) to making amends that we as parents teach our kids is to say "I'm sorry." The words are really important to getting along in this world. And this particular teacher removed that important tool, and left the kids floundering.

I understand her point. It's best to behave in such a way, as to not need to apologize. In other words, act right. However, everyone makes mistakes, and part of growing up is to learn how to treat people decently. But even adults make mistakes.

The secret to successful apology is this:

  1. Say it like you mean it. (That obnoxious Saw-REE you hear out of tweens and teens doesn't cut it). And if you aren't sorry, don't apologize. An insincere apology is worse than none.
  2. Ask how you can make it right. And then follow through. What I think the teacher should have said when a child apologized was "I'm so glad you've apologized. That was a great first step. Now, ask Naomi how you can make it up to her."
The second part is very important. Apologizing and then continuing to misbehave is meaningless, and why so many people hate apologies from people, and consider them empty words. It's the reason the teacher told the kids that sorry isn't good enough. Sometimes, all that's needed to make an apology meaningful is the honest (and noticeable) attempt to be better, even if you aren't perfect going forward. So, say you're sorry, and then try and make things right. A little of step 2 goes a long way.

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