Forcing Apologies & Forgiveness?

There’s been a discussion on my Twin Moms Forum about whether we should insist on our children apologizing when they’ve done something wrong. One of the moms stated that not only should we have our kids apologize, but we should also make them say “I forgive you.”

I have some adults very close to me who say “I’m sorry”, not because they are truly sorry and seek forgiveness, but in order to avoid any confrontation (dialogue about the offense) and want to just “move on.” So I hesitate to teach my kids to just say the words.

Because one of my children has this temperament (causing them to say they are sorry at a drop of a hat), I believe that demanding my children say “I’m sorry” would produce superficial results that don’t get to the heart of the matter.

On the other end of the spectrum, my other child’s temperament is strong-willed. When I’ve attempted to “force” an apology, that one’s response is explosive and angry.

Does it mean that I don’t point out the “errors of their ways” when my children do something wrong? Absolutely not. Speaking from experience, it’s harder to change later in life than earlier. It wasn’t until my late 20s when I encountered true accountability–people willing to confront me (kindly and gently) when I messed up.

I’d like my kids to learn now what has taken me decades to learn.

We want thoughtful and kind children, not ones who just act thoughtful and kind.

I am reading a parenting book that emphasizes dealing with the “heart issues” rather than the behavior issues.

“What is going on in your heart that would make you hit your sister?”

“What is going on in your heart that would make you say such unkind words to your brother?”

“What is going on in your heart that would make you not want to apologize?”

“What is going on in your heart that would make you not grant forgiveness?”

It takes a heck of a lot more time to discuss the heart issues. But in the end, and why my husband and I go through this long process over and over and over again, we believe that changing our hearts will lead to behavioral changes that are lasting and authentic.

Why do we apologize? Why do we forgive? Ultimately, isn’t it about reconciliation? Because we are imperfect humans we will, intentionally and unintentionally, hurt people and they will hurt us. It’s unavoidable if we strive to have real and meaningful relationships filled with intimacy and depth.

In a world of so many broken relationships, the lesson I want to teach my kids is that relationships matter. Above all else, people matter.

5 comments for “Forcing Apologies & Forgiveness?

  1. bernsber
    July 24, 2008 at 9:23 pm

    Mine’s a bit young yet for this conversation. :)

    But I do remember when I was a child and my parents used to make me apologize. (Which was alot! :D)

    When Caitlin gets old enough I’ll make sure to remember this post and think twice before I make her say something just for the sake of saying it.

  2. Robert
    July 26, 2008 at 12:03 pm

    Hi Bridgett, no kids of my own, but three nieces and a nephew whose lives I’m quite involved in… this is an invalulable insight that I’ll be trying out VERY soon. :)

  3. Abby
    August 4, 2008 at 2:01 pm

    Okay, I am officially addicted to your blog! This post got me thinking though. I’ve never thought about the impact of forcing apologies. What book were you referring to that talks about dealing with the heart issues?

  4. Bridgett
    August 4, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    Thanks for stopping by!

    The book about addressing the heart issue, rather than the behaviour, is “Shepherding a Child’s Heart” by Tedd Tripp

  5. InsideEdgePR
    September 8, 2008 at 8:53 pm

    This issue arose last night at the annual picnic for the Twins Club…and the bottom line is it takes TIME to do a good job parenting job on this front. So much easier to just gloss over it…which, frankly, I do all too much. But this kind of dialogue helps raise the standard!

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