Forced Apologies, Spankings and Other Conundrums

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Well, I was preparing to lay off blogging for a few more days owing to laziness and being preoccupied with other personal matters, but something happened today that has started me on my thinking process again.

And we ALL know how hard it is to stop me when that happens.

At the playground today, as I was accompanying my daughter, I noticed a commotion at the slides.  From the way the kids were positioned, I guessed that Girl A had slid down first and stayed there, and then when Girl B slid down, her feet naturally kicked Girl A.  Apparently Girl B’s dad saw that happened and immediately rushed over, yelling in a loud voice, “Say sorry!  Quickly say sorry!”

Girl B just kept quiet.

Then I heard a LOUD SMACK!…followed by Girl B screaming her lungs out, “Waaaahhhhhhh!!!!”

Girl B’s dad continued saying, “Hurry up and say sorry!”

Another mother at the scene came up to Girl B and said softly, “Quickly say sorry, then Daddy will ‘sayang’ you!”

Still no sorry.  But the crying became louder.

It was then that Girl B’s mom appeared and took her aside to calm her down.

Then the mother at the scene began talking to Girl B’s dad.

Mother at the scene: She’s probably shocked that you hit her, and could not react.
Girl B’s dad: I had to do it.  Otherwise she will not learn.

Now we all know that I do not believe in SPANKING a child (and that includes smacking, beating, hitting, slapping, pinching, and other what-have-yous).  In addition to hurting her, the father of Girl B embarrassed her.  She’s gonna grow up thinking it’s okay to hit people in public.

Actually, I had been eyeing Girl B for a long time. About a week ago, she also had a little tiff with my daughter in the playground.  My girl told me Girl B had hit her (see, told ya!), and I ask Girl B a little sternly, “Excuse me little girl, did you hit her?”

She just smirked and I told her off, “Why are you smiling?  It’s not funny to hit and hurt someone you know.”

And she eventually apologized when one of the mothers intervened.

So based on what I saw and what I heard, I gather that this girl’s parents believe in punishing by hitting.  Whenever she does something wrong, she’ll get spanked.  She gets a smack on the hand in the playground, but heaven knows how they deal with her at home!

Well guess what?  That just ain’t working, right?  Never mind that the dad said that’s how she will learn, but it looks like all the hitting has resulted in that girl being a bully in school.  Hitting anyone to get her way just isn’t right, and I’m glad she’s not in the same class as my daughter.

The next thing that I noticed is that parents tend to force an apology on kids, like when their kid hurts another, the kid who is in the wrong is immediately asked to say sorry.  I’m *guilty* of that sometimes too, but I’m trying to use reasoning as an alternative instead of forcing the “sorry”.  Forcing a kid to say sorry when they don’t really mean it is like teaching them to lie and to get away just by saying sorry.  That’s not right.

If you take a look around, you’ll see a lot of parents and caregivers doing the “sorry-forcing”, and I witnessed a teacher shouting loudly at someone two days in a row too, “Say sorry! SAY SORRY!”  Gosh, the kid would probably say sorry out of fear instead of meaning it.

I believe that apologizing should come naturally to a child IF provided the correct teachings at home.  I, for one, have a very short temper and I am only human, so there are times when I raise my voice unnecessarily.  Even then, I make sure I find the time to tell my kids, “I’m sorry I lost my temper just now.  I had a really bad day.  That was wrong of me, and I will try my best to not do it again.  Will you forgive me?”

We then give each other a hug.

My kids catch on and they always get a hug after the apologize.

So my point is that an apology should be sincere and not forced.  It should make both parties feel better about themselves.

So then, how should we handle the playground situation then?  I’m still learning how to do it right, but here are a few pointers:

  • Try to calm yourself down and do not yell.
  • Show empathy to the kid that has been hurt, or the kid whose toy has been grabbed.  Ask him/her, “Are you okay?”  Your child will see the empathy you exude and eventually will follow suit.  You want to raise a child who can show empathy, NOT a child who thinks he/she can get away with a wrongdoing by a simple sorry.  You may also apologize to the kid that has been hurt: “I’m sorry you feel that way.  Maybe you can get on the swing after Janie, alright?”
  • Get your child to assess the situation by training him/her to think about what they did. “You pushed Mike just now.  That’s not right.  How do you think he feels?”
  • Try to leave the playground without grudges.  If you feel that both parties are more or less feeling okay, you can try asking both to hug as a sign of reconciliation.  End with “Are we okay now?”

It’s a difficult task bringing up a child with good values, as you can see.   I realize that my method might not work with everyone though, and I’m still learning as I go along, so do let me know if you have any thoughts or comments.

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