Parenting: I’m Sorry vs. Forgive Me

This past Friday I gave a Parent Education presentation on implementing practical Montessori ideas in the home. It was a shorter version of my PMET presentation and I believe it was well received. If you are new to the blog because of that presentation, welcome!

One idea I mentioned when discussing peace between siblings seemed to cause the most “light bulb” moments in the room and I realized that I had never written a post about it (until now)! It is an easy concept in theory but takes practice and time to implement. It is the idea that there is a clear difference between saying “I’m sorryand “Will you forgive me?”

When to use “I’m sorry”

“I’m sorry” is to be used when something is an accident or the intention is not malicious. For example, my 3 year old is very much like most 3 year olds in that his gross motor skills aren’t always contained. He quite literally ricochets around the house. If (when) he ricochets into his sister and she starts crying, it is an “I’m sorry” moment. Yes she was hurt, but the intention was not to hurt.

When to use “Will you forgive me? or Will you accept my apology?” 

Just this weekend my children were playing in my daughter’s room, my daughter snatched a toy she wanted from my son who became upset and threw another toy directly at his sister. She burst into tears. The result was the same as the last example, but the intention was different. Both children had intentionally harmed each other.  My daughter wronged her brother first so she apologized first.

She said, “I apologize for snatching the toy away from you, will you forgive me?”

Son, “I accept your apology. I apologize for throwing the toy at you. Will you accept my apology?”

Daughter: “Yes”

And from that point on they have to let it go. They can no longer be upset or rude to each other because they have accepted the apology. I can imagine a time in their teens when apologies are not accepted because more time is needed to “get over it” and that is OK! Getting to this point takes practice and modeling from Mom and Dad.

This small concept is worth the work it takes to implement. We are busy growing adults and functional adults have functional relationships. Functional relationships hinge on communication. If even just once my children ask their future spouse for forgiveness when they have wronged him/her I know it was worth it! DSC_0731


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