When Sorry Isn’t Enough

The following article was written by Sarah Zadok.

childIt’s amazing how much learning can take place on a little trip to the park. It was a gorgeous day and my kids were having a blast at the playground. I sat on a bench on the outer ring of the play area taking in the beauty of my children immersed in play. My six-year-old was busy refining her climbing skills,her eager, calloused hands reaching urgently for the next rung. My five-year-old was pumping diligently on the swing set, her dimpled knees bending in perfect rhythm with the swing’s up’s and down’s. And my industrious three-year-old was hard at work making mud-rock pies in a plastic cup she had discovered… It was sheer joy watching them each do their own thing, enthralled in their own little worlds.

I honed in on my three-year-old as a little boy about her age plunked himself down next to her in hopes of joining in on her riveting geological experiment. She acknowledged his presence with brief eye contact and continued pouring and patting. He reached for the cup in her hand. She pulled it away and grunted firmly, “Mine!” Frustrated and wounded by her rejection, the boy clenched his fist, leaned back, and belted my daughter right on the nose.

His mother was sitting next to me, and we both saw the scene go down. I ran to my daughter’s aid and rocked her in my arms. His mother casually approached him and said in a sing-songy, preschool teacher-esque voice, “No, no. We don’t hit. Say ‘sorry.’”

Following his mother’s lead, the boy came close to my daughter and declared in a proud, almost confident voice, “Sorry!” He looked pleased with himself, and his mother congratulated him for being a “good boy,” for apologizing. She returned to the bench, and he went off to play.

As I sat in the sand cradling and calming my shocked and hurt little girl, I couldn’t help but think, “Sorry” just doesn’t cut it. I get that three-year-olds typically don’t have the emotional maturity or the verbal skills to communicate their feelings clearly. And I get that it’s natural for young kids to become frustrated and act on impulses. Believe me, I get it. But feeding a kid a line to repeat after he has purposely caused harm to another person is down right ineffective parenting.

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