So many times, I have seen this cycle of event take place between moms and their children…

Child Misbehaves
Mom gets upset
Mom disciplines the child
Child gets hysterical, crying
Mom draws the child close saying, ‘Sorry’
Hugging child, mom adds, ‘You too, why did you do so, so, so and so? You know you shouldn’t have! Sorry, you hear? Don’t do that again. Sorry’
Child quits crying…

Okay, now, I am seriously wondering … ‘Is it okay to tell a child ‘sorry’ after they have been disciplined (often spanked) for being naughty?

On one hand, I get the reasoning behind the apologies – As par the elders say, ‘When you use one hand in beating a child, you must use the other hand in drawing him/her close’. This, they say, is important in maintaining a healthy balance that does not alienate the child, making him/her feel unloved.

However, please permit me to ask – ‘Does drawing the child close have to include the parent apologizing?’ Don’t you think that by saying sorry, the disciplinary purpose has been defeated?

Now, instead of saying ‘sorry’, I would suggest that you draw the child close for a heart-to-heart. What I mean is that you engage the child in a conversation similar to this –
‘Do you know mommy spanked you because you were naughty? Next time, please make sure you don’t do that again because if you do, I will have to spank you again because I love you and want you to be a good boy. You know you are a good boy, right? So, next time, show me what a good boy you are. Deal? Great!!! Can I get a hug?’

Don’t you think this a much better approach than apologizing? You apologize when you do something wrong. Children know this. So, when you go all apologetic on them after they have misbehaved, you send a mixed message to them, no matter how subtle your apology is. Hence, don’t be surprised when the child learns absolutely nothing from the experience.

Still on the matter, one thing I have noticed is that parents seem to apologize more when they somehow overreact to a situation. By that, I mean that there are some parents who keep taking ‘nonsense’ from their kids and then, one day, they just blow up, not even recognizing themselves in the process. You know, the child’s sins must have accumulated and the parent has reached his/her threshold. So, boom, there’s an explosion which sometimes even involves the parent injuring the child in the process. In such cases, I guess we all know what the apology is really all about.

Or, sometimes, what happens is a case of transferred aggression. The parent is upset about something else and without knowing it, the child becomes the object of his/her anger. Hence, in such cases, it is not unusual to have the parent apologizing, not because s/he disciplined the child but because there was also a mix of transferred aggression involved. Hence, out of guilt, the parent ends up apologizing.

However, the problem here is that all the child hears is ‘sorry’. All he/she knows is that mommy beat him/her for being naughty and then apologized later. The other part of the story involving transferred aggression is lost and hence, the child comes away learning nothing.

So, here’s my own advice

Treat every naughty case as they come. As in, do not delay correcting or disciplining. Don’t let naughty deeds accumulate without dealing with them appropriately.

Don’t let your adult problems interfere with your parenting.

If you do happen to go overboard, for whatever reason, be bold enough to apologize to the child. However, let your child know what you are apologizing for so that he/she doesn’t get it twisted.

After disciplining your child, take time out to explain to the child why you had to do what you did so that the child understands that it is the act and not the person you do not like. The importance of having this talk with the child cannot be underestimated.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net