Monday, April 14, 2014

As We Forgive Those Who Trespass Against Us…

Now try explaining this line to a 3 yr old. Okay. Let me tell you how I had to.

Quick question:

Does "I am sorry" warrant the same response as "I am sorry. Do you forgive me?"

I think no. Definitely not. Here's why:

The response for "I am sorry" is simply and usually "It's okay". Super easy. Very quick. Painless.

The response for "I am sorry. Do you forgive me?" is "I forgive you" the person being wronged needs to forgive otherwise he (or in this case she) becomes the one who is in the wrong.

If you don't agree with me… well comment away.

A bit of a backstory.

Our priest preached on this exact point a long while ago. Basically when you wrong someone don't take the easy road and say I'm sorry without asking for forgiveness. It is also an exercise for the person who was being wronged to honestly forgive the person who wronged them. If you are legitimately upset at someone for what they did/say etc and they ask you for forgiveness  - it is not easy to forgive. But you must forgive. Unconditionally forgive - even if you have not been asked - but especially if you have been asked.

So when E was 2-ish we were on a walk and stopped but the boys (now plus baby sister) house and something happened and the one had to say "I'm sorry. Do you forgive me?" to the other and the other said "Yes I forgive you" and hug. Awesome.

Hurricane Kibbe approved.

Love it.

So it is the standard in our house. Neither E or R is exempt from saying their part when the situation arises. In fact R had has some issues vocalizing the "I'm sorry" part recently but we are working on audible conversations. Oh did I ever mention to you when E was a mere 2 and 2 months the girl sat in timeout at school because she would not say she was sorry… for 45 minutes - at my request. I ended up going over to school (during work) to talk to her. She was having a war of wills with me and the teacher and if I did not think she understood exactly what was going on, then I would not have minded or even battled her over it BUT she knew and she just did not want to say it. Anyways, she eventually told her friend she was sorry. And there is still a lady who comes into the store who gets a kick out of it because she was in the store on the day this all went down and heard the two phone conversations and watched me pack up the 4 month old and trek down to school.


Point of the story is "I'm sorry. Do you forgive me?" Is standard lingo en La Casa De Kibbe


Today we were on a walk and went to the boys (yep the same ones from above) and some silliness goes down and bam E is faced with the question…. I'm sorry. Do you forgive me?

Total clam.

Would not look at him.

Refused to respond.

Multiple times. Multiple chances.

I did not get upset. Asked her if she wanted to say it. Told her there would be consequences.


We take the long tear-filled walk home. {And I was actually hoping to chat it up with another mom for a few minutes}

Same thing happened about six-ish months ago? {see #2} We are no strangers to this. Why E will not tell this boy I forgive you? I have no idea…

Take a timeout

She really does not want to talk about it.

More time in room.

Talk about what we should do next time. Talk about what we need to do this time.

At dinner, we talk about why E is not getting her treat. Because bad decisions have consequences and not forgiving is a bad decision. E is familiar with the Our Father so I tell her "You say 'As we forgive those who trespass against us' when we pray to God and He expects you to keep your word and forgive because He forgives you. If you want Him to forgive you, you need to forgive"

E - Oh I can forgive God.

Me - Umm…. {refocus} God wants you to forgive people if they ask.

E - Okay.

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  1. I wonder how effective it is to force a child to forgive. I mean, can we really *make* someone forgive someone else? Young children are developmentally not really capable of understanding forgiveness in the true sense anyway. That's a very abstract, complex concept. I also think people are allowed their feelings, and often forcing young kids to apologize essentially invalidates their feelings because they don't have the reasoning skills to differentiate. Sure, you can force your child to be polite (which seems valuable to me, as long as feelings are also validated), but if this is a "heart issue" then it can't really be forced on/punished into a kid. I feel similarly about forcing a kid to apologize. That doesn't mean there aren't consequences for hurting another person (restorative justice for the win!), but we can't *make* someone feel bad if they don't. It's better to have consequences that teach compassion rather than forcing an apology, I think. As far as teaching forgiveness, it seems that modeling forgiveness, having lots of conversations based on developmental level, and very consistent boundaries/rules/consequences will go further in the long term.

    I think a lot of the time parents are essentially shamed by society into having "perfect" kids who act like adults, so we really want our kids to act a certain way RIGHT NOW. The reality (to me at least) is that this widespread impatience with a child's development isn't really helpful in the long term of their moral/emotional/spiritual development. It might even teach them that adults care more about appearances than substance. (I don't think your kids will get that impression from you though because you seem like a really genuine person.) I'm also not saying we don't provide boundaries, consequences, rules, etc for kids, but we have to consider their brain development and what will really instill values.

    Obviously, just my two cents, as wordy as they were!

    1. Hmmm… interesting points. I too have thought about the capability to forgive and really understanding it. To me at this age, saying "I forgive you" is more of getting into the habit of forgiving and opening open the conversation after the "I am sorry." I guess to me, it is kind of like training the 3 yr old to say "Excuse me" when she is interrupting adults. Does she really understand what she is saying especially when she says "Excuse me, excuse me, excuse me" until she is responded to? Clearly not, but there is some seeds of good intent.

      With your line of thinking, can children really grasp the concept of "I am sorry"? Take the forgiveness part of this out of the equation. Should kids say they are sorry? Why do kids say they are sorry? Because they really are remorseful? Because it is what they are told they should do if they do something wrong? I really don't know.

      I will admit. The first time it happened I got upset with her about it. But this time I took a very - the ball is in your court approach so say it if you want. Which obviously she didn't. Then once she had some time to think about everything we talked about how to better deal with future situations. This time I did not get emotionally involved which I think is key.

      I'll have to delve deeper into The Whole Brain Child book and see.

      All this stuff with kids is oh so very interesting and I appreciate your insights.

    2. Interpersonal neurobiology is my favorite and I am constantly trying to figure everything out, so we are in the same boat! I apologize if this gets lengthy. Being concise is not a strength of mine.

      I think the key is to differentiate between emotional learning (kids are very capable of this) and higher level thinking (prefrontal cortex is not developed in kids). Kids are very capable of learning empathy, which I believe is the heart of forgiveness *and* remorse, but of course that takes time and is experiential because, well, it's emotional. Kids really learn best through experience anyway. You know, "play is a child's work" etc. (This is why play therapy is so effective.) They watch you being empathetic to others, they experience empathy from you, you help them process their feelings and talk about them with boundaries in place (you can't hurt other people, etc.), and they develop emotionally that way. You are teaching your kids SO much more than you even realize... it's not really about logically reasoning with them, but about modeling and showing them what it looks like to be a good person. Their little right brains are absorbing all of it.

      I'm really not sure how much a 3 or 4-year-old would get out of a conversation over several hours/time-outs about why she should forgive someone. She can feel genuine remorse/forgiveness, but she can't reason about it very much at all. E's "Oh God said so, so I will do what God says" logic is a great example of how far a kid that age can go with logic. An example of consequences to me would be saying "You can still be mad at that other child, but you can't say mean things to them, and if you say mean things to them, you have a 5 minute time out to calm down so you can be polite again." I really like natural consequences whenever possible because it connects to that concrete thinking of little kids. I'm not sure little ones whose consequence is hours later (no dessert or whatever) can really connect the consequence to the earlier event... cause and effect works best when immediate. Another example: a child had a temper tantrum and threw all their toys everywhere, so the consequence *once they calm down* is to clean them up.

      I think that talking through how others feel can also be really helpful, but it won't work too well if that kid is really upset because the right brain has taken over. "Wow, your friend said he's sorry. Do you remember ever saying sorry and the person ignored you? What does it feel like to be ignored?" Not in an angry tone, just a curious one, to get the kid thinking and empathizing about the specific topic they are learning.

      Of course, as that 3 year old gets older, they can reason more and more, so conversations are more meaningful.

    3. Well interestingly enough, E got ignored in her "Do you forgive me" a few days after… or shot down rather with "No" and that was an awesome teaching point because I could tell E was sad/disappointed that R told her "No". I'm going to do a post on it… maybe.

      Child psychology is super interesting. Have you read The Whole Brain Child?

  2. We either have to say "I'm sorry, do you forgive me" or "I'm sorry, how can I help?".
    And yes, I think forcing kids is the best thing; they are far more capable of things than most adults give them credit for!

    1. Our motto is "Expect the Best" and if did it does not happen so be it but the expectation has to be there.

  3. I was taught in Early Childhood classes that you are not supposed to force a child to give an apology b/c they're little minds couldn't understand what an apology was. HOWEVER, I disagreed with it then and still disagree with it now. I understand what the class/book was trying to say, that preschool age children don't have the concept of what "I'm sorry or "I apologize" means, but if you can teach them to associate the words with their disrespectful actions/behavior, they can, at that age, began to understand how these words relate to the heart and mind. Examples: "I am sorry I knocked over your block castle." "I am sorry I hit you b/c I was mad at you(for whatever reason)." "I'm sorry I bumped into you."

    This begins to teach them to associate feelings with behavior and how they react to it. After a few times of "I'm sorry I knocked over your block castle.", they will begin to realize this is something they should not do b/c the other child doesn't like it and has been upset enough to lash out towards them in words, have their feelings hurt, and sometimes get physical. I've always taught them to state why they need to say they are sorry. Sometimes, it's just a simple bump into someone while sitting or lining up. It's not always just about "wrong doing", it can be an accidental incident where you want to teach politeness to another human and acknowledge something accidental happened. It's not an excuse, it's an acknowledgement of feelings, theirs and others.

    I do like the "Do you forgive me?" part. Even as an adult, this is something I need to think on more of doing. It stands out for me to think of how the whole thing went down and how much me and the other person have played a part in what the apology called for. Look how much God has forgiven me for, and yet I'm going to struggle to forgive another...for probably something so petty? Forgiveness, for young children, is probably something that may take them a while to understand since their attention is smaller and they move on from things so quickly as opposed to adults who'll dwell on wrongdoing, but this is not something to give up on when trying to establish it early.

    And yes, preschool age children are far more capable of things than adults give them credit for.

    1. Right and I am not even expecting either child to understand what it truly MEANS to forgive. It is the words of forgiveness and gesture (a hug or something) that helps resolve the conflict and will get them in the habit of forgiving for in the future when they are 9-10 years old and have the capacity for understanding forgiveness