Wednesday, May 18, 2016

It's not okay. The right way to accept an apology.

All day, everyday I deal with kids. Yes, this is by choice. I decided to become a teacher, and I always knew that I'd be a dad one day. So naturally, yeah, I interact with kids regularly. And, much like adults, they make mistakes, say things that are mean, do things to be mean, and all around act like.. well..kids.

Through all of my interactions with kids there is a certain issue I'm growing very tired of, and it has to do with apologies. I think we can all agree that apologies are often things that are only said, and not always felt. A true apology shows feelings, remorse, and an overall acknowledgment of the hurt caused by the loss of trust in that moment.

In the hecticness of life, we all spew out apologies so quickly and easily that we are causing a new problem that I'm truly growing tired of, especially since it's making its way through popular media "reality" and/or "politics." And this problem has to do with the phrase "that's okay." This phrase should no longer be acceptable when an apology has been offered up. It has become so standard that it's almost a reaction now, like getting into the car and buckling up. You don't think about it, but there you are driving all buckled up.

Sure, there are certain times when saying, "that's okay," when an apology is given is totally acceptable. But, we are saying it way too much any more, and we need to get into the practice of actually accepting an apology in a way that shows self respect, and acknowledges that what happened wasn't okay, and shouldn't happen again. I would love to hear more, "I appreciate that apology, but what happened wasn't okay. It hurt, and I really hope it doesn't happen again." Just think if we were to start accepting apologies more like that! And not, "that's okay." Because it wasn't and isn't okay to be hurt by other's words or actions. But we are creating groups of people that keep pushing the issue, because they keep hearing "that's okay" for their apologies. The remorse in doing something wrong isn't there, and they keep getting away with it, because we are modeling weak ways of accepting apologies.

As a dad and a teacher, I've been stepping in to better model how this works. It's been amazing watching how the kids have altered things in my classroom and at home just in how I've responded to apologies by what I'm saying or having the kids say. I've listed a few options below as ideas to try when you are accepting an apology, or are helping a kiddo receiving an apology.
  • Thanks for apologizing, but please don't do it again. I'm disappointed in how that went down.
  • I accept your apology, but I'm not happy that happened, and I'm still hurt. 
  • I hear your apology. I know that I'm expected to accept it, but I'm still hurt by what happened.
  • Thank you for apologizing. I do appreciate it, and I can see that you feel bad about what happened.  
I would encourage all of you fellow parents and/or teachers to at least consider finding your own way to escape from using the "that's okay" response in apologies. We can see in social media and the news all of the crazy things people seem to be getting away with saying and doing; and the insincere apologies that follow. It's up to us to show and encourage those around us to speak up with appropriate responses to apologies. This isn't to be done in a way that attacks the person apologizing, but to instead reinforce our own self worth, and establish the notion that what happened isn't okay, and shouldn't happen again. 

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