No Apologies


I was picking Will up from preschool yesterday when I turned the corner and saw him and another boy pushing each other.

Normally this would be no big deal, but this has been an issue all week. When we ask him what he did at school, he says “(Name of kid) punched me.” Then he says he punched him back. I talked to the teachers but they haven’t seen anything like that going on. Toddlers have a tendency to lie sometimes, or at the very least stretch the truth. But when I caught him red-handed, I got ready to dole out some fatherly pearls of wisdom.

I walked over to Will and the other boy and I told Will hitting is wrong. I told him he should always try to use his words. And then I told him to apologize.

That’s when the weirdness started. Will’s teacher came over and I filled her in on what went down. But I told her not to worry because I already addressed it and Will had already apologized to the other kid. And that’s when she dropped a bombshell on me.

“Oh. Well we don’t have kids this young say ‘I’m sorry’ to each other.”

The quizzical look on my face prompted her to continue.

“The philosophy at this school is that kids this age don’t have a full understanding of what ‘I’m sorry’ means. So if we made them say it, they wouldn’t understand it and essentially they’d be lying.”

I love our preschool. It’s done wonders for Will and I’m appreciative. But that shit is just ridiculous. My son is 2 years and 10 months old. But dammit he knows the difference between right and wrong. And more important, he knows what it is to be sorry and when he should feel guilty. Like the times I catch him grabbing the cat’s fur. I don’t even have to say a word—I just give him a look—and he immediately stops and says “Sorry Dad.” Because he knows it’s wrong to do that. Just like he knows it’s wrong to hit.

I shouldn’t be surprised. Our preschool also avoids time-outs because they think they’re unproductive. I disagree. I think when used properly, time-outs are very effective. I’m also not opposed to spanking my son under extreme circumstances. Not that I would ever want any school doling out corporal punishment on my son. I’m just saying I think going soft on the kids all the time with no fear of real punishment is counter-productive.

It’s just disheartening that the wussification of our kids starts this young. Instead of a stern talking-to, time-out or a mandated apology, now we have “redirection” and positive reinforcement. I can just imagine these kids sitting around in a “Circle of Feelings” or some other such bullshit. Instead of getting all new-agey and ridiculous, just make them apologize and shake hands. And perhaps a time-out and some loss of play time would deter them from doing it again.

Kids this age know what’s what. If they hurt another kid, of course they should be made to apologize. Hell, we taught Will manners before he could even talk by teaching him sign language for “please” and “thank you.” He had no friggin clue about those concepts, but it’s a good habit to get him into. Just like apologizing when you do something wrong.

I get the distinct feeling the feel-good, everybody’s-a-special-winner mentality of today’s educational philosophy is going to rub me the wrong way for years to come.

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17 thoughts on “No Apologies

  1. Agree agree agree. Time-outs most definitely work and my daughter MUST say she’s sorry when she does things wrong. And she DOES know when she does things wrong. That would seriously get to me.

    My son is 2 years 6 months – and when I catch him doing the wrong thing he runs to the time out corner, himself without me saying a word.

    And as I said on twitter – its not about whether or not they “understand” the concept of an apology. It’s about manners, and taking responsibility for their actions. Redirection doesn’t teach them responsibility. It doesn’t teach them “cause and effect”

    Thats my opinion and I’m quite possibly wrong. But my son is polite and well-behaved. So… quite possibly, I’m not.

  3. My kid is the same age, and we absolutely make her apologize! How would she learn if we didn’t teach her to do it? That is so strange to me.
    When did discipline and manners become a bad thing? I’m all for letting kids be kids, but that doesn’t mean they can do whatever they want, without consequences!

  4. Very well stated! When my son started school (age 4) I was absolutely SHOCKED by the new practices of ‘discipline’. My son was taught that it was perfectly acceptable to hit another student if they hit him first…so long as neither child bothered the teacher with tattling. Manners were not applicable, consequences only held up if the teacher was having a bad day or there was just too much class distraction going on, etc. It absolutely dumbfounds me and supposedly I’m part of Generation X…or is it Y…or Me? eh…whatever category an almost 30 year old fall in -I’ve never been one to keep up with such trends- that ‘encourages’ such re-directive behavior. I absolutely can’t stand it! This New-Agey ‘discipline’ just reeks of laziness. Parents, teachers, caretakers, etc don’t want to take the time to actually teach a child how to properly behave, often using fear of being sued or some other nonsense bullsh!t as an excuse to not hold a child accountable for their own actions…then we wonder why society is sh!t – children aren’t taught to be responsible for their behaviors, whether in the form of an apology or some type of actual punishment and grow up to be adults that think their sh!t doesn’t stink.

    ~ 28 year old mother of an 8 & 3 year old, who was ‘beaten’ as a child, that believes in proper corporal punishment ~

  5. You will definitely be frustrated as Will gets in to elementary and even higher. Bullies are sent to special classes to boost their self confidence (the idea being that their own bad self image causes their behavior.) Any games that cause conflict are often omitted instead of using them as lessons to teach responsible behavior. The result is that by 4th grade, kids know that teachers don’t have the power to do that much. The good ones are good and the bad ones get worse. The ones in the middle can swing either way depending on who has the most influence. It sucks and its frustrating for parents and teachers.

  6. Our son is 2 years and 3 months old and has been using sorry appropriately without being asked for months. That is one of the most ridiculous policies I’ve heard. The as you so aptly described “everybody’s a speicial winner” mentality drives me insane. I’m sure I’ll be ranting about this for the rest of my life.

  7. I couldn’t agree with you more Aaron and I’m a former Kindergarten teacher and current adolescent and family therapist!! The culture of not holding kids accountable for their actions leads to serious backlash as they grow older. Over time, if misbehavior goes unpunished, kids can develop a sense of entitlement and lack of empathy for others resulting in significant acting out and lack of consideration for others. This stuff makes me crazy and is unbelievably difficult to undo. There definitely needs to be a balance of nurturing one’s development of positive self-worth and acknowledging/addressing one’s misbehavior. Unfortunately, many parents today are too afraid to be the bad guy.

  8. What the eff? My kid is not quite two years old, and I have her say “please” and “thank you.” You think she FULLY understands what those mean? Of course not. She knows them as words she says when certain situations arise. But it’s about teaching good manners, and when she IS old enough to understand what they mean, she’ll be able to fall back on the habits and GOOD FUCKING MANNERS her parents taught her.

    Oh my God. We have to set limits for these kids before they understand what that means, because they need guidance. We’re their parents, their teachers and … for GOD’S SAKE, THAT IS SO DUMB.

  9. Wow. I am speechless. Learning to say you are sorry is a HUGE part of life. We all make mistakes we should apologize for throughout our lives. It is never too early to teach our children to be decent human beings.

  10. Take it from a school teacher…..parents and admin are responsible for this. If a teacher does discipline a child, the child goes home and tells on the teacher. The parent does not back up the teacher, they say,”I’ll get that teacher.” They march into school and bitch until the punishment is reversed or the child is removed from that teacher’s class.

  11. I think both approaches are crap. Hitting, time-outs and forced apologies, or redirection do not hold a child accountable in anyway. They teach arbitrary consequences and easy answers for everyone involved.
    There is a difference between saying sorry and meaning it. I see the other end of the spectrum, where kids use sorry as a cop-out. Not because they feel remorse, but because they want to avoid getting in trouble. When I taught my kids sorry I also asked them “now what does that mean” and the answer was usually “that I won’t do it anymore” and I often had to ask “Is that true?” and sometimes the answer would be yes, but mostly it was a look at the ground and a shuffle of feet.
    There is a difference between making kids say “sorry” and teaching them about honesty and integrity in their apologies. All the forced “sorrys” in the world can never make a child understand the consequences of their actions.

  12. Sorrys are forced at first. But we always ask “Sorry for what?” and he tells us what he thinks he did wrong. If its hitting, for example, we tell him he needs to be sorry because hitting hurts other people & makes them feel bad. And he understands that.

    But it is certainly not “crap” to get kids into the habit of saying sorry. Even if they don’t fully comprehend it at first, they will. And if parents explain it like you & I do, that’s only going to help.

  13. Yeah that’s crazy – how do they address such situations then? And you said he moved to the big kid class gosh you’d think they could treat them like big kids and not like babies that don’t understand. Your son like mine will be 3 in less than two months and I know from experience with mine they sure understand a lot at this age. If I was you I’d be talking to the director along with the teachers at that school and not waiting until parent teacher conference time about that policy. And when you bump into other parents when you’re coming or going from preschool I’d somehow casually ask if they knew of this policy of theirs.

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