Do Your Kids Apologize Without a Power Struggle?

one boy about to punch another

I haven’t talked much about Love and Logic lately and I want to give you an update. After reading the books 3 or so years ago I still see great wisdom in the approach. I’ll be honest: being loving while I’m being logical doesn’t exactly come easy. 🙂 Logic….I’ve got that down pat. I can do logic. Staying calm and taking advantage of my children’s mistakes while keeping my mouth shut and trying to let them learn for themselves is not my natural groove. I’m much more prone to talking at them WAY too much.

That said, we’ve had some successes here and there. Mainly I’ve been learning to take my time when issues arise, and to try (strong emphasis on TRY) to keep my mouth shut and think before speaking. This actually has resulted in my having to stop the older boys from stepping in when their younger brothers are arguing. I’m seeing that if I wait quietly, about half the time they solve their own problems without me. Of course the other half turns into shouting matches or worse, but we’re working our way through that.

Tonight The Manager came crying to me because Captain Earthquake had pinched him. Because I was quiet and listening I soon discovered that The Manager had given the Captain a “snakebite” on the arm, hence the pinching. Both boys were pretty mad, it was late at night and they were tired. I’ve never tried this one before, but rather than insisting the boys apologize to each other I asked them if they wanted to say sorry or if they wanted to just skip to the “I forgive you” part.

The Captain surprised me by apologizing and stomping off. The Manager followed suit with a whimpered “Sorry” and about 3 minutes later everyone was best friends forever again.

I’ve often insisted on boys apologizing to each other which usually results in a power struggle. Instead of forgiveness and reconciliation we wind up with an argument over saying “Sorry” in a low voice through clenched teeth was loud enough at which point one or more boy stalks away angrily. I can see where this new strategy will work again in the future if both boys have offended one another. I’m not so sure what to try when only one boy is on the offense. Any suggestions?

Earnest Parenting: help for parents who want to teach the art of apology.

The editor-in-chief of Earnest Parenting, Amy is the mother of two sets of twin boys. Yes, they drive her crazy, but they also make her laugh occasionally. Amy enjoys writing, quilting, reading, and working on her burgeoning cyber empire.

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  • Kathy Slattengren July 15, 2008, 12:49 pm

    We avoided encouraging our children to apologize when they really weren’t sorry. If only one child was causing a problem, we would put that child in time out (e.g. “How sad you decided to hit Ben. You need to go to your room.”). We also found that arguments ended much more quickly when we weren’t involved. When the kids would start fighting, we’d ask them to take themselves out to the garage or deck so we didn’t have to listen to it (sometimes we would guide them there). It was amazing how quickly they stopped fighting!

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  • Amy July 16, 2008, 12:06 am

    Hi Kathy,

    Interesting approach to the fighting! I mentioned it to Hubby and we think we’ll try it with the older boys. The younger ones have demonstrated a willingness to draw blood when they fight, which is not the case with the big boys. Fortunately that kind of fighting doesn’t happen often, but when it does they get pretty vicious. There’s not a clear dominance happening, but whenever we’ve tried leaving them to their own devices in a serious spat, at least one of them is angry enough to go after the other hammer and tongs. Sometimes it’s The Manager, other times it’s the Captain. How old are your children?

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  • Kathy Slattengren July 20, 2008, 1:08 am

    My kids are now 15 (girl) and 12 (boy). They stopped fighting years ago when we stopped paying any attention to their fighting. It was actually hard for me not to jump in to defend my son (obviously much younger, definitely not as talented at fighting as his sister). However, I didn’t want to send him the message that he was weak and needed me to run interference for him.

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  • Amy July 21, 2008, 1:22 am

    I can believe the whole thing was very difficult! I think it’s a good thing that we get 18 years to go from meeting their every need to watching them leave the nest. It’s not easy.

    We worry about sending the “you’re too weak to handle yourself” message too. Sheesh. Parenting is complicated!

    So would you say your kids are friends at these ages?

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  • Kathy Slattengren July 21, 2008, 5:08 pm

    My kids get along great now. They enjoy each other’s company and often do favors for each other. The other day Kristie wanted a large candy bar for a friend’s birthday party the next day (of course thought of this late enough that she didn’t have much time). Blake volunteered to bike to the store and get it for her.

    I found parenting was a lot more work when they were young but the effort we put in had paid off now that they are teens (well almost teen for Blake). The only drawback is that I’m enjoying them so much it will be hard to see them go off to college (Kristie only has two more years left of high school … where did the time go?!?!).

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  • Amy July 22, 2008, 12:45 am

    Oh, that’s so wonderful Kathy! It’s always fantastic to hear about families who get along well. 🙂

    We tried the “ignore the fight” strategy tonight and did see that when I didn’t respond at all to complaints they had a tendency to work it out. The younger boys quit crying and made up faster when they didn’t know I could hear them.

    I did step in when The Mercenary was really mean to The Manager verbally. I was just in the middle of explaining that if he’d be nice to his brother, he’d get a lot more cooperation when TechnoBoy walked up to The Manager and sweet-talked him into what The Mercenary wanted in the first place. I rested my case and went back to ignoring complaints.

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