Repair and Apologies With Kids Do Not Have To Be Forced

Sometimes, repair takes its own creative path.  

I have refrained (as much as possible) from forcing my child to say "I'm sorry" because I wanted her to rely on her own conscience as she learns how her actions affect others. 

I didn't want my opinions or judgments to impose on her sense of self.  

Repair is the process of reconnecting after hurt feelings, angry words, or unacceptable behaviors.  

Sometimes repair with my seven-year-old is messy, sloppy, and tearful. 

And sometimes it takes a silent path - in an exchange of notes with heartfelt words meant to establish a re-connection.  

I enjoy the silent exchanges. I learn so much about how she feels  when I don't press - but simply open up space for the conflict to resolve without blame.

To be able to say what we feel without fear, shame or rejection provides the opportunity for growth. 

When I was young, I would often write letters to express my feelings. My parents encouraged it, "You express yourself so well through writing."

That's because writing doesn't involve an immediate response from your audience. Sending off a note with your heart on your sleeve while you are safely hiding in your bedroom is much less risky than a face-to-face interaction - especially for a child on the spectrum, who is super-sensitive to the reactions of others.

With a letter, no one can:
  • yell at you
  • judge you
  • reject you
  • or shame you

My daughter and I had a disagreement the other day.

Below is a photo of our exchange after I decided to remove myself from the situation. She was feeling irritated, and the conversation quickly descended into insults. "Well, I don't do it that way! That's for stupid people," she barked. "I don't like you. I don't like you!"

I tried to stay empathetic, but sensing her resistance, I let the natural consequences unfold without getting offended by her "disrespectful" words. 

I calmly left the room. "I don't want to be spoken to like that." I wasn't going to listen to her calling me names - and I also recognized that neither of us was in a place to discuss it.

After about 15 minutes, we passed this series of notes back and forth in silence.

ML: I love you. Do you love me? Rite a note back here
ME: I love you so much my heart might burst. I don't like it when I am called stupid, but I loooooove you! Do you like me? Write a note back here.

ML: Yes, I do. (in the heart) P.S. I am sorry.
I didn't need to deliver lectures or consequences. I confidently and compassionately resisted the urge to push back against her behavior, so she could learn how her actions affect others. 

And the result was that she naturally came to apologize once she had time to calm down and reflect without feeling pressured to correct her behavior immediately.

What sweet apologies have your kids made to you? Share your stories in the comments below!

Talk soon,

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About Lori

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