Building Relationships with Gentleness & Honesty
Parent Education Series
by Lynn Hess, Director
At The School of Grace, we carefully consider how our reactions, as adults, help children build healthy relationships. For example, if a child hits another child, we stop the action, focus on the child who was hurt, then address the conflict. If the children are verbal, we ask each child what happened and listen to their explanation. Our purpose is not to blame and punish. Our purpose is to help the children mend their relationship and resolve potential issues in the future.
We tell the children to look at the other child, notice his/her facial expressions and listen to their words. We then reiterate what we have heard, saying something similar to, “Joe doesn’t like it when you hit him. Touch Joe gently”. Then we wait for that action to happen. Afterwards, we guide the children, saying, “When you want a toy from Joe, ask him, then wait until he is finished”. We follow this with, “Joe, when you are finished, give the toy to your friend.”
You’ll notice that I did not mention telling the child to say, “I’m sorry”. While this is a very polite phrase to say, we prefer to model, saying, “I’m sorry” when we accidentally cause a problem ourselves, as in, “Jan, I’m sorry I bumped into you. I wasn’t looking.”
When we force a child to apologize, we are teaching him/her to express a sentiment that might be false. If the child who hits is really angry, he/she probably doesn’t feel sorry at that time. If we force the words, we are essentially saying, “I don’t care how you feel, say ‘I’m sorry’ anyway.” Which means, we are teaching the child to be dishonest about his/her feelings.
Instead, we teach the child to do something, like touch gently, to help the child who has been hurt. This teaches children to offer resolution to conflicts rather than lie about their feelings. If we feel a child might be ready to say, “I’m sorry”, we give the option of touching gently or apologizing. The result is that most children choose to do both, touching gently and apologizing at the same time.