As I grow older (and hopefully wiser), there are situations where I've changed my thinking. I remember when my own children were very young, I prompted them into saying certain things, like "thank you," and "I'm sorry." and "please forgive me" -- especially to adults. I suppose it starts with good intentions -- you want to teach your child to be polite. But where are the good parental intentions supposed to stop and when are the childs' natural and own sentiments expressed?
I cringe internally when I hear a parent instructing their child to "tell Billy you're sorry for hitting him." Do you think that child is really sorry? I'd put money on that he wasn't (or else why would he haul off and punch Billy?). But it sure makes the parent feel better, doesn't it? In my opinion, the parent sees their child's bad behavior as a reflection on them, as a parent.
At my preschool, I am more interested in what made that child hit Billy, instead of quickly wrapping the situation up with a forced "sorry." Getting to the root of a situation is very telling, and that is not to say that hitting is ok, but let's hear what both sides have to say before we shut the book on the issue.
As a child I was taught to write thank-you cards for the gifts that I received. I grew to absolutely love writing them! My grandma saved all the cards that I wrote to her, and when she died I got some of them back. Reading the notes, I could tell they were written from my heart -- probably way more than what was necessary in a thank-you note. I taught my children the same: if someone is nice enough to think of you and give you a gift, you need to thank them. And my kids do...some of the time. But instead of thinking how badly it is reflected on me as their parent when they don't write a thank-you, it's a reflection on them. I don't guilt my kids into writing -- they are all bright young adults who know right from wrong.
So, why did I come up with this topic to write about? Today I went to Costco with ALL of my kids -- I didn't ask any of them, they just came along for the ride. We had a great time... everyone got along and helped out with choosing the food. I took them to Qdoba for lunch, and as we were walking to the car, my son put his arm around me (yes, in public!), gave me a squeeze, and said "thanks, mom for a great day."
And it came straight from his heart.