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Sorry Is Not About Shame

Sorry Is Not About Shame - Peace Offering Hp

As an adopter who is also a teacher, I read last week’s blog with interest. It got me thinking about how we can square the needs of the children, the parents and yes, the teachers.

Is it OK to get bitten at work, as happened to the LSA in last week’s blog? Well, frankly, these things happen. Horrible for the bitten person, especially if a mark is left. But we understand that sometimes you do get hurt by children in school.

However, is it OK for a child to be given the message that it was understandable to bite someone and that they don’t need to do what the teacher says (ie, say sorry)? The loving parent did this because she was protecting the needs of her child, I know, and did not want him to feel ashamed.

But is ‘sorry’ really about shaming a child?

I think that apology can be a way for us to feel better. Giving a hug, or a little note or flowers after a quiet chat and a think about people’s feelings can lift a child’s heart. It can make them understand the joy of giving and making people feel good. This feeling can outweigh the sickening thrill of being in trouble and start to forge a happier behaviour pattern.

I worked in a Pupil Referral Unit some time ago, where all the children were deeply troubled. We had a brilliant system of conferencing when anyone had upset anyone else. We had a cooling off period. Then, we got to listen to the other person’s feelings. We got to say how we felt. All feelings were valid. The mediator would help the children to understand the impact of their actions, and help them to work out how to make it better. By working with a mediator, the children began to understand cause and effect. And part of that is understanding that what you do matters. You matter.

The result of this would be apology - or a pledge, or hand-slap – whatever they could manage – and peace. Feeling heard, feeling like your actions are important, feeling like you can make good – all these are wonderful self-esteem builders. It wasn’t about shame or punishment; it was about respect.

I think that our kids should learn to respect other people and rules if they are to be able to access all the opportunities that we want them to have. If they learn that there is one rule for them and one for the others, does that really help them to negotiate their future?

Of course, it is more difficult for our children to do these ‘mainstream’ things, such as apologising, and they need help. They need support to behave in ways that society finds acceptable. But I do believe that that is where we need to be heading, right from the get go. 

The message is, you can make this better. You can fix things.

If my LSA got bitten I would, like the teacher in last week’s blog, have been seeking out an apology. But not to shame the child. To draw a line under it, to make peace and to strengthen that damaged relationship. The child needs the LSA, and the child may not feel able to access them without things being fixed.

So, that’s probably put the cat among the pigeons. 

What so often strikes me, when I read this blog, is how amazing and loving all the parents seem to be, so I would like to make it clear that I'm not criticising anyone. But I thought it might be worth offering another point of view about what 'sorry' is about. 


School behaviour

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  • Carol

    I agree, it is part of our parental duty to try to bring our children to adulthood with coping strategies to deal with their issues. They need to learn that hurting others because they are hurting is not ok. They need to learn how to follow instructions with good grace and to get along with people or they will not be able to hold down a job or have good personal relationships. If they are really so damaged then what hope is there for any possibility of a happy functioning adult life.

  • Fiona

    Love this post and totally agree. Sorry can be closure on an event and it does not need to be shameful. At times when our children have made 'sorry cards' for teachers or friends at school who have been hurt they have gone into school the next day confidently and happy.
    During the times they have not done this there has been a fear in returning to school, thus i encouraged doing something for the other person. They now do this themselves without prompting and it certainly seems to help them move on.

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