Jason B. Ladd

Ask the Questions. Embrace the Answers. Make the Leap.

Now, Say You’re Sorry and Give Them a Hug

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“Now go say you’re sorry and give them a hug.”

If you grew up with a sibling, you most likely heard this phrase at some point during your childhood. If you have children, you may have demanded this of them shortly before recognizing you sound just like your parents.

I know I have.

But is the mandatory apology an effective way to resolve conflict between children?

Virtue and Compulsion

I considered this question after hearing author and Christian apologist Dinesh D’Souza respond to a question during a Socratic Club debate with Michael Shermer at Oregon State University. D’Souza mentioned how compulsion always takes the virtue out a transaction. The speaker used this truism in the context of a discussion about the forced redistribution of wealth.

(Watch the video here)

As a father of five, I am constantly seeking to translate nuggets of wisdom into instruction for my children. Compulsion is a necessary part of parenting; however, during matters of the heart, compulsion is less effective and sometimes inappropriate.

Compulsion results in a disingenuous apology and leaves the air stifled with unresolved tension. The one who was hurt remains so, and a new seed of disdain toward the parent is planted in the heart of the offending child.

A Change in Tactics

A slight change in parental tactics may significantly enhance the impact of your lesson. The child must apologize; that is true. But the way they apologize also matters.

An apology is a transaction. The offender offers an apology and the recipient offers forgiveness in return. But these actions must be conducted freely.

Compulsion strips the virtue from a transaction, and that includes apologies.

The virtue of an apology comes not in words, but from a changed heart.

We must teach our children to apologize, but we should not get a “check in the block” at the expense of a child who begrudgingly rights a wrong.

Instructional Fix

So maybe “go say you’re sorry and give them a hug” robs them of the time required to feel the full weight of their wrongdoing. Maybe it needs to sink in. Maybe it needs to fester while the conscience does its work.

Maybe all that needs saying is:

“You owe your brother/sister an apology.”

When they finally apologize on their own and with the right intentions, you’ll be running to give them a hug.

How do you encourage penitence form your progeny?

Related Briefs

Photo credit: Niklas Hellerstedt / Foter / CC BY

About Jason B. Ladd

Jason is an author, speaker, Marine, and father of seven. He has flown the F/A-18 Hornet as a Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 (MAWTS-1) Instructor Pilot and the F-16 as an Instructor Pilot. His award-winning book One of the Few: A Marine Fighter Pilot’s Reconnaissance of the Christian Worldview has been optioned for film adaptation. He is represented by Julie Gwinn of The Seymour Agency.

7 Replies

  1. Great Post Jason with good advice. I had to giggle though because yes, being the oldest of five kids I heard that many times and when my three were young–yes, I was my parents. By the way. just a hint–it doesn’t go away when the kids grow up. We are still our parents–it just shows up in different ways, i.e. the things we say like them that we thought were dorky when we were kids. My kids and grandkids are all grown so now the really silly stuff comes out of my mouth that they used to say! lol

    1. Thanks, Elaine. I have a long and wonderful road ahead!

  2. My children are all grown. Like you said, there must be a change of heart for the act to be virtuous, having any real power. The first step in transformation is renewing the mind, so talking things through seemed to be the best way as my children were growing up. One of the things that struck me was something I read. I think it was from Tedd Tripp’s book “Shepherding a Child’s Heart”. In it, the author pointed out that when two children are fighting over a toy, both are actually acting selfishly and not just the child trying to take away the toy from the other. If I remember correctly, the advice given was to take the toy away from both if they chose not to share and play together. Of course, we need to teach our children to ask rather than grab something, but I’m sure you get the idea. Great post!

    1. I love the phrase you used about renewing the mind. It reminds me of Romans 12:2.

  3. JD Blom

    I have a friend whose Mom would make him sit on the couch holding his brother or sisters hand until they were out the point that they could issue a real apology. I understand it was a rather awkward excercise by the time they were in High School.

    1. That’s great. I love the humor!

  4. Dad

    Sounds eerily familiar.