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When Is Saying “I’m Sorry” Not the Best Action?

Anger can be a healthy reaction to inappropriate or unwanted events. Although I never condone hurting someone or breaking possessions during a fit of anger, I believe anger can be positive when expressed appropriately.

Alternatives for Expressing Anger

Offer the following alternatives to an angry child who hurts himself, others, or property. Say, It’s OK to be angry. I am not willing for you to hit but I am willing for you to show me how angry you are by _____. Explain a few methods such as the following ideas.

  1. Demonstrate anger with clay (kinesthetic).

  2. Draw a picture showing what the anger looks like (visual).

  3. Talk into a tape recorder to tell about the anger (auditory).

  4. Write and then destroy an anger letter (tactile).

If you encourage a student to use alternatives to express anger and/or negative feelings, you must accept the message and the delivery unconditionally. This is not a time to censor the words, pictures, or actions as long as the child expresses feelings without causing injury or damage.

Apologies and Amends

When I see or hear one child hurt another, I want an immediate apology. That may not always be the best path to take. Instead, I offer several alternative ways to repair the damage.

  1. Give smiles, greetings.

  2. Bring toys, books, or materials to the offended student.

  3. Eat lunch together.

  4. Give a sincere compliment.

  5. Agree to not repeat the hurtful behavior.

  6. Give a sincere

  7. Tell a joke to the hurt student.

After making suggestions, allow the child to choose one that feels right. The child may also think of ways to repair damage that are better than your ideas. You may also want to encourage the angry child to choose a time (perhaps a day or two later) to help the hurt individual feel better.

No one has the right to hurt others. When hurt feelings occur, action can be taken to create healing. By allowing the student who did the hurting to choose a way to correct the situation, you foster personal responsibility. This is far different than insisting on an immediate apology from a student who is still fuming and upset.

If you feel that an immediate apology must be made to instill appropriate social behavior, create a script for the child to read following a cooling down time. Ask the offender to complete and then read the following script.

  • ______ , I apologize for ____________.

  • Next time, I will _______________ .

  • Will you accept my apology? Thanks.

Explain to children that to apologize means to make changes. Easy words such as I’m sorry, require little effort. Treating others with respect usually requires a moment-by-moment effort. We have two goals. We want to help the student who got hurt. In addition, we want to develop responsible behavior within a sincere framework.

Works Cited

Faber, A. and E. Mazlish. How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So kids Will Talk. NY, NY: Avon Publications, 1080.

Frandsen, Barbara. Teaching Responsible Behavior. Austin, TX: Entercate. 2012.

Kvols-Riedler, B. & K. Kvols-Riedler. Redirecting Children’s Behavior. Gainesville, FL: INCAF Publications, 1993.


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