We’ve been trying to teach our children what to do when they bump into someone or hurt someone inadvertently. Often, they just act oblivious, even though sometimes it seems improbable that they don’t realize they’ve done damage. We are acting on the basis that they sometimes really do realize they have hurt or bothered someone accidentally, but they ignore it because they don’t know what to say or do (and sometimes think).
Here’s how our conversations go:
When you bump into someone, you say, “Are you okay? I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you.” [I realize that we don’t say it this way as adults, but children often misinterpret accidental bumps as meanness, so these words seem to help. There are other words to say depending on the situation, but these are what we’re working on now.]
When you don’t say anything, you’re communicating that you don’t care someone is hurt, and that’s mean (even if you do care).
This last idea is important to us. Ignoring an uncomfortable situation is amazingly common among adults, whether it’s a dented car door in a parking lot, or spilled coffee in a guest room, or missing an appointment, we sometimes find it hard to deal with the situation appropriately.
That’s all for today. (by the way, we do deal with the situation differently when we realize it’s deliberate meanness, but we still regularly walk the child through the process of thinking and acting right.) I just heard Laurel trip over our dog and say “I’m sorry, Mollie. I didn’t mean to hurt you.” and give her a pat on the head. I guess we’ve been including the dog in our conversations, too. That little pat made me smile.