Without fail, in every training I deliver, at least one teacher or parent will say to me “they don’t mean it when they apologise, it’s not genuine, they just say it to get off the hook.”
My response is always the same. I ask whether they told the child how they had been hurt or did they just tell the child that their actions were unacceptable?
When an apology doesn’t appear genuine it is usually because a key element in the process of reparation has been missed, overlooked or purposefully avoided. What tends to happen is children give an apology for their behaviour. It sounds a little like this:-
For it to connect and feel genuine to the person who has been harmed the child’s apology needs to acknowledge the victim’s hurt and connect it to what they did.
It sounds more like this:-
To facilitate this the victim needs to express how they have been hurt through a conversation with the child. Therefore, when teachers challenge the genuineness of a child's apology, I always start with "Did you tell them how they hurt you?"
If we are to find peaceful ways to resolve conflict, there needs to be conversation, and we need to be in the messiness of that conflict together. And yes , you feel vulnerable when you say to a child “your actions pulled the rug from under me, crushed me, hurt me, made me feel small,” but to not step into the circle and speak our truth we close down the opportunity to repair and strengthen our relationships with our students when they need it most.
If you want to find out more about how the skills of restorative practice can help you to connect better with your students or children through, and beyond conflict, then get in touch.
LJ Sayers is a restorative trainer, mum to J, partner to JP, a COVID redundant hugger and the chief quality controller of all chocolate in her household.