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3 year old very reluctant to say 'sorry'

(7 Posts)
Kalypso Mon 01-Apr-13 22:47:10

DS has just turned 3. Most of the time he's pretty well behaved and happy to communicate with people, but occasionally he can be very grumpy and it can be embarrassing.

Today I did some shopping in a supermarket, while he slept in the pushchair. When he woke up, I took him to the toilets - he was in a grump and didn't want to go (even though it was clear he needed to). In the toilets, after much fuss and jollying along by me, he eventually the job got done, although then started crying about having to wash his hands. A nice woman had overheard the fuss and said to him what a lovely, big boy he was to wash his hands. DS promptly growls/sobs "Go away!" at her. She was lovely about it, but of course I immediately told him that it wasn't nice to talk to her like that, and apologised to her on his behalf.

I then asked him to apologise to the woman himself. I've done this once before when he was rude to an elderly lady cooing over him, and that time he did so. This time he was being stubborn, but after a while, he did eventually say 'sorry' quietly and sulkily. He then cheered up a little and said 'bye bye' to her.

I feel like it's the right thing for him to learn that he must say sorry when he is rude or has hurt/upset somebody, but I'm also worried I'm going to turn this into a battle of wills that I'll inevitably lose in situations like this (where we have a limited amount of time to extract an apology!)

He can be like this at home as well. When he accidently hurts me (e.g. he drops a toy car on my foot and I yell out 'ow!'), he immediately yells "Don't say that!" When I explain that I'm hurt and that the nice thing to do would be to say sorry, he'll respond haughtily, "I don't have anything to say." Usually he does relent and say "Sorry Mummy; it was only an accident - I didn't do it on purpose", but the time it takes to do this is getting longer and longer. I want to prepare him for preschool in September, so I think he needs to learn to say sorry without it being a battle. But am I making it one by making a big deal out of it?

Any thoughts/suggestions?

smellysocksandchickenpox Mon 01-Apr-13 22:52:12

the "sorry" word is a stupid concept at that age, and I'm only realising this a year later (dur!)

Much better to explain the impact the actions had on the other person, and maybe find out why he didn't like the woman talking to him in the first place and talk through that

I got my 3 yo to be very good at saying sorry. He now thinks that sorry should wipe the slate clean and he can carry on doing what he likes. Its so annoying, he thinks he can do what he likes then bleet out "sooorrry" then get in a strop if you try to discuss it further with "I said I'm sorry!"

I'm now trying to back track on the whole sorry thing, and when he does something to someone else I ask him to look at their faces and tell me if you think they're happy or sad about what he did/said

MmeLindor Mon 01-Apr-13 22:56:13

I agree with Smelly (gosh, that sounds rude!)

Don't make a fuss about it. There is not value in a forced apology. It doesn't teach him anything except that if he says the word, you will get off his back.

You want to teach him empathy, not that parroting 'sorry' automatically means that bad behaviour is forgotten.

Don't go on about 'oh, that is very upsetting'. State it, and make it clear that you are cross with him and then without any fuss, move on.

smellysocksandchickenpox Mon 01-Apr-13 23:03:49

the end goal is that they FEEL sorry that they have upset someone else

not that they SAY sorry to get something selfish in return (i.e. instantly forgiven so they can carry on doing what they want)

.. and then if you achieve that they will start vocalising it in a genuine way, not a stroppy forced "sorrrryyy" which means nothing

I hate non genuine sorrys from adults too, they're very PA

as they get a bit older there's no point getting into a battle of wills anyway because you wont win, communication becomes more important (and harder) as does teaching by example.

The child didn't like the way the woman spoke to him for some reason, if you want him to care that she won't have liked how he spoke to her, then the way to teach that is to also have some interest in why he didn't like how she spoke to him IYKWIM

ArteggsMonkey Mon 01-Apr-13 23:10:54

My dd would never say sorry at that age. She's now a lovely kind child with lots of empathy for other people, but she would not say sorry. At all. I left toddler groups early, etc etc because she wouldn't apologise for something or other, made no difference.

Smellysocks is right, don't sweat it.

roundtower Mon 01-Apr-13 23:13:57

My dd is 4 and never says sorry. She is fairly well behaved most of the time so it doesn't come up too often but when it does there is no point pushing it.

It is obvious by her behaviour that she is sorry when she has does something wrong but she absolutely will not say the word, never has and I don't push her on it anymore.

smellysocksandchickenpox Mon 01-Apr-13 23:19:33

"I want to prepare him for preschool in September, so I think he needs to learn to say sorry without it being a battle"

oh and re schools, I geather that these days schools deal with incidents with more of a mediation style where both parties state their feelings on the incident and talk about the root cause, rather than a "say sorry" and a clip round the ear approach. So wouldn't worry about that either

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