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how to get ds1 to apologise when he accidentally harms someone else?

(7 Posts)
mummypig Wed 22-Jul-09 02:18:38

Dp and I are having a hard time getting ds1 to apologise about anything, but particularly any incident where there was no intention on his part. For example, imagine he was walking across a room where ds2 was playing on the floor and ds1 stood on ds2's hand. Imagine someone went to comfort ds2, and I said to ds1 'oh what a shame, say sorry to ds2'. He would either say 'I didn't mean to do it' or 'I did say sorry' (even though he clearly hadn't).

If we insist on him saying sorry for something he hasn't intended to do, he gets more and more distressed, often convincing himself that he really did say sorry but we didn't hear it, but no matter how distressed he is, he will not say sorry. It's like he can't accept responsibility if he hasn't intended to do something. He may even say 'It's ds2's fault, he moved his hand' even if nothing of the sort has happened.

We do try to model the correct behaviour - I can be clumsy blush and if I accidentally spill a drink or bash into one of the kids I will always say 'oh dear I did that by accident, I am sorry, are you okay?' or something similar. But that doesn't seem to be getting through.

I'm posting here rather than in 'Behaviour and Development' because although so far ds1 has appeared fairly NT I have a feeling this is to do with 'theory of mind' and there are other signs that he hasn't reached the level I would expect at this age (7y). I can't think of a good example offhand but I do remember feeling that he needs to be aware other people may view things differently to him.

Oh another thing is that he does stick to his positions even if it would make life far easier if he gave way on something. Ds2, for all his faults, is far happier to change and not have the favoured green plate or to change what he wants for pudding or whatever, because he realises that choosing the raspberry yoghurt even when he really wanted peach will mean he gets more yoghurt overall rather than having to share it. Ds1 will just stick with his decision and expect everyone else to fit in around him.

And ds1 doesn't seem to recognise that he's making choices and he is in control when he behaves in a particular way. He will blame someone else for his state of mind or for his actions. For example, tonight there was an argument at bathtime and ds1 ended up telling ds2 he hated him, and dp ended up carrying ds1 out of the bathroom for some reason (I'm not quite sure what). But ds1 wouldn't apologise for what he said to ds2, or for kicking dp while being carried. He insisted it was ds2's fault for making him angry and dp's fault for getting him out of the bath early. He didn't recognise that he had a choice about how to react to ds2's behaviour, or that coming out of the bath early was a direct result of his own behaviour.

Do you have any advice? Would social stories work? At about 4 I remember ds1 responded quite well to discussion of his behaviour in terms of 'choices and consequences' and I even remember him talking to ds2 in the same terms. I haven't tried to do this with him for a while but I might start again. Anything else I could try?

Thanks in advance

Davros Wed 22-Jul-09 09:10:33

My first reaction was Social Stories, would he like ones with photos of him and real places? Or maybe he would hate that. It does sound Theory of Mind related. Have you looked on NAS website? They have lots of info sheets about different topics. What about seeking a dx and/or some formal support?

wigglybeezer Wed 22-Jul-09 11:29:36

I have this problem with DS1, he gets very cross about apologising for accidental hurts (with three boys who wrestle a lot there are many bumps). I hear a lot of "But I didn't do it on purpose" or " But I didn't mean to do it", trouble is he also counts hitting out when he can't control his temper as something he didn't mean to do ie. any incident that isn't coolly planned is an accident and therefore he can't be reproached for!

I think explaining that there are two different types of sorry (even though there aren't really, there could be in ASD land)and teaching him two slightly different phrases for each one might help, using social stories to practice. Must work on this with DS1 too!

By the way DS1 turned 11 yesterday and although he has no DX, his younger brother has mild AS and DS1 definitely has problems with empathy and imagination, in many ways he is much harder to deal with than DS2, if I knew then what I know now I would have handled him very differently when he was little.

wigglybeezer Wed 22-Jul-09 11:34:09

The bathtime incident you describe sounds very familiar by the way, I believe this type of attitude is called having an external locus of control and is very hard to deal with. I think i need to go back to basics with DS1 and try social stories, he will be very resistant though, arghh...

mummypig Wed 22-Jul-09 21:18:20

Thanks Davros and wigglybeezer those are very helpful comments. I shall do some searching on the web and think about how to approach it. I'm not used to doing social stories but might try to educate myself as I think they could also work well with ds2 (for other situations). And wigglybeezer I think the idea of using different phrases for different types of 'sorry' might well appeal to ds1 - it's a nice 'ordered' approach lol smile.

I am currently very wary of going for a formal diagnosis. This is partly because nothing too terrible has happened yet i.e. ds1 is coping very well in mainstream school and has lots of friends and no-one else seems to think he's anything other than NT. I am also rather unsure how dp will take it if I express my concerns (although dp has certainly noticed that ds1 seems to blame everyone else for his behaviour). Also we are waiting for a paediatrician to assess ds2 for SPD/ADHD or something similar and I'd really like to get that done before we start anything with ds1.

Anyway thanks again, I had half wondered if this would remain unanswered as it seems somewhat small compared to other concerns in this topic. So it's good to have some suggestions.

streakybacon Thu 23-Jul-09 08:00:07

Mummypig, I have some social stories about saying sorry and causing offence - do you want me to email them to you? I work a lot with my AS son on making choices, reward and consequence etc and as this is the line you're taking with your ds you might find the stories helpful.

Email me at if you're interested.

mummypig Thu 23-Jul-09 20:56:10

Thanks streakybacon those would be great. Saves me from having to do them from scratch! Will e-mail you right now.

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