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Apologizing For Being A Victim

This child, who must have been around ten, hit me when she decided to flail her arms around for whatever reason. She couldn’t have seen me coming, so I knew it was accident. She ran up to her mother without looking at me and I went on my way, not giving it a second thought. A few seconds later the mother comes up to me and demands that I apologize to the child. I thought maybe she hadn’t seen what had happened, so I explained it was her child who had hit me. I also said I could tell it was an accident and it was no big deal. She says, and I kid you not, “I know she hit you, I saw it, but she’s just a child, she feels bad and you should apologize”. I explain that ideally her child should have apologized to me, that she was old enough to do so, but that it was no big deal to me one way or the other. Mother says, “But she’s just a child! You’re an adult! You’re supposed to apologize to her so she doesn’t feel bad”. At that point I realized it’s impossible to win certain arguments against certain people. I told her she was entitled to raise her child any way she saw fit, but that I would not contribute to the kid thinking she should be apologized to when she hit others and left. I’ll give her credit for making her absurd request in a low voice instead of making a scene, but it’s no wonder children behave the way they do these days. 0518-14

Allowing a child to feel bad about certain behaviors is actually a very good thing.  It teaches sensitivity, deference to others and to be careful in future interactions.  Mom should have taken the opportunity to teach her daughter how to approach a stranger and apologize for the unsolicited hit.

{ 201 comments… add one }
  • Shalamar May 20, 2014, 8:59 am

    I remember a few years ago when my daughter was swinging her house key around on a lanyard, and I said “Please don’t do that – you might hit somebody.” Well, she did – ME. The key struck me above my right eye, which quickly turned black and blue. It hurt like crazy, and I demanded that she apologize – which she did. I like to think that she learned two lessons that day: 1) Mum doesn’t say “you might hit somebody” just to hear the sound of her own voice and 2) apologize when you hurt someone!

    • HelloKitty May 20, 2014, 3:59 pm

      All your kid had to do was apologize? If I had done that to my mother, I would still be searching for my teeth, and rightfully so.
      I can’t believe you said, “Please don’t do that – you might hit somebody.” If that would have been my kid, I would have grabbed her arm and said, “You WILL stop that right now, or else!” If she would have swung just one more time, there would have been a belt taken to her rear end, as well as her hand.
      No wonder she kept swinging her key around; you were acting like a namby-pamby. Remember one thing: your child owes YOU respect; you DO NOT owe HER respect.

      • Meegs May 20, 2014, 7:15 pm

        Ummmm, no. Children are people and are just as deserving of respect.

      • Marguette May 21, 2014, 2:28 pm

        Agree with Meegs: how can children learn how to respect people if we don’t show them what it feels like to be respected?

  • DGS May 20, 2014, 9:51 am

    @HelloKitty, there is absolutely no evidence (and we are talking scientific research evidence, not only anecdotal evidence) that spanking is helpful to disciplining children and plenty of evidence that it tends to be more harmful than helpful (leads to aggression, lower empathy, lower IQ’s, lower test performance, etc.) It is absolutely possible to raise polite, well-behaved children without physical violence.

    The root of the word “discipline” comes from the verb “disciple”, which means to teach. By hitting a child, particularly with the anger that you describe in your post, you are teaching that child that if he or she misbehaves, someone ten times your size and power is going to wallop the crap out of you. You are teaching that child fear (not respect) and to resolve problems through fist-a-cuffs. There are numerous other strategies that can be employed for managing a child’s behavior, and when done judiciously and appropriately, they work wonders. I have seen this in my practice and in my personal life, and there is certainly ample literature to back up that assertion out there.

    I can certainly empathize with how frustrating and infuriating a child’s misbehavior may be, and it may be tempting to smack a child, but a rational, functional adult can manage one’s impulses enough to refrain from doing so. And certainly, it is never appropriate (and was never appropriate) to hit a stranger’s child or a stranger’s teenager or a strange adult. We have statutes against that kind of behavior for a reason.

    Getting back to the point of the original post, the child in question never did anything wrong on purpose. Should the little girl have been smacked for an accident? Really? Should her mother have been smacked for her poor behavior? It was the mother who was out of line, and even she did not merit physical violence (although a judicious talking-to could have been appropriate).

    • Kimstu May 20, 2014, 3:38 pm

      Just to clarify this: Yes, parental behaviors like harshly beating children or angrily shoving, slapping, etc., are certainly linked to psychological trauma. But there’s no evidence that occasional controlled mild spankings as part of a rational disciplinary policy are at all damaging to children.

      Lashing out angrily as @HelloKitty advocates, especially at somebody else’s child, is definitely bad for all concerned and is rightly prohibited. But that doesn’t mean that all parents who occasionally spank their children are out of line.

      • Fraenzidaenzi May 21, 2014, 3:08 am

        Unfortunately, what some parents see as occasional, controlled and mild is actually not as controlled as they think. I’m sure there are parents who can control themselves enough, but some definitely can’t, which can lead a more sensitive child to adopt the attitude of “don’t ever make mom/dad angry; no matter what it is, they might find it bad enough to deserve a spanking”.

        If you absolutely have to spank your children, it is -very- important to make sure they understand what the reason is and that the reasoning makes sense to -them-, so it absolutely has to be a proportionate response in their eyes as well.
        This might sound cynical (and I personally am opposed to spanking because of personal experiences), but it’s the only way I can imagine this could work (again, because of personal experiences).

        • Bon May 27, 2014, 3:37 pm

          ‘it is -very- important to make sure they understand what the reason is and that the reasoning makes sense to -them-‘
          If one can explain to a child why their behaviour is wrong, and they understand, one does not need to then spank.

          • Amy June 23, 2014, 7:41 am

            If kids grow up being spanked hearing the whole ‘mommy and daddy do this because we love you’, they’re much more likely to tolerate physical abuse from a partner/spouse, because they’ve learned that physical violence is a part of a ‘loving’ relationship.

      • Jojo May 27, 2014, 4:20 pm

        I was spanked growing up and I’m a well-adjusted adult. My parents were very good parents, showing me plenty of care when needed but also discipline when needed. I’m better for it and most kids these days would be as well. Spanking for discipline is not abuse and this modern society of parenting on eggshells is showing itself to be an utter failure if you look at the kinds of teenagers that are being produced these days: YOLO.

  • Kendra May 20, 2014, 11:26 am

    A quick post, then I have to get some work done. In the vein of “kids these days”, my entire office is talking about the two college kids that found $40,000 in a couch they got from a thrift store. They returned the money to the thrift store so it could be returned to the owner. How many of us “adults” could say we would do the same?

  • DGS May 20, 2014, 3:45 pm

    @Brit, good point.

  • Elizabeth May 20, 2014, 3:56 pm

    If the child felt bad, she should apologize. Then she will feel better.

  • Angel May 20, 2014, 4:45 pm

    I think the OP did fine. I wouldn’t have apologized to the kid either. I might have said–“I’m sorry–that you hit ME!” but sometimes it’s better just to say nothing and walk away.

  • Amber Carroll May 21, 2014, 8:24 am

    The child’s mother was on the wrong track. The victim generally offers “forgiveness” after an apology for minor offense.
    Offender – I’m sorry I “bumped, hit, harmed” you by mistake.
    Victim – No worries, No harm done, Watch out better next time *gently with a smile*

    Granted this is at the victim’s discretion, I only offer it unconditionally to repentant toddlers without apology. A ten year old that doesn’t apologize can keep the shame, maybe she’ll be more aware of that next stranger!

    My daughter is 6 and has high function autism. She’ll opt to walk backwards in public while I’m trying to convince her forwards is more preventive and excusing us to people in aisles, etc. “near misses”. I generally get smiles and “No worries” as people clear HER path (this mortifies me a little). I assume they chalk it up to the whimsy of childhood. Unlike my childish forays of backwards motion, she doesn’t look over her shoulder at all. As an aside, I do only warn her of things in her path and let her barrel into them if it’s not a rack of things we’ll be picking up after, i.e. poles.

  • twik May 21, 2014, 2:10 pm

    I’m still not sure what the LW was supposed to apologize *for*.

    “I’m sorry I got in the way of your arm when you were swinging it, and I got hurt,” doesn’t make much sense, and even a 10 year old would recognize that.

    I agree with most posters in that I feel sorry for the child, who has civilized instincts even when she makes a typical child’s mistake, but is having them bred out of her by her mother.

  • Michelle C Young May 23, 2014, 2:02 am

    Wow. That child is in for a world of pain.

    • crebj May 24, 2014, 5:16 pm

      So is HelloKitty, I fear. I hope she’ll keep us posted on her success, when she grabs a strange child by the arm and gives him/her what-for.

      • Julie June 6, 2014, 11:58 pm

        The way I read HelloKitty’s post, they were talking about their own child, and not a stranger’s.
        “If that would have been my kid, I…”

  • dahanaha May 23, 2014, 10:17 am

    Are you from Canada? We routinely apologize when someone runs into us… lol

    • Mamaof 3 May 25, 2014, 9:31 pm

      Haha! So true!!

  • Milinda May 29, 2014, 4:34 pm

    I experienced something similar with a neighbor. At about 10:00 P.M. on a weeknight, my husband heard shouting right outside our door. Curious and concerned, he opened the door and found a neighbor kid (middle school age) crouched down by the door with a Nerf gun, shouting to his playmate who was in another yard. My husband asked (sleepily, as he had been enjoying a doze in his recliner) if everything was alright. The kid looked alarmed and ran off. About a half hour later (10:30 P.M. by this point) there was a knock on our door. It was the kid’s mother ranting about how if we have to be neighbors, we might as well be nice, and what was his d*** problem? My husband let her know that her child was on our doorstep shouting, and that he had just asked if everything was alright. He had done nothing at all except nap in his own living room at night. The mother suggested my husband apologize to her son. For what? We still don’t know. He shut the door at that point, and we just avoid the neighbors.

  • Mabel June 1, 2014, 8:31 am

    This exact thing happened to me at a Best Buy store. I was looking at CDs and these two girls were chasing each other around the display rack. Finally, the inevitable happened and they crashed into me (hard). I could tell they were mortified, so I just said, “Hey, whoa, slow down, this isn’t a playground.” The mother (who had been ignoring them the entire time) then laid into ME for calling out her precious snowflakes. She even said the same thing this mom said–“They’re just children!” Well, calm down, lady, I didn’t beat them or call them little monsters. Anyway, it was quite obvious where the problem was, and it wasn’t with the girls.

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