Why sorry sucks – healing emotional riffs (with children and…)

When I lived in New Orleans there was a wise old African American man named Rufus with whom worked Muddy Waters Bar and Grill. He was nearly seven feet tall and always had a tightly cropped grey beard.

He’d been working there as something like a janitor/handyman for so long he’d seen 6 different owners come and go. I was there just a few months working as a short order cook, and oh how I loved stirring the spices into the huge barrel of a pot every Friday for the crawdad boil. The spices were so strong and the pot so big I wore a facemask and used a small oar for the stirring.

If the life that revolves around a bar is filled with hope and fun, it’s also
fraught with disorder and pain, broken promises and disappointments.
Daily someone would come in apologizing for something.

When someone said “I’m sorry” to Rufus more than once for the same thing, he’s gently respond with “sorry didn’t do that shit.”

Have you seen this before?
A child does something that seems mean (they don’t know what to do with their negative feelings in that moment) and hurts someone else, physically or emotionally; then the parent says something like “Johnny, you say I’m sorry right now.”

Johnny (with a long, grumpy, resentful face): “Fine, I’m sorry.” Sometimes it’s even followed by a sticking out of the tongue or another attack.

Ug. I fell into this pitfall many times with my daughter. Until I learned another way, which is what Zaida and I are showing you in the video below. Learning this process well enough that I could teach her, and then little by little coaching her to get proficient at it has been one of the best parenting investments I’ve ever made.

It’s incredibly simple, takes out the drama and shame that often comes when we lose integrity or hurt someone and removes the limpness of ‘sorry.’

You’ll see Zaida explain the three steps.
1. Here’s what happened. How I lost integrity, made a mess, what I did that could have been injurious.
2. This is the impact, or what I imagine the impact would have been. The consequences.
3. This is what I’ll do in the future instead. Here’s my new commitment.

I hope and trust this will be as powerful and beneficial for you as it has been for me and the many people I’ve taught it to. Remember, anything worth doing is worth doing poorly at first – and worth sticking with it until it’s functional and eventually fantastic.