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Your_Majesty's avatar

Do children have to be forced to forgive?

Asked by Your_Majesty (8212 points ) July 29th, 2011

Recently, my underage niece just got in a fight with one of her classmate (teasing that grew in to heated mouth fight). The teacher who saw this incident then ask both of these kids to come to her in front of the class and tell them both to shake hand, apologize, and what is worse, smile to each others, and she won’t allow them to sit back before they do that. This also prompt other nosy kids to say “Just do it!”

So, in order to end this embarrassment they both did that reluctantly in pretentious manner. The teacher then continue her lesson again.

This is, of course, isn’t the end to the issue, when my niece got home she told me everything about that and that she didn’t forgive her friends and she did that because she has no other choice but to do it since her teacher forced them to do that. She still hates her classmate anyway.

This incident reminds me of my childhood, with the same situation. I believe many teachers do this so they could continue their lesson without any prolonged issues, or that they are really that stupid to think this is an ‘easy and effective’ solution.

As an addition, I also saw this kind of problem solving practiced by many teachers in my childhood, and I couldn’t believe the same culture is still preserved till these days.

What do you think?

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27 Answers

zenvelo's avatar

Of course one cannot change what is in someone’s heart, but the lesson is important for children to learn about appropriate behavior and getting along in a civilized society.

So did your niece learn to not express her hatred? Did you ask her why she hates the other girl? What would you have done if this happened in front of you?

Your_Majesty's avatar

@zenvelo My niece has been well-taught how and when to apologize when it’s necessary. She hates the girl because herself, and this girl have been spreading bad rumors about each others for some time.

When this happened to me, it had, I will prefer that the teacher is out of the problem. If I hate someone that is my right, no one can force me to like or forgive someone.

aprilsimnel's avatar

Children are naturally self-centered, I think. They have to be taught empathy in order to then learn how to forgive themselves or another person.

Once they realize that they aren’t the center of the universe, and that people are always trying to get their needs met in the best way they know how, even if that way might make other people angry, then they can forgive, and not before then. Even this girl bad-mouthing your niece is doing it for a reason. She’s getting some emotional need met that way.

The teacher did everything exactly wrong. She should’ve stopped the fight and spoke to each of them separately, alone, about what I’ve said above, then suggested they work it out on their own. Kids don’t remember any lessons when they’re shamed in front of others. They just remember the shaming, which is counterproductive.

wundayatta's avatar

How old are these children? Their school taught my children negotiation and problem solving skills to resolve these issues. What the teacher did with your niece was a charade to make her feel better. She might as well have just put dunce caps on them.

CWOTUS's avatar

I think the teacher was right, and @zenvelo had the proper analysis of it: The teacher has to control behavior, and if she can teach a little bit about manners and proper deportment at the same time, then more power to her.

I don’t think she said that either of the girls has to “like” each other, but they do have to settle their dispute in some other (socially acceptable) way – and outside of the teacher’s classroom. However we may feel about others from time to time, there are acceptable and unacceptable ways of expressing occasional antipathy.

The teacher knows what’s going on, and knows that probably both girls are equally to blame for whatever bad feeling exists. Your niece is no more an angel than the other girl is. It doesn’t matter. The teacher needs to preserve order in the classroom and get on with her job of instructing the children.

The only other alternatives are worse: the teacher can cede control to the children and let them behave any way they want to (which seems to have already happened in many entire school districts), or she can send them to the principal for “official sanction”. She doesn’t want to give up control or appear incapable to the principal, so she tells the girls to shake hands, apologize and smile – and get on with the classwork.

SpatzieLover's avatar

@aprilsimnel The teacher did everything exactly wrong….They just remember the shaming, which is counterproductive.

Precisely why our psychologist recommends never bringing emotion into a discipline method or other people. Children will only recall the emotion and shame. Often they will not remember what the “discipline” was for.

The children should not be made an example of by bringing them to the front of the class. They also should not be forced to touch one another. An apology and an understanding of why this type of behavior is not allowed would be more productive.

Your_Majesty's avatar

@wundayatta She’s 12, and her friends are probably the same age as her.
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And I just remember that there was another time when I refused to apologize (the same situation), I was so stubborn that the teacher made me stand in front of the class for her lesson for not apologizing, the other kid could sit because she has done it. I told my parents about this and the next day they came to this teacher in her office and angrily complain about it and then the teacher finally apologize to me in sweet, innocent manner.

My parents told me that I don’t have to be afraid as long as I’m not wrong, or completely wrong.

@CWOTUS Is it effective? It’s not going to solve the issue when both opponents still hate each others, in reality. Teachers could do that for their satisfaction, not the kids. Unless, the kids are wrong and don’t know that apologizing is appropriate and necessary in certain times.

CWOTUS's avatar

I think you missed the main point I was trying to make, @Your_Majesty. The teacher has, or should have, zero interest in the dispute itself outside of its relevance to her lesson plan. She shouldn’t care one whit about how the children ultimately resolve it. All she needs to do is preserve order and get on with the lesson.

I think I agree with @SpatzieLover that there are certainly better ways to do what the teacher attempted, and maybe that teacher could stand to educate herself about conflict resolution as it relates to adolescents. (I think “making the children smile at each other” is somewhat ludicrous.) But I repeat: it’s not her main objective to “resolve” the dispute. Her interest is in getting past it and getting the classroom quiet again.

Your_Majesty's avatar

@CWOTUS But why force them to apologize if, as their teacher, she could stop the fight during her lesson (with strict consequences), and continue teaching her lesson? If it’s not her main objective to resolve the dispute.

If she doesn’t want to resolve the actual situation she should have nothing to do with it.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

No they shouldn’t be but I believe the teachers know it doesn’t do crap when they make this exercise but they don’t actually want to deal with it so that’s it.

Blueroses's avatar

Pre-teens are so socially self-conscious that making a spectacle of the fight was probably the worst thing the teacher could have done. It only added fuel to the flames. Now the girls hate each other for the original reason plus for getting each other humiliated.

I can see the point of getting the classroom back into order but if it really is the teacher’s job to instruct the students about civilized behavior and expectations, this is a poor lesson. You can’t force forgiveness, you can only force action.

JLeslie's avatar

Yes. They should be forced. The smile might be a little much, and they should not have to touch each other.

SpatzieLover's avatar

@JLeslie Forced to forgive or forced to end the fight/disagreement?

Aethelflaed's avatar

This was always an issue with me: I didn’t really have a problem with having to apologize, it was that I had to apologize and mean it. You can’t force someone to feel anything, so all this ever taught me was that I should not only lie, but be really good at lying. I am. I think this teacher’s heart was probably at least a bit in the right place, but she didn’t go about it very effectively, and she went too far. There are ways to teach empathy, but this isn’t one of them.

JLeslie's avatar

@SpatzieLover Here is where my mind is at. My husband’s family does not apologize generally. They are very passive aggressive and silent treatment oriented, they rarely clear the air when there is a disagreement. I think it is awful. I think children should learn to make up quickly when they fight with their friends or whoever. Not if it is something dire of course, then it might be more complicated. But, a small spat should easily be rectified with an I’m sorry, and apologies accepted. Of course adult relationships are more complicated, but it is a mind set. Anyway, my experience with my husband’s family is if someone apologizes or wants to make a bad situation better, the other person never comes back with, I feel badly too, let’s talk it over. Rather, they think, see, she apologized, she was wrong, what a bitch. I would want my children become comfortable, of course it is never comfortable, but more comfortable with the actions needed to apologize, to be forgiving, to not hold onto grudges, and to make up.

What do you think?

SpatzieLover's avatar

@JLeslie I agree that passive aggressiveness is not the way to go.

In this instance given by @Your_Majesty, I feel the teacher was trying to resolve the conflict. However, my point being: How many adults apologize publicly in front of a group? It’s rare, right?

Done properly, the kids may have determined on their own an apology was in order. If the teacher was trying to teach empathy she would have asked each girl how she thought the fight made the other girl feel, prior to the apology.

I had a teacher that would force the “arguers” to go to an area or room alone for 5 minutes to come up with a resolution on their own. If they didn’t have a resolution at the end of their time alone, the disagreement was brought before the class. The class would then have to help solve the conflict. No personal attacks were allowed. Unfortunately, I think this type of teaching is rare. This was a male 6th grade teacher, FWIW. He abhorred classroom drama

My husband’s family is similar BTW. I find it immature at best. Why can’t they just talk openly with one another?

JLeslie's avatar

@SpatzieLover I’ll go along with maybe it can be done in a better way. Part of it probably has to do with the age of the child. Forgiving and apologizing are two different things also of course.

I have never witnessed my niece or nephew being told they have to apologize, and I think it is a mistake. I hope somewhere in their life someone made them do it. When they did something wrong, or hurt someone else’s feelings they were scolded, its not that they were allowed to run wild being mean to others, but they have no practice acknowledging it directly with the person they harmed. Or, how to talk through a misunderstanding, they push away someone who wants clear the air, they never get to forgiveness. Not what I consider true forgiveness. Over time they are willing to ignore the mistakes the other person made. It’s different to me.

SpatzieLover's avatar

@JLeslie I have never witnessed my niece or nephew being told they have to apologize You are correct, that is wrong.

Our son is told what he did, and how we think he is making the person feel. Then we ask him how he’d like it if that was done to him…he answers. Then we say, “Do you think you owe so & so an apology for what you did?” He answers. Then we tell him he must go do that.

I don’t like ignoring the issue. I’d prefer kids were taught actual resolution.

What this teacher taught, IMO, is how not to get caught so you don’t have to go through the shame publicly. IMO, it sets up the dominant personalities to bully and the weaker/shyer persons to give in.

JLeslie's avatar

@SpatzieLover I see your point. But, there should not be shame associated with apologizing and accepting an apology. I understand at times it should be done in private, but the children were yelling at each other in public it seems, so apologizing is not that big of a deal in public too, is it? If I snap at my husband in front of people, I am not afraid to apologize in front of them also.

emeraldisles's avatar

I remember a similar incident happening tome. The principal brought me and 2 other people to a conference room where these 2 guys were forced to apologize tome. I could tell they didn’t mean it just sorry they got caught. I think sometimes they just want to make a show out of it as an example to others. Even though they probably know deep down that its not genuine.

FluffyChicken's avatar

That sort of thing is really good for teaching forgiveness and manners, up until age 6 or 7. It’s an inappropriate method to use with 12 year olds.

Hibernate's avatar

They should not be forced to do it but sometimes when a person is angry he doesn’t really notice what’s best for them.

athenasgriffin's avatar

Children need to be taught the socially acceptable manner to handle disputes. Apologizing is the correct action in such a situation, and the teacher was right to force them to cease hostility. Learning the reason behind an apology comes second to learning how and when to apologize. In any case, children are not very forgiving, it is something that comes with age, I think. Or perhaps repeated instances of such forced apologies make people learn to forgive. Who knows? I was forced into apologies as a child, and I said how much I hated the person afterwards, but I don’t remember one incident now. I don’t think I hate anyone, either.

Response moderated (Writing Standards)
blueiiznh's avatar

Forcing things only breeds resentment.

mattbrowne's avatar

Your concept is an oxymoron. There is no forced forgiveness. Both for children and adults.

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