So Trump’s latest racist affront has arrived, and as usual, he makes no apologies. And the Republican party wants him to just say he’s sorry so he can end the conversation. As anyone with kids knows, forcing apologies does nothing for the victim or the perpetrator.
Expressing remorse is just the start, though. It’s also about helping the other person (or people) to heal from what’s been done to them. All of that takes tremendous strength. Sadly, the Republican nominee seems to believe it’s a weakness.
How do we teach our kids otherwise?I read a great book called “Enlightened Discipline” that is all about how kids can learn to step outside of the victim and perpetrator roles in a way that’s much healthier for them. So this post is a paraphrase of that method, as I want to spread the word and help more parents (and society at large, since I think these ideas have much wider application than just for kids.)
In a typical situation where kids get into conflict with each other and one is hurt, they are then separated. The victim and perpetrator are then both labeled. The perpetrator is expected to take a time out, might be lectured, and maybe is forced into an apology. The apology often has a rote feeling and brings no comfort to either party.
In the Enlightened Discipline method, the perpetrator takes accountability for the harmful actions and is then expected to help the victim find a way to feel better. This might mean that the perpetrator gets the victim ice and applies it to the injury; it might mean something verbal. But the victim gets to speak up about what would help the most. The victim has a voice, which makes him or her more than simply a victim. And the perpetrator gets to feel like more than a perpetrator, but rather, someone who has owned his or her actions and then made reparations.
At the end, both feel better, and often wind up playing together. That makes sense, because often conflict is between the people who are closest to one another. (That part is probably pretty familiar to us adults–sometimes we behave better and more courteously toward strangers than toward our loved ones.)
The reality is, injuries, slights, and insults happen. Sometimes they’re accidental, sometimes they’re deliberate. Being able to own both our actions and their consequences makes all of us stronger. Recognizing that you’re not perfect, that you make mistakes, and then asking other people how to fix them is actually deeply empowering. It’s about moving forward with love, compassion, and empathy.
So there’s your schoolyard lesson of the day, Mr. Trump.