Hard for Me to Say ‘I’m Sorry’—by Jamie Levine
My daughter is so stubborn. People tell me that being “strong-willed” will serve Jayda well later in life, but right now, her obstinance is driving me nuts. While it’s true that I’d never want to raise a child who is a pushover, there has to be a happy medium…hasn’t there?
The other day, Jayda’s head teacher called me on my cell phone at the end of the day. She assured me that Jayda was fine, and went on to tell me about an episode that had happened that afternoon in school. Jayda and another girl had been fighting over a toy, and, after awhile, Jayda slapped the other girl. I let out a gasp, and the teacher assured me, “it wasn’t such a terrible thing—the girls were both fighting—and don’t worry, the other girl was just fine,” and then elaborated that the big issue at hand was the fact that Jayda wouldn’t apologize afterwards. Jayda’s teacher had calmly told Jayda, “that wasn’t nice. Please tell your friend you’re sorry,” and Jayda turned away in a huff. The teacher prodded her several more times, and as the class readied itself to go out and play, she finally threatened Jayda, “if you don’t apologize, you’re not going to the jungle gym—you’re staying in the classroom.” Jayda stuck out her lip in her trademark pout, crossed her arms over her chest, and whimpered…but she wouldn’t relent. Finally, ten minutes later, she muttered “I’m sorry,” and ran off. But the teacher was flabbergasted by how long it had taken Jayda to give in; she told me she wasn’t even planning on punishing Jayda for the slapping, itself—it was Jayda’s refusal to apologize that caused her jungle gym privileges to be revoked. Unfortunately, I told the teacher, this is typical Jayda-behavior.
My daughter is generally a good kid, but, like most clever preschoolers, she does know how to push my buttons. Often, she’ll purposely do something she knows is wrong—with a gleam in her eye—simply because she knows I’ll react. For instance, the other night, while I was brushing her teeth, she bit down hard onto my finger. I yelped. I then warned her, “Do that again and you’re going straight to bed without getting any books read to you!” Of course, my daughter did it again. And of course I shuttled a sobbing Jayda off to bed with no books; I always follow through with the threats I make when Jayda misbehaves—and always insist on an apology. But it can take forever to get one. Jayda cries, screams, pouts, stomps around, burrows her head in a pillow, and does everything she can to stall. She knows she’s wrong; she’s clearly admitting she’s wrong—but she won’t give me the satisfaction of hearing her words, no matter how much I ask for them. I do always get my apology in the end, but sometimes the suffering we both go through along the way outweighs the actual bad behavior Jayda exhibited in the first place. Jayda’s obstinance drags everything out.
On the flip side, I must say this behavior does make Jayda’s apologies rather meaningful. I know some kids just blurt out “I’m sorry” within a millisecond of their misdeeds simply to appease their parents, but those kids don’t really feel remorse. Jayda certainly does—it’s obvious. But it still isn’t a very admirable trait. And it doesn’t make her stubbornness any easier to deal with. But that’s probably because I’m pretty stubborn, too; every time my daughter battles with me, I’m determined to battle back just as hard to teach her a lesson. And I’m certainly not going to apologize for that!