“Thank You” is a Great Sub for Sorry

karen latimer

This is my mean face. Not sure why someone took a picture of it.

Sometimes, I think I must be a really mean mother. Of course, I think this when I lose my sh*t on my little people, which happens — less than it did when I was still elbow deep in diapers — but still too often for my guilt meter. If you have little kids, take solace. It does get easier and easier to keep your cool, but we parents are only human, and we will have our moments. Feeling mean after yelling is natural, but it also occurs to me I may be too tough when my kids are overly polite. Is there such a thing? I think there is, at least when it comes to apologies.

Larry and I focused a lot on the politeness thing when the kids were young, to the point my own mother told me to leave the girls alone. Our thought process was if we instruct early and often, we won’t have to do it for long. It definitely worked, and if you care at all about your little kids becoming big kids you like to be around, I highly suggest hammering home the manners between ages 2 to 5. Your work in that department will then be done, and you can take the phrase, “What do you say?” out of your vocab.

But, did we go too far?

All of my kids, most especially Shane, my youngest, apologize a lot. This morning, “Mom, can I please have some water?”

“Sure, Buddy.”

“I’m sorry, Mom, I’m just really thirsty.”

“Why are you sorry, Bud? Try again.”

“Thanks, Mom.”

“There you go. Better. You’re so welcome.”

He is overly apologetic, saying sorry for just being a little dude who has needs and isn’t perfect. About a year ago, it started to break my heart. I didn’t want him to think he had to apologize for being him. I don’t want him to go through life apologizing when there is nothing to apologize for. The habit strikes me as a sign of someone who is uncomfortable in his or her own skin. A good friend and I talked about it, and she said her husband does the same. He is one of the nicest guys I know, but she said it drives her crazy. She asked him to pause before saying, “Sorry,” and ask himself if “Thanks” would make more sense.

I tried it with my kids, and it works. You will be amazed at how often, “Thank You,” such a powerful and positive sentiment can replace, “Sorry,” which often has more of a negative, guilty slant. You may also be surprised how much easier it is for the recipient to respond. “You’re Welcome,” is way easier than trying to express to someone why they shouldn’t be sorry.

Example: You ask a friend to pick up your child because you get held up. You apologize profusely at your inept parenting, poor organizational skills and for making her go out of her way. She replies by saying she has the same problems, it wasn’t a big deal, don’t ever feel badly for asking, etc. Total time suck.

Try this: “Thanks so much for getting Shane for me.”

Reply: “No problem, anytime.”

As Beiber says, it may be too late to say, sorry, but it is never too late to say, thank you. Gratitude Not Guilt, my friends. Make the substitution. Guilty people are miserable. Grateful people are happy.

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Author: Karen Latimer

Dr. Latimer is a Family Physician and Wellness Coach. She helps clients with parenting issues, the challenges of college and young adulthood and issues related to health and habits. Email her at drkarenlatimer@gmail.com to learn more. She is the author of the Audible Original, Take Back the House -- Raising Happy Parents.


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