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Thank You and Sorry - Which is tougher to say?

The best part of being a part of a creche, preschool and daycare in Gurgaon, or even now of online preschool in India, is the beautiful opportunity we have had over the last almost 10 years to interact with children across a diverse age group. We have had kids as young as three months in creche, 2 to 4 years in preschool, and as old as 12 years in our daycare facility in Gurgaon. Quite apart from being the funnest workspace ever, it has also given us some insights into human nature, an opportunity to introspect, to understand how it can sometimes be difficult to practice what we preach...

I want to take here, two phrases in particular - THANK YOU, AND SORRY. These are very crucial parts of our dictionary, yet, our experience with them have given us a lot of food for thought.


Thank you can have two associated connotations - GRATITUDE, and HAPPINESS. Gratitude for receiving help, happiness of say receiving birthday wishes or even better, gifts. Every year, the so many birthdays at our preschool and daycare in Gurgaon have been a joy to behold. The kids - whether the birthday boy/girl, or those eating the cake/chocolates brought by the birthday boy/girl, have no issue saying thanks even 10 times. Same goes when a friend helps the other complete an activity. But, the older the children, the lesser the frequency of saying a thank you. 

And as adults, if we introspect, we will also likely find that pride prevents us from easily accepting help, and our thank yous sometimes don't come from the heart - we are merely completing a formality. When receiving thanks from another person, we can sometimes see this on their face too. So the thing to figure out is, can our children also perceive this in our attitude? And is that why as they grow older, they emulate the same in their behaviour? Are they practicing what we are practicing, and are we practicing what we are preaching?


Lets now come to sorry. Sorry, used right, is for one purpose only - FOR A WRONG DONE TO SOMEONE ELSE. Our experience tells us, that when a toddler under 3 years of age makes a mistake - could be of any nature, accidentally spilling or breaking something, hurting a friend by accident, etc - they are more likely to be scared than anything else. A situation like this, handled with empathy, teaches them that mistakes are natural, the adult in question understands, and if we understand our mistake, we apologize. Such an apology typically comes from the heart.

As the child grows older, it somehow becomes more difficult to say sorry. Even a 3.5-4 year old may not want to say sorry willingly, and a 8-9 year old even less so - as they grow older, a wrong done to someone else can at times be deliberate too, not just accidental. 

Now obviously, this is not true of every child. Many children acknowledge their mistakes as soon as they make them, and are apologetic for the same. Irrespective of the age bracket. But, experience tells us, that sorry is typically harder to say, and only gets tougher with age. 


Coming to the main question we started this blog post off with - out of the two phrases, which is tougher to say? Thinking personally, and looking at our experiences with children, sorry definitely seems tougher to speak out loud as compared to thank you. It is relatively easier to express something out of happiness or gratitude, as opposed to something which is associated with GUILT.


Which leads to the question - if children start off as blank slates, and we teach them all that they know growing up (well, us as parents as educators, and peers as friends), then what is it that makes it tougher to say sorry as they grow up? Introspection time again. 

Let each of us reflect on how easy or tough it is for us to say sorry for our mistakes. When I look at myself personally, then admittedly, I think it is tough to say sorry to those who are closest to us, because typically, these are the people we can hurt the most - even when a thank you may come out relatively easy. It is also tougher to say sorry to peers, than say the children who come to daycare, or to our online classes (possibly because as a teacher I am extremely conscious what I am trying to teach). This may vary for each of you, but are we somewhere conveying to our children, that it is not easy to say sorry to our peers? And are we also conveying that while thank you is ok, sorry is tough?

I will leave you with these questions to think over, while I ponder on them myself. Let's each one of us figure out what learnings we are leaving for our children, and try to practice what we would like our children to practice too.

The day thank yous and sorrys become second nature, the world will seem like a nicer place for everyone :)


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