Teaching children to make amends
I am sure you have read or heard about letting children experience the natural consequences of their actions and behavior. You probably also know that natural consequences linked to behavior are the ones that will have the greatest impact. However, you may still be searching for the consequences that match the behaviors of the children you work with. If you recognize yourself, you are on the right track…
Making amends is a natural consequence that is perfect for repairing human error. When a child commits an action that harms another child, it’s only natural for him to have the desire to perform another action to erase his mistake. Children are learning. As they experiment, they will make mistakes. It’s normal. Making amends represents an adequate method to help them become more aware of the impacts their actions have on others. By asking children to do a good deed to fix a mistake, you are teaching them the difference between right and wrong, what you expect of them.
At what age can children begin learning to make amends? You can in fact begin implementing this natural consequence very early. When they are very young, children are unable to fully understand how their actions affect others. Know that the ability to reflect on their actions and break out of their self-centeredness, an important step, is very rarely achieved in the preschool years. Nonetheless, teaching children to make amends at a very young age can be helpful in the future. Indirectly, children learn that when they make a mistake, they can fix things and redeem themselves. You are helping them understand the fact that as humans, we are all entitled to making mistakes.
Three conditions must be respected to efficiently make amends.
- The intervention must be performed with a neutral, democratic, and respectful voice that expresses no emotion.
- The action must be directly related and proportional to the child’s behavior.
- You must accompany the child and guide him as he makes amends.
If you take a few minutes to observe and analyze your interventions, you will surely be able to target a few situations for which making amends would be appropriate. I strongly encourage you to implement this type of intervention. Here is a simple trick: identify a simple situation and every time it occurs, encourage children to make amends. Be consistent and congratulate children for their efforts. In doing so, you will preserve their self-esteem and put a positive spin on your interventions.
Maude Dubé, Specialized educator