A Phoenix Burning

Parenting Teenagers for Dummies

Never do I feel more unintelligent than when I am talked into circles by my beautiful, talented, intelligent, exhasperating teenager.  When my old fashioned values collide with the popular societal beliefs of today, I am at my most challenged.  And I’m not talking the Big Stuff…I’m talking the Little Stuff that has gone by the wayside to create a society that is all about the “ME.”

The discussion in my house last night was about the word, “Sorry.”  It calls to mind the Elton John song, “Sorry seems to be the hardest word.”  My Darling Girl’s argument, “Don’t you think if someone says ‘sorry’ they should mean it, and if they don’t mean it they shouldn’t say it?”

Of course, I am of the view that saying “sorry” is the “right” thing to do when you know you’ve done something wrong or have hurt someone (even unintentionally) whether you “feel” sorry in your heart or not.  The act of saying sorry is a right act.  Period.

The counterargument, “But isn’t that fake?  It takes me time to cool down and feel sorry, so shouldn’t I wait and say sorry later when I feel it?”

*sigh*  “Yes, you should say it once you feel it, but you should also say it if you don’t.  Two apologies are better than no apologies, or an apology said too late, even if one of them was not heartfelt.”

“But Mom, that is so fake!  That’s like those people who act all happy when really they are SO messed up inside!  Saying you are sorry when you aren’t, isn’t that the same as lying?”

{Oh, Dear Lord, help me now…}


So I get on my pedestal, and I start to preach.  I point to the sign above the window in my kitchen that says, “Because Nice Matters.”

“This new fangled notion of the “ME” being the most important thing is all bass ackwards in my opinion and the root of many of societies problems.  Today’s young people think that if they don’t ‘FEEEEEEL’  it, they shouldn’t have to ‘do’ it.  It is a selfish concept.  Apologizing to make the other person feel better and less wronged is the first step in the right direction, whether you “feeeeeel” it at the moment or not.  And I don’t believe in apologizing if you haven’t done anything wrong, but when you *have* and the only thing stopping you from saying that little word “sorry” is your anger and pride, then YES you SHOULD say it!  Why?  Because nice DOES matter.  Think of the other person, sacrifice your comfort level for the moment, and say sorry.”

{There, that should do it.}

“I see your point Mom.  But I also see the other side too.  I wonder which side is really right?”


“I am.  Tell me this…what would God want you to do?”

{Ha, I’ve got her now!}

“He would want me to say sorry even if I don’t feel it because it’s the ethical thing to do.”


But as she walks away, I can’t help but feel that my own values have been challenged, and she has quite effectively made me chew on my own beliefs.  I ponder and I wonder, “Does she have a point?”  What is the word “Sorry” if there is no sorrow or regret behind it?  An empty word?  Or is it filled by the rightness of the act of being said, and in itself, worthy of utterance for it’s own sake?

I must think on it more.

However, I am sticking to my original premise, “Because Nice Matters.”

I am left believing that I may have “won” this small battle of ethics, but not the War of Ethical Behavior…because what is Out There screams louder than I do, and that lifestyle path Out There seems at first glance to the very young, more colorful and inviting than the lifestyle path that I am offering, tangled with weeds of resistance and thorny bushes of unacceptance.

Man, this Parenting thing is hard work.

The embodiment of "Generation Z"-Her iTouch ran out of charge, so here she sits on my kitchen counter, plugged in, texting on her phone.

So what do you all think?

Say sorry only if you mean it?  Or just do it?  Discuss.


7 responses

  1. And yes, I told her to drop the iTouch and get her tush off my kitchen counter once I had taken the photo! LOL

    February 9, 2011 at 9:51 am

  2. Three things come to mind. No, four.

    I didn’t feel like getting out of bed and walking the dogs at dark-thirty this morning, but it was necessary. Apologies are necessary.

    There is a practical reason for apologizing when you know that you have wronged someone. It helps everyone, including you, to get past the conflict and deal with whatever the problem might be. (I have been a certified mediator for six years and nothing–nothing–moves a resolution forward like extending a simple apology.) Apologies help.

    There is a loathsome practice in contemporary politics wherein a person who has behaved badly and is called on the bad behavior smirks piously and says “I’m sorry if you feel that I offended you.” This is the sort of thing that has turned our civic life into a cesspool of escalating sliminess and given our children the idea that apologies are suspect. Cynical weasel words are not apologies. Do not confuse such abominations with real apologies, which may not be “heartfelt” but are honest acknowledgments of a wrong done.

    A great writer, Miguel de Unamuno, wrote most powerfully of the dilemma of longing to believe. One of his characters says “I cannot pray–I do not believe.” The priest in the story says, “Pray as if you believed. The belief will follow.” An appropriate apology can often lead to an appropriate remorse.

    None of the screaming out there can compete with a determined, loving, self-disciplined parent. Good for you for articulating your values and expectations. You are going to win in the long run. It’s just that sometimes it will seem like a longer run than you’d hoped for.

    Thus endeth the sermon. Cool photo!

    February 9, 2011 at 12:23 pm

  3. I kind of agree with both of you. Yes, you SHOULD say you’re sorry, but, you should also mean it.
    On one hand, an empty apology doesn’t mean anything, but on the other hand, it means more than not saying it at all… but it would mean even more if you really ARE sorry. Does this make any sense?

    February 10, 2011 at 9:33 am

  4. Zandic

    This is real easy for me. Apologies are not for the giver. They are for the receiver. You say you are sorry because you have wronged someone and you need to fix it before God sets your genital hair on fire. If you don’t feel it, that is sad, because as a normal human and as a decent Christian you SHOULD be truely sorry. If you give a “fake” apology you meet the letter of Gods law and can avoid the burning of your short and curlies.
    I swear that when kids get older than 10 you have to subtract 10 to figure out their mental age. Big girl is 13 so mentally around 3. My 3 year old is asking what bones are made of and if that same stuff makes up dog bones. He wonders why Bob the Builder builds things and Handy Manny only fixes things. These are philisophically deeper than the question at hand. Why should you say you are sorry? Because it is the right thing to do. It is what her parents taught her and she should learn to do it or prepare for for the fire.


    There’s a call that rings from the throne It springs
    to those have gone astray,
    saying Come ye men and your load of sin
    There at the altar lay
    You don’t seem to heed for the chain of greet
    Still crushes your desire
    Be assured my friend if you still offend
    He will set your fields on fire

    If you don’t from sin retire He will set your fields on fire
    You have heard Jesus call And in death your soul must fall
    But my friend if you desire You may join the Heavenly choir
    And rejoice with Him free from every sin
    When He sets this world on fire

    You have heard His voice, seen the sould rejoice
    That trusted in His grace
    You have blushed with sin as He knocked within
    But still you hide your face
    From the blessed lord and His own true word
    But still you say retire
    Leave the downward path, kindle not his wrath
    Or He’ll set your fields on fire

    AMEN Baby.

    February 11, 2011 at 12:56 am

  5. Jennifer A (Bread and Putter)

    This is a really sore subject for me because I am a stepmother. It is MUCH harder for me to impose my values on my stepchildren. And kids today never want to admit that they are wrong so what would they think they needed to apologize for? Everything is our fault. Particularly mine, the evil stepmother.

    I recently had my 23-year-old stepdaughter want an apology from me for something I said to her when she was 17. I employed hyperbole to make my point about how what she did was wrong. She wouldn’t tell me why she wanted to borrow my car. I told her not unless she told me why and said something to the effect of if you are hiding it from me, what am I supposed to think you want it for – to make a drug deal? So your friends can use the backseat?

    And that offended her so deeply that 6 years later she wanted an apology for it. Yes, really. I refused to apologize for using the English language to make a point.

    Raising children is difficult. I admire your efforts so far. And thanks to Zan for making me laugh with his short & curlies comments.

    February 11, 2011 at 10:38 am

  6. This topic illustrates to me the direction our egotistical society seems to be heading. Yes, apologies ARE necessary and SHOULD be heartfelt if you’ve done someone wrong.

    The REAL lesson here is, realizing that you’ve done someone wrong! I fear that our youth is losing that skill. They really don’t understand, at times, that they’ve actually done something wrong. Having to explain it to them is exasperating!

    I, for one, THANK YOU, for taking the time to debate this with your daughter. I doubt it is the last of such debates, but stick to your guns. The lesson IS getting through! 🙂

    February 15, 2011 at 8:32 am

  7. Thanks to all of you for your thoughtful comments. I have given this a lot of thought over the last several days and I still believe I am dead right. In fact, I’ve gotten more heated about the entire topic as the days have passed. It has grown from a discussion with my daughter, to a running internal commentary on all the ills of a society that is going to Hell in a handbasket.

    This new fangled practice of debating the ethics of ethical behavior is absolutely, positively disgusting!! The somewhat recent notion of “everyone should be allowed a voice and an opinion” is poppycock. Some things are NOT debatable…common decency should not be up for discussion. Some things are NOT open to opinion. We live in a culture that wants to turn EVERYTHING that SHOULD be black and white to grayscale. Heaven help me as I fight the masses to raise these children the right way…and yes, there IS a right way. The end.

    February 15, 2011 at 10:37 am

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