The Toddler has now reached an age when the rules of social behaviour become more meaningful and important: saying please and thank you, sharing your snacks and toys and, of course, saying sorry when you have done something wrong. Please and thank you have so far been very easy to implement. He loves using these phrases, perhaps as they get him drinks and food, and he will repeat: “Thank-oo, Daddy” like a broken record until he gets a satisfying response, like “You’re welcome”. We are having a little more of an interesting time with the concept of “sorry”, however.

We started off teaching him to say sorry by stroking the injured party’s head, back when his speech was a lot less well-developed. This worked quite well and my husband and I would proudly report to each other the lovely, heart-melting moments when he would employ this gesture to apologise for his misdemeanours.

Then I started to hear him say sorry. He would push past me and say “sossy, Mummy.” However, when he had done something wrong and was asked to apologised, he still used the headstroking method instead of the word. I then realised he had picked up one of my little idiosyncracies. One of my persistent mistakes in English is that I will say “sorry” instead of “excuse me” when I want to pass someone. I thought initially that this was a language issue, but while writing this I realised that it was in fact a personality one instead: I seem to feel it is unconscionably rude of me to ask people to move aside. Now, I am passing this on to my toddler, who now thinks that sorry = headstroking and excuse me = sorry. Woops.

His use of the word has developed from there and the jury is still out on whether it is going in a healthy direction. I have noticed that, in addition to using ‘sorry’ for ‘excuse me’, he now apologizes to me when he bumps into something. Again, this is cute but not quite right. Then a few days ago, the Toddler and I were playing with his new alphabet stamps. He was in extremely high spirits and crazily excited about the letters he could recognise: “X! E! M! S!” So excited, that he knocked several stamps on the floor. When the X stamp fell for the umpteenth time, I wearily bent down to pick it up.

“X! lond! [floor] Gotit X?” he asked anxiously.

I returned the stamp and he carried on with his alphabetting. A few minutes later he suddenly said: “Sossy mummy. Sossy mummy,” and stroked my head at the same time. Clearly, this was an apology and not an ‘excuse me’.

“Geeft niet,[That’s okay]” I said, unsure what he was apologising for.

Apparently, my uncertainty showed, as he went on to explain what he was sorry for: “Tempels lond.[Stamps floor]”

He was apologising for dropping things on the floor by accident. Not bad.

Then yesterday he showed things were definitely moving in the right direction. He was waving his arms around enthusiastically and accidentally bumped his sister’s head in the process. I wasn’t even sure he’d noticed, but he stopped what he was doing, stroked her head very gently and said: “Sossy, baby.”


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