Yom Kippur and the lesson of sincere remorse

Forced apologies is a common parenting practice I despise.

Let me be clear, I believe we need to encourage our children to think about their actions and be mindful of when they make mistakes. However, there’s a difference between telling a kid to parrot the words “I’m sorry” to another and teaching them genuine remorse.

When a two-year-old shoves another child at the playground, they are not being “bad,” they are engaging in typical “cause and effect” behavior. They want to see what happens when they do stuff, whether it is appropriate or not. Of course, the behavior should be addressed and an apology on behalf of the child is worth offering, as while the toddler may not feel sorry, us parents can definitely feel remorse for our kids’ actions.

Older children, particulary those in early elementary age group, are capable of understanding their mistakes and taking appropriate steps to make amends. With my own kids, if they do something wrong, I take a moment to talk with them and let them come to an understanding about why it is a problem. If the action caused harm to another, I invite them to go with me to check on the harmed party, and make sure they’re OK. Often this will include a formal apology, but not always. And if the apology feels forced or insincere, I know they do not truly understand what they did wrong.

The video below illustrates the Jewish concept of “slicha,” the act of apologizing for wrongdoing. Beyond teaching genuine remorse, I like the idea expressed in the video below of not only apologizing but righting the wrong.

“Teshuvah,” or repentance is the heart of Yom Kippur observance. Not only do those of the Jewish faith seek forgiveness for individual transgressions, but we also atone together for harm we have done as a community.

The ideal of atoning together is agreat for teaching our kids that while we may be individuals, our actions impact others. From throwing garbage on the ground to calling someone a mean name, these actions can have leave a lasting impression.

Yom Kippur never makes the top five or even top ten of favorite Jewish holidays — I mean who loves a day of not eating? — but if you viewed with a deeper perspective, we can see this holy day is full of meaning and personal reflection.

This is a holiday that was focused on mindfulness before it was a trend. Yom Kippur is a wonderful way to teach children self-reflection and self-awareness.

PJ Library,a program that provides free books to Jewish families, offers lots of resources to help kids better understand the concepts of apologizing and forgiveness, as well several ideas to get kids engaged in Yom Kippur.

Of course, children aren’t the only ones who need help understanding how to be sincere in their remorse. How often do we as Jews on Yom Kippur say the words of the atonement prayers without actually reflecting on their meaning? Perhaps this is the year to really think about what we are asking forgiveness for.

For more information and to sign up for PJ Library, click here.

Disclaimer: As a PJ Library influencer, I am compensated for promoting this program. All opinions expressed are my own.

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