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I am an overapologiser, and I have accidentally as a dad, taught my 3 year old son to do the same.

This is out of courteous behaviour: I will say to him "sorry, x; I forgot you were waiting to", or if I knock into him a little I will say "sorry, x" and lots of other situations as well (fyi, we didn't name him x). I tend to do this a lot as I am a very considerate person, and empathic. I also verbalise my thinking for him to learn from and about. I do however also find being assertive difficult because of fear of confrontation, though I am improving there.

This has led to him habitually saying it over very minor things like "sorry Daddy, I forgot you were getting a towel", or "sorry Daddy I had the wrong toy" etc. It's a pretty ingrained habit now.

Now, I think there's nothing really wrong with saying sorry, as long as you're able to be assertive as well and understand the difference: one is acknowledging that you've caused a trivial inconvenience to someone, and one is feeling bad for something they've done. He does the latter just fine.

To combat this we're taught to thank someone, rather than apologise to them: don't say sorry I kept you waiting, say thank you for waiting. But that's a rather blunt tool in this context.

Any ideas on how to break that habit for him? It seems to me to be quite a mature concept. I appreciate that the change is likely to be something to do with my behaviour since I'm acutely aware that he learns by what I do and how I treat him, and other people rather than what I've told him to say.

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    I think he (and you both) sound wonderful. I apologize to my dogs when I bump into them or cause any pain (and do so emphatically, turning to pet them and reassure them it was not intentional), as well as saying "Please" and "Thank you." I apologize to people in the same manner (well, I don't pet them...), and don't consider myself overly apologetic. But I am most assuredly assertive. Being empathetic and being able to voice your preferences - emphatically if need be - are (imo) two different abilities. May 21 at 15:47
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    I also think that maybe saying "Thank you for waiting" when it's actually you who forgot to do something is kinda but not quite blame-shifting, but can easily move in that direction. May 21 at 15:54
  • aw thank you @anongoodnurse I really appreciate that. Thank you, I suppose I could explore how to teach him assertiveness, which will ultimately come from myself... thank you!
    – ja_him
    May 27 at 10:27

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