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by JoAnn Hibbert Hamilton

The basketball coach at the high school was exasperated as he stopped me, "You gave me another boy who spends all his time on the basketball floor apologizing."

Because of the nature of the sport there was body contact on the floor and it was ingrained in the boys to apologize when they bumped someone because they had been taught very young to do so.

I taught them when they were young because I have tall boys who at age six had lots of height and body weight and no coordination. They would play tag at school and accidentally knock down whomever the tried to touch. Yes, I taught them to say, "I'm sorry," so they still had friends at the end of each day. I didn't realize at the time what a good habit that was.

So many wives acknowledge that their husbands just cannot say, "I'm sorry." And there are wives who are always right and can't say these words either. What a blessing to the marriages of our children if we teach this simple principle to the when they are children. It's really okay to make a mistake. Everyone makes them.

"Have you noticed that the parents who yell the loudest about responsibility seem to have the most irresponsible kids??It's a fact: Responsibility cannot be taught; it must be caught?To help a child gain responsibility we must offer that child opportunities to be responsible." (Ibid.) Then as responsible acts get noticed, the child increases his behavior in those areas. Self-esteem grows as the level of responsibility increases.

Someone asked me once when I was encouraging a young child to say, "I'm sorry" if I thought the child was sincere. I didn't think he was, but even so, just the habit of saying those magic words was a beginning.

And then I remember disciplining a child for something he had done wrong. Later I found he hadn't done it. "I'm so sorry" were magic words as I hugged the child that I had misjudged. I'm glad I learned that I could be wrong when I was a child and then what I had to do to try to make it right.

It's so easy to be wrong and all of us make mistakes. It's wise to teach our children this. I like this story:

A woman was waiting at the airport one night, with several long hours before her flight. She hunted for a book in the airport shop, bought a bag of cookies and found a place to drop. She was engrossed in her book, but happened to see the man beside her, as bold as could be, grab a cookie or two from the bag between, which she tried to ignore, to avoid a scene.

She read, munched cookies, and watched the clock as the gutsy "cookie thief" diminished her stock.

She was getting more irritated as the minutes ticked by, thinking, "If I wasn't so nice, I'd blacked his eye." With each cookie she took, he took one, too. When only one was left, she wondered what he'd do.

With a smile on his face and a nervous laugh, he took the last cookie and broke it in half. He offered her half as he ate the other. She snatched it from him and thought, "Oh brother! This guy has some nerve, and he's also rude. Why, he didn't even show any gratitude!"

She had never known when she had been so galled and sighed with relief when her flight was called. She gathered her belongings and headed for the gate, refusing to look back at the "thieving ingrate."

She boarded the plane and settled in her seat. She sought her book, which was almost complete. As she reached in her baggage, she gasped with surprise. There was her bag of cookies in front of her eyes.

"If mine were here," she moaned in despair, "then the others were his and he tried to share!"

Too late to apologize she realized with grief, that she was the rude one, the ingrate, the thief!

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