When teaching 9-12 year old children I discovered that a simple, direct, sincere, and tension-busting way was needed to express one’s ownership of mistakes. Children often laugh when something goes wrong, so the expression needed to include humor and a feeling of light heartedness.
I decided to print the word “oops” as large as possible using the computer. I then mounted the words on black paper. I put one by the sink and two others around the room. Oops was a perfect word to use because it could be a part of an immediate apology when needed. The younger children enjoyed it as well. (While writing this, I looked up “oops” in an online dictionary. In a sidebar, I noticed that the word for “oops-a-daisy” in German is “hoppala”, which I remembered my German grandparents had often used. Back then I didn’t know what they were saying, but now I do!)
After my success with “oops”, I discovered another face-saving way to ask for forgiveness. While giving a group presentation, I realized that I needed to get to the point of the lesson so as not to lose their attention. I spontaneously said “I am aware I have made this lesson too long; love me anyhow, ok?” The children thought I was being funny. With time, the children started saying it to one another.
Children need to know that accidents happen or that we don’t always think before we speak. They need to feel comfortable about being human. Using “oops” and “love me anyhow” seem to be good ways to start the process of forgiveness of ourselves and others.