Can Child Be Too Polite?

Dear Dr. Sylvia:

Q. What would you do with an 8-year-old student who constantly says “I’m sorry” anytime you have any redirections or just questions about behaviors or classwork?

A. It's hard to know why your 8-year-old student apologizes when you correct him. He may truly want to please his teacher, which is fairly normal at age 8, but it's more likely he's a bit perfectionistic and really feels bad when he makes mistakes. Another possibility is that he has habitually and subconsciously found that people are easier and gentler in their criticism if he apologizes. A simple response like, "That's okay, but do correct your error", would be sufficient for him to know he should do a more careful job next time, but not feel too worried about his mistake. All kids should learn to accept constructive criticism. You not over-reassuring him is likely to diminish the apologies without hurting his self-confidence or his kindness.