There’s a lot of differing opinions about manners in the world of parenting. I think the common mainstream idea is that you must teach your child manners by getting them to say please and thank you as soon as they’re talking even a little. Reminding them to say these things when they’re needed and sometimes not giving them something or moving on until they say it. My point of view is I don’t teach Tulip any other words or skills in this way, so why teach manners this way? I do get why parents do it, even I some times want to make her say please when she ‘demands’ something of me. But I have to remind myself that she is only 2 and she is not purposefully trying to be demanding, she is just using the words she knows to communicate with me.
I’m not saying I don’t think children should learn to say please and thank you. I’m just saying I don’t believe it should be forced or even reminded necessarily. Like all other things, I do my best to model the behaviour I want her to learn. I make sure I always say please and thank you to others and to Tulip in the right context. And when someone gives her something or does something for her I have always said thank you on her behalf. In the past couple of weeks she has often started saying “no thank you mummy” when I ask her if she wants something or wants to do something and she doesn’t. She sometimes says “thank you” if I do something for her. She has also started sometimes saying “please” when she’s asking for something. I have never told her to say these things and I have never prompted her to say them. Like all the language she has learned she has picked up on it from listening to others. I feel in doing this this way she will learn to be more genuine and will remember her manners more than if I was constantly prompting her.
I remember a while ago reading a thread on a parenting group about this exact topic. One person pointed out it’s like if you were in a foreign country, barely spoke the language, were trying to ask for directions in their language and the person made you say please before they’d help you. I really liked this analogy. And imagine if you didn’t even know how to say please in that language so had no idea why this person was insisting you say some random word.
I have the same approach for “sorry”. I don’t believe making a child say a word teaches them to have empathy. It’s just a word and in a way it teaches them they can do anything they want as long as they say sorry after. If my daughter has hurt or upset someone, I say sorry to them for her, because I genuinely mean it, and then I explain to her why they are upset. Like please and thank you, I fully believe she will continue learning by example.
I remember as a chid being prompted to say things just made me embarrassed and not want to say them. So this is a big reason I don’t do that as a parent.
Some may not agree with me but as is the theme of this blog, I just wanted to put across another view point that is different from the mainstream.