Wednesday, June 22, 2011

How can I teach my child to be polite?

How many times have you asked your child: “What do you say?” Does repeating that phrase over and over again work? Does your child remember to say “please” or “thank you” the next time it is expected? This tactic rarely works so why do we keep doing it?

I have a better suggestion. In order to do it, you will have to momentarily put aside the idea that your child should be required to say please, thank you, excuse me and your welcome. The truth is that we require our children to say these words because of the expectation of our family and friends. It was always expected of us, so we expect it of our children. If you were to not give the automatic response “what do you say?” when around other parents you might look like a bad mom or dad. And you do it when no one is around to feel like you are doing a good job. If we were honest with ourselves, I think this is the biggest reason most of us do require our children to say please, thank you and excuse me.

Please don’t misread what I am saying. I believe using polite words is an important thing to teach. However, I believe it is more important to teach our children what those words mean and why they should be said. So the real question is how do we do THAT? 
How many times do you ask your child for something and include the word “please” or how often do you say “thank you” when your child does something you ask him to do? The answer is probably not as often as you want your child to.

I found out that I use the word “thank you” way more than I use the word please because my 20 month old daughter said thank you all the time but rarely said please. My husband and I began deliberately saying please more to each other, to others and to our daughter. Guess what happened? She started using the word more too, without ever being required to say it.

Now that my daughter is two and a half she frequently uses her “polite” words. There are times she forgets, because well she is two. Even we adults forget to be polite. When she does forget I will say “please use your ‘nice’ words” or “I like to be asked.” I do not REQUIRE her to say please before I respond to her request. I simply use the phrase AS I hand her what she asked for.

At this point you may be saying, “That’s great if you have young children, but what do I do with my 9 year old that refuses to use nice words?” For that matter what about those teenagers. Check back next week Wed to find out how to encourage polite behavior in older children.

1 comment:

Sherri said...

Once again, proof that modeling is one of the most effective ways to "teach" our children.

I look foward to next week's posting about encouraging polite behavior in teens!