Please and thank you

Manners at times are becoming a lost art it seems. I am constantly amazed whenever we are around a large group of children how many of them simply do not think to say “please” and “thank you.” It horrifies me on rare occasions to catch my children amongst them!! Time for a clamp down and some re-training in our household!

As with most child training and behaviours, the failure of my children to use manners when it does occur can usually be traced back to my consistency in enforcing their use. When I let the standard drop, the children do too.

We begin training our children to say “please” and “thank you” as babies using baby signing. From the time they are starting solids we are saying the words for them and signing them at the same time. As they get older, we gently move their hands, helping them to copy the correct sign. At anywhere from around 8 months to 12 months we usually see the first signs being independently used by the children and from that point on will require them to do it before meeting their request.

Once they are able to sign independently, manners are always expected. If an older child forgets to say please or thank you, we may simply hold on to the requested item and make eye contact with the child. After a moment’s pause while they are wondering why we are not letting go, they realise what they need to say and say it, without us having to give a verbal reminder.

We also use a timer. After explaining once or twice what the timer is for and how we will use it, we no longer say anything at all. When a request is made without a “please” we simply grab the timer and turn it over in front of the child who immediately realises what they have forgotten to do. They may not make the same request again until the timer has run out and then it obviously must include the “please” that they forgot in the first place.

Once we consider that the training is complete and an older child is characterised by remembering their manners there may be rare occasions when they forget. For the once-off event, we may simply give them a verbal reminder. If it appears that they are slipping back into a habit of “forgetting” then we will simply tell them that they will miss out completely without the opportunity to try again. We find it interesting to note that our children NEVER forget their manners when there is chocolate involved!

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2 Responses

  1. Hello Ang, great post. I am wondering about baby sign language. My 18 math boy still refuses to sign. I have been hit and miss until this week when I have been consistent with it. I realize he’s now old enough to probably understand what I want him to do. I say the word, do the actions, move his hands, then give him the item he wants, then take it back again and do thwt all over again, over and over again. He still won’t do it. I am just working on “please” for the time being since he’s been so resistant! Any ideas?

    Thank you!

    • Hi Lisa, At 18 months he is well and truly at the stage he should know what he is supposed to do but refuses to do so. (assuming there is no developmental delay etc) If you are sure he knows what to do then I would treat it the same way as any child who was instructed to say please and won’t do it – he just doesn’t get what he wants until he does. Choose a time when he wants something and then demonstrate on yourself while you instruct him to sign “please” If he won’t, leave it a few minutes, instructing him that he can’t have it until he says please. I wouldn’t give him items then take them back again – that could get confusing. If you are going to guide him and he is compliant with that (allows his hand to be moved) then that’s it – he has already said please, just hand it over.

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