Manners Maketh the … Child?

The Hollyhock Door

Ever since my son learned to talk, we’ve encouraged him to say “please” and “thank you”. I figured it was a small enough habit that he could pick up easily, but now that he’s reasonably articulate, I find I’m still having to prompt the polite words.

Part of the problem seems to be consistency: he has certain phrases to use at home and different ones at playschool. Plus, now that he’s in a different class with new teachers, there’s a whole new set of sayings to learn. Poor guy, it must be so confusing!

As much as I’m tempted to let a few things go as he adjusts, I just can’t accept grunting and pointing, or “I want that” replacing the hard fought pleasantries of “please may I have …”.

Nor do I think it’s in his best interests.

As an English teacher, I know that this age is critical for developing his language skills. Using polite phrases implicitly teaches him about the facility of language, not just to demand or instruct, but to request, describe and connect with others. For a child who still struggles with precision in his speech, encouraging him to describe what he wants and to ask for it clearly helps his development.

I know there are those who must think I’m too strict when I insist on the “magic words”. There are probably parents and teachers who roll their eyes and think, “oh just let him be” when I prompt ” please may …” before he dutifully rolls out the phrase.

I suppose we all pick our priorities. For some it is cleaning up after yourself. For others it’s potty training and self-care. For me, it’s language, and if I end up with a messy, loquacious four year old in pull-ups, so be it!

What do you think? Do you insist on pleases and thank yous?

Manners to teach kids
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  1. You’re so right. Good manners and habits picked up when young will help them when they’re older. People notice small things like pleases, thank yous and door opening.

  2. Children with no good manners make me so angry. I can’t stand it and I insist on good manners in my children. I have to prompt them sometimes but they do it when we’re out and about and that makes me happy. Great post, thanks for sharing. x

  3. I totally agree and often get compliments about my boys manners. It makes me really proud. It is also a cultural difference as in Holland people are much more direct and don’t say please and thank you all the time. I found that hard to accept and was adamant that my boys would be more ´English’ in this. One thing I don’t insist on is that they make eye contact as my eldest (autistic) really finds this hard. We have taught him to look towards people (for their comfort) but not in the eyes (for his). #brilliantblogposts

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