We all want to raise respectful, functional members of society, right? We want our kids to say things like “please” and “thank you.” We want them to be nice and caring and not offensive or rude. So we teach them these things. That’s how this parenting thing works: when we want our kids to act or be a certain way, we teach them. In our family, though, I don’t force kids to use manners.
“What?!?!?!?” you say? That’s right. I don’t force my kids into saying something they may or may not understand just because it implies that they are being more respectful. If they aren’t truly thankful, does it really help YOU feel better that they say otherwise? If they don’t know what it means to be sorry, is it really worth making them say it?
Guess what? My kids are turning out just fine. I have a 6-year-old and 3 ½-year-old twins. They’ve witnessed my husband and me saying these pleasantries over and over again and they’ve managed to pick up on it all on their own.
Don’t Force Kids to Use Manners
Let’s look at two examples:
Child: (With attitude) Can I PLEASE have some water?
Child: (Very sincerely) Can I have more water?
Which do you prefer? Does the act of including the word “please” actually make the first example better when in reality they didn’t mean it and weren’t being respectful when asking? In our family, the answer is no. I regularly opt for the second situation because the child is sincerely asking for help and being kind. Many parents would follow that up by saying something like, “What do you SAY?” We don’t. We choose not to force it.
We teach our kids the politeness of adding these extra words by showing them used with context. We are not hypocritical parents. If I need something from my child, I say, “Can you grab me that towel, please?” I don’t emphasize the please; I ask sincerely. And I say, “Thank you,” when they comply. They see me acting and talking in a certain way, so they accept it as the correct way to do it. This is how kids learn.
Now yes, sometimes my kids start getting a little demanding. They are kids after all. I start hearing a lot of gimme, gimme, gimmes. I take these opportunities, again, not to force them to say a specific word that suddenly makes their demands acceptable, but instead I explain how the way they are asking for help isn’t being respectful and that if they want help, they have to show kindness and appreciation.
I don’t put words into their mouths. I don’t have them repeat after me. I don’t belittle them for forgetting. I use these times as chances to further their understanding of the concept of manners, not simply to teach them the words themselves that are considered polite.
So, just in case you were wondering, my kids do say “please” and “thank you” more often than not, even though in a sense, I don’t force kids to use manners. So something I’m doing is going right.
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Tags: Heather C.