Where O Where Have All The Thank Yous Gone? by Dina Ramon
The other day my daughter’s teacher asked me if I knew that my daughter is the only child in her class who consistently says ‘thank you’ when she is given a cookie or some other treat by a visiting parent or teacher. And because she says ‘thank you’ she gets two of whatever is being handed out. Wow… Really?
Now the point of this retelling is not to brag that my daughter has good manners and is rewarded for that; although I am certainly proud of that as a parent who feels justified that she has done something right. But rather to express dismay and disbelief that out of 20 or so kids in her class, she is the only one who says ‘thank you’ when it is expected and completely appropriate to do so. Unfortunately this is a pattern I have noticed once too often among too many children – they rarely, if ever, say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and it is irritating. It’s not that hard to teach, really it’s not.
I’ve had kids grab things of my hands without asking in front of a parent and the parent doesn’t say or do anything. I’ve had kids demand food or drink without asking ‘please’ or ‘may I have…’ And it annoys me every time. Am I being too sensitive? Old-fashioned? Have unreasonable expectations? I don’t think so. Basic manners are part of the foundation of human socialization and developing relationships. It is not something that should be skimped on. Life is stressful enough, let’s try and make it a little more pleasant by imparting our children with simple etiquette that they will hopefully carry into adulthood.
Beginning when my daughter was about 2 or 3 I starting using a couple of methods, tricks, whatever you want to call them, to encourage her use of ‘thank you’ and ‘please.’ And, I still use them from time to time when she acts a little “diva”-like and gives me attitude. One method is that when she asks for something without saying please, I play hard-of-hearing and fail to respond, even put my hand to my ear to suggest that she isn’t speaking loud enough… she gets the message every time. Another one is that when I hand her something she has asked for and she starts to take it from me, I don’t let go if she doesn’t say ‘thank you’ at the same time. The tug of war is always short-lived and she gets it right away. I encourage you to use these on your own kids, the neighbor’s kids, your kids’ friends….
‘Thank you’ and ‘Please’…. They are just two little phrases that are powerful, and that can help our kids – and us – in big ways.