There is a huge difference between teaching children polite manners and asking them to regurgitate phrases like “thank you” and “please”. When we tell children to say polite things or say good morning to others, we are doing more damage than good.
- Simply forcing a child to say thank you or please does not teach the child to be respectful and is actually a disrespectful thing for an adult to do. We would never force another adult to say something that they didn’t feel comfortable with saying, so why do it to our children? The child will not feel grateful and more often than not, you are weakening the meaning behind the words as they become repetitive, drilled responses. A better way is to explain to your child why it is good to say thank you and how they would feel if the shoe was on the other foot. Ask your child whether or not they would feel good if they did something for someone and that person didn’t care.
- Children learn a lot through actions too. By forcing a child to say something, you are teaching them that it is right to tell others what to do. We can easily teach children to say thank you and please from leading by example. Share, express gratitude, show children what it is like to be respectful to one another. When they don’t say thank you or please don’t tell them off, but rather express that you feel sad that they don’t want to say nice things to people that help them.
- By telling children what to do and say, they start to rely on adult intervention rather than their own independent thought. This is also detrimental to children as it stunts their creativity and their confidence when socialising with others.
- Forcing children to say things against their will can also result in a negative attitude to the very phrases that you are trying to teach them to say.
It is the difference between empathy and sympathy. By simply telling children what to say and when to say it, we are not giving children power over their words. We are forcing them to be polite rather than showing them what it means to be polite. Always explain to children why it is nice to say please and thank you but never force them to do it. Show your child how to be polite and you will be giving them a much healthier outlook on what it means to be well mannered.