Oh yes they are! But what’s more important is how we teach them to our children. We all do the ‘Say please’, ‘Say thank you‘, ‘Say hello’, Say ‘bye bye’ routine on a regular basis. I hear my mother’s voice coming out of my own mouth when I say to my little girl ‘Have you any manners?‘ and ‘Yes…. what…?’. And then there’s the raised eyebrow which at least is silent I suppose! And how could I forget the holding onto the requested thing until I get the please !
The problems with the usual way of teaching manners
There are two main problems with this way of doing it. Number 1 making it into a command is a pressure on a child’s speech and not very helpful when they are learning to talk. The second, possibly more serious problem with it is that while (to some extent) we can make them say please and thank you, we can’t make them feel gratitude or appreciation. And I know which I’d prefer! It makes me so happy when I hear my little girl request something politely or say ‘No thank you’ of her own accord. It always surprises me and warms my heart.
This is a really hard habit to change! But here are 3 suggestions to try.
#1 Be the change you want to see.
We’ve all heard this quote somewhere or other and manners is a good place to apply it. If we’re not consistent in our own manners how can we expect our littleys to do the same. It’s not fair to have a ‘Do as I say and not as I do‘ approach! So what this means is that we use please and thank you consistently and authentically when interacting with our children. And when interacting with other grown ups. We can take the focus off trying to get them to perform and focus on modelling what we’d like them to do instead. Don’t worry about the stray ‘Say please’- it’s very hard not to but it’s just a reminder to try a different way.
#2 Focus on what you want and not on what’s missing.
So the idea here is that rather than focus on when they don’t say please or thank you, we catch them when they do use them spontaneously and we remark on it. Saying something like ‘lovely manners or ‘It feels so nice to hear please or I feel like (doing whatever it is) more when I hear please and thank you.‘ And then moving swiftly on; not making too big a deal of it and focusing on how it made you feel rather than on the fact that they said it.
#3 Try saying this instead
Have to give credit to the wonderful Gordon Neufeld for this idea- you can say ‘If you have a good bye in you, now would be the time to say it or ‘If you have a hug for Granny, now would be a good time’. If they do, they do and if they don’t they don’t. And you just model what you want to them to see- people saying hello & good bye, please and thank you.
So you don’t have to abandon manners entirely just take a more undercover approach!
Please let me know how you get on in the comments below- I’ll be dying to know!
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