Manners Matter: Teaching Please, Thank You, and Excuse Me

Welcome to 10 Simple Manners to Teaching Your Children, Day 2!

Saying please, thank you, and excuse me is perhaps the easiest manner to teach, but similarly the easiest to gradually neglect over time. So how do we instill it and keep it there?

Let’s jump right in…please.

The best way.

The absolute best way to teach the basics of please, thank, and excuse me is to use them every day, even with a baby. It should be second nature to everyone in your family, but it has to start somewhere, and that’s usually with Mom.

Say it first.

From the time they’re little, say the words first. With a pleasant (not annoying) smile, you say, “Thank you for dinner, Mommy.” They repeat it if they’re old enough. You say, “May I please have a cookie?” They repeat and get a cookie. You say, “Excuse me, please” when someone is trying to squeeze into that infinitesimal space on the couch beside Mommy. They repeat it, and you scoot over.

I also do this with my babies, even though they can’t repeat it back to me. I also use signs for them, and will sign and say, “please,” and then give them their whatcha-ma-wannit.

Teach it.

Explain when and how to use the words, but then take it to the next step. Make it fun. Bump each other with your bums and say, “Oooo my, excuse me.” Put on fancy hats and say in elaborate accents, “Please, Dahhhhling,” and “Thank you, Sir.”

Discern between stubbornness and a need.

When my little guy is exhausted and is melting into a puddle of boyness and has morphed into a being well beyond reason (because that happens) and he cries, “I want you Mommy” with his arms up, I’m not going to demand a please. (I will usually still say, “Up please, Mommy” and pick him up, but I usually can tell when he has real needs to be met and when training will be counterproductive.)

When my little guy is rested, fed, and asking for a cookie and is stubbornly refusing his “please,” he’s not getting a cookie. (I know–big fat meanie.)

See the difference?

Correct gently and respectfully.

I’ve heard it a thousand times. Yes, rudeness is rude, but attacking it with rudeness is almost never effective. Here’s the scenario:

A child asks Grandma to read a book. Grandma says, “Please?” Nothing wrong with that. But when Grandma sounds affronted and offers a sarcastic, degrading pleeaaase instead of a gentle, pleasant reminder, the effect will be lost.

A child pushes through a crowd and an offended adult says, “Well, excuuuuuuse me!” That child is not  going to learn manners that way. Wouldn’t a simple, polite, “excuse me” with a hand on the shoulder be a kinder, more effective reminder?

Explain the importance.

If your children are old enough to understand (four and above), explain how people feel when you respect them with the words please, thank you, and excuse me. Simple.

Demonstrate the opposite.

Have a dinner or a family night where you remove manners. Instead of “Please pass the salt,” you say, “Hey! Salt over here.” Instead of “Thank you for making the popcorn,” try “It’s about time!” Instead of “Excuse me please,” it’s “Scoot, Kid, or I’ll sit on you.” It’s all in good clean fun, but if your family wouldn’t find this fun or would get carried away, take it down a notch and try the next approach.

A simpler demonstration can consist of asking which makes the child feel better and more respected: “Excuse me, please” or “Move over.”

These simple phrases are the basics of good manners, but, like common sense, darned socks, and homemade chocolate chip cookies, they seem to be growing increasingly more rare. Let’s turn it around.

How do you instill these basic manners in your kids?

This post is part of the Five Days of Homeschool Blog Hop from Homeschool Review Crew.

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