New Mama Musings

Saturday, August 18, 2007

"What do you sayyyyy?"

A few months ago Henry started adding "NOW" to the end of his requests, i.e., "Fruit bar NOW."

While it amused me a little to see such a small person demanding what he wanted, it also made me think about the best way to teach Henry civility.

I really, really hate it when parents prompt their kids with "What do you sayyyyy?" or "What's the magic word?" I don't want Henry saying please or thank you merely because it's been drilled into his head to do so. I want him to be polite because he knows it makes other people feel good. Because it makes him feel good about himself. And because it makes the world a nicer place.

I think it's important as a parent to lead by example. So instead of telling Henry he needed to say "please," I started repeating his requests and adding "please" to it. ("You'd like a fruit bar, please? Okay, let's get you one!") And I always make sure to thank him for anything he does to help (or anything he does that he thinks is helping).

Suddenly in the past few weeks my boy is a please-and-thank-you machine. He'll grab something he shouldn't, and when I say, "Henry, please don't play with that," he'll immediately give it to me and say, "Danes you Mommy." (He's a bit mixed up on when to say it, and a lot of the time it comes out "Danes you Henny," but that's okay.)

Now when he wants a treat, he says "Fruit bar pease." When he wants to get up in the morning, it's "All done pease."

The one that gets me right here, though, is "Es (nurse) Mommy pease."

I realize that Henry is saying these things without really knowing what they mean and that this comes dangerously close to him saying it only because it's been drilled into his head to do so. But there's a difference: I'm not hounding him about it; he's picking it up on his own. And that's how kids learn language.

Henry still doesn't say these things at all the appropriate times. And for now other adults don't expect him to. However, even in a year or two, when I might be expected to prompt him, I don't plan on doing it.

I do plan on commenting, "Wow, that was really nice of Isabella's mommy to share their treats with you. Thank you, Jennifer!" or "Grandma drove to a special store to buy that book just for you. Wasn't that thoughtful?"

The idea is to get Henry thinking about other people's feelings. I want him to grow up to say and do things for the right reasons, to be guided by his own moral compass.

Learning politeness on his own -- not with me demanding it from him -- is one step in that direction.


  • This is such a timely and wise post...I've been trying to gently encourage my daugther to say Pleaase lately too. I admit I've said too often "Can you say please?". Now, I'll be even more concious of it.
    Thank you for sharing.

    By Anonymous Leigh, at 11:29 PM  

  • I couldn't agree more. I've promised myself I won't prompt M to say please and thank you. She hasn't picked up please, but she does say thank you -- at the funniest times. I say it most often when she hands me something, so now SHE says it when she hands me something. I think it's adorably cute. She has also said "sorry" a few times (appropriately), which makes my heart squeeze in an odd and bittersweet way.

    By Anonymous gearhead mama, at 8:55 AM  

  • You are such a good and wise mommy.

    By Anonymous allie, at 3:36 PM  

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