You can call me crazy, you can call me old-fashioned. But I say it’s never too early to teach your kids good manners.
I don’t run some kind of courtesy boot-camp at my house. I don’t believe children should be seen and not heard (OK, sometimes I’d like to believe that). My kids can be demanding and whiny, just like any almost-three-year-olds. They (and I, for sure) are far from perfect. But I will admit that it makes this mama’s heart swell with pride when they spontaneously say “please” and “thank you” to me, to each other, and to anyone else.
Laugh all you want, but I insisted on that “please” even back in the sign language days. As soon as I knew they were getting the hang of communicating via sign language, I would ask them to sign “more please” when they wanted a snack. Once they had that pairing down, I added “thank you,” as Daniel demonstrates here (post-graham-cracker) at 18 months:
Today, obviously, I insist that the “please” and “thank you” be spoken out loud, and they actually get upset if someone doesn’t respond with “you’re welcome.” I try to be a stickler for “no thank you” instead of just “no.” And my husband and I do our best to model the behavior and praise it when we see it. I do have to remind them, a lot. But it’s paying off. It’s gotten to the point that, at some meals, my kids will say “thank you mommy for the ___” for each item on their plate at dinner (even if they then have zero interest in trying a single bite), almost to the point of competition: which kid can say thank you for the greatest number of food groups.
But I guess this didn’t strike me as particularly out of the ordinary until I heard someone with similar-aged kids to my own ask when was a good time to start teaching their toddlers some manners. Um, clearly earlier than now, if you ask me!
I get that toddlers are notorious for having poor impulse control, for whining, and for demanding, self-centered behavior. But just because it’s “normal” doesn’t mean we have to roll over and make it seem acceptable. I’m a fan of picking one’s battles, for sure. But this is one, for me, that’s worth fighting. Just like anything else in raising kids, it’s all a lot easier when you set up the expectations as young as possible. Preventing bratty behavior is way easier than correcting it.
What do you think, mamas? Have you insisted on manners from the start? Do you think it’s entirely too much to ask for at a young age? Am I just charmingly old-fashioned? How’s the war on courtesy in your house?