Miss Manners

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Categories Behavior, Preschoolers, ToddlersTags , , ,

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:

Daniel says "thank you"

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?

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19 thoughts on “Miss Manners”

  1. We’ve never taught our girls manners per se, but we’ve been meticulous about modeling good manners from the beginning. They had great manners for a long time, but things went a bit downhill once they started preschool. They’ve needed reminding and reinforcing. No idea if it is the age or bad habits being pick up at school.
    .-= Rhonda´s last blog ..New Haircuts for all =-.

  2. I am so with you on this one. I am constantly on them about saying please and thank you. I read somewhere that nothing is as effective in teaching your kids manners as modeling the behavior, but I still remind them to say it all the time. I can’t stand it when they demand things (which they do often…they are kids after all)…it really is one of my pet peeves. So, I won’t give them whatever it is they want until they ask nicely. Is that old fashioned? I just think it is polite.
    .-= Erin´s last blog ..Remember us? =-.

  3. Same thing at our house. My husband is the one who has been prodding them to say thank your for the _____ during dinner time. And mine ( 2.5 yr olds) do the same thing with naming each item. They also have the “No thank you” down pretty well (I think the daycare one is big on that one). I also think manners are MUST when dealing with their constant demands. If they didn’t say please while they spewed out their “I want, I want, I want..”, I would go crazy! A “please” certainly helps break up the monotony of hearing “I want _____”

  4. We model good manners and I often ask them to say please which Penny will do with a sign and word that sounds vaguely like please. Ned will say it when he wants something. Thank yous have been impossible to get them to say or sign – you can’t really “bribe” thank yous they way you can with pleases (since they want what they are asking for).
    .-= Mommy, Esq.´s last blog ..Mother’s Day 2.0 =-.

  5. My nieces were taught “yes, please” and “no, thank you” right off the bat. It’s funny to hear them yelling angrily “NO THANK YOU!!”
    I don’t think it’s ever too early for good manners. Like you said, preventing bratty behavior is easier than correcting it.

  6. Oh yes! Manners from the start. My parents never taught me manners – no “thank you”, never a “please”, no RSVPing, no thank you cards, nothing. These are things I’ve learned as an adult, and I don’t want to cripple my kids in that way. We signed “Please” and “Thank you” too.

    Of course, now I have to teach my kids not to say, “I said thank you but the nice lady didn’t say ‘Welcome’ OR ‘De nada’.”

    I have a friend I adore, but who parents differently than me. The last time I told my kids we were going to her house, my girls asked about her kids, “Do they have manners yet?”
    .-= Sadia´s last blog ..Big weekend: Part 1 – Birthday party =-.

  7. Not a twin mama, but thought I’d comment anyway. We’ve always insisted on basic manners because I never wanted to have a child that was demanding, whiny, bratty…not that she’s perfect all the time, but she is good most of the time. She still needs to be reminded occasionally how to ask for things nicely (“May I have more milk please, Mama?” vs “I want milk!”) and we’re grateful that her DCP insisted that all her kids ask to be excused from the table. (We’ve been happy to reinforce that one and kicked ourselves for not thinking of it on our own!) It makes me smile when she thanks me for cooking dinner or tells a stranger “please” or “thank you.” It feels like maybe I won’t be a total failure as a parent after all. 😉

  8. My twins are almost 21 months old, & have gotten good at “please” & “thank you.” We’re starting to work on “you’re welcome,” “no ma’am” & “no sir.” I say the earlier the better!
    .-= Alli´s last blog ..Crafty Creatures =-.

  9. You know me—never too early to enforce good behavior!! We have been big on please and thank you since the signing days (in fact, at age 3, the thank you sign if still left). I still prompt with the please thank you—-somehow it seems less of a nag if I sign it instead of asking them to say it. I firmly believe that if it becomes a habit, then its much easier for the child to do than if it is something “new’ you introduce at three. The newest favorite is holding the door for someone. It’s actually pretty funny when Abigail gets shy about doing it at the last minute and then runs off, letting the door slam on that person coming through it. As you can see, much of this is a work in progress.

    We’re also working on picking up after yourselves, which to me is sort of the same thing as manners. Putting your clothing in the basket, cleaning up your own toys, putting your plate in the sink—all part of growing up to be responsible bigger people.

  10. Kudos to all of you! I try to remind my girls about saying please and thank u but it gets exhausting! One thing our daycare mom has managed to teach my girls is to chew with their mouths closed. They are three! I would have never even though to do that, and I wouldn’t believe it if I didn’t see it, but my girls dutifully chew (most of the time) with their mouths closed.
    .-= Lena´s last blog ..The Red Leotard =-.

  11. We’ve worked on manners with our son since he was using signs, and of course we modeled manners before that. He still sometimes does “please” and “thank you” signs, or he can be prompted if one of us does the sign. Our girls haven’t picked up on signs as much as he did (probably because we haven’t been as consistent), but we’ll work on please and thank you as soon as they start talking or signing.

  12. You are my hero. I think it’s very important. I will admit I haven’t been as diligent on enforcing the sign language, but I do constantly model the behavior. My daughter is good at thank you and you’re welcome, but please is still a battle.

  13. I agree with you completely and also started on the manners very early. I hate it when kids are rude to their Mom and Mom lets herself be treated poorly. We try to always say please and thank you and prompt the kids for “nice asking” if they forget. But I am happy to say, that nice asking has become second nature and they often say please and thank you without reminders!

    I have also had the kids help with the thank you notes. At first it was just coloring a picture, but now I have them tell me what to write – generally something about how they liked the gift. I was very proud to hear my daughter say “I like the slippers and we are going to write you a thank you note!” for the last gift she received! :-)

  14. Absolutely! My kids are almost 3 and do not get what they are asking for until uttering a request in the form of “May I have more please?’ usually repeated after me, but every now and then of their own volition (thrilling!) We are also working on the whining, telling them we don’t listen to little girls/boys who complain. The daycare tells us how mannerly they are, surely even better than at home. Zach did cry for the whole way home once when the lady in Target did not say ‘You’re Welcome’ when he thanked her for his sticker…

  15. Manners are such a big deal in our home that I got scolded the other night. “Take small bites mama!” Once I demonstrated that I could indeed take small bites, I got a proud “Good Job!” from both F and J.

    Heck, we even thank the automatic doors for opening up for us! (I hope the kids forget about this one before they need therapy.) But in my opinion, teaching them gratefulness and graciousness is just as important (if not more) than ABC’s and how to count, use scissors, etc.
    .-= Krissy´s last blog ..Professional Pictures-Age (Almost) 3 =-.

  16. We’ve done manners from the very beginning as well, first with signs and now with words. The Baby Signing Times DVD and Choo Choo Soul were awesome introductions, and I am sure to model the behavior always.

    I think manners are very important. I love love love to hear their little “Thank you’s!” when I give them something.
    .-= Erin´s last blog ..Tunnel! =-.

  17. I agree with what some others have said about modeling the behavior, from manners to even something like showing them how hard you work to keep your household running, i.e. cleaning, laundry. We always insist on please, sorry, and working on thank you, for our 2 yr old twins. And I also give them the opportunity to help out with putting clothes away (as long as you don’t mind refolding them) and doing light cleaning. It’s important that they see how hard it we work and grow up appreciating it. I wasn’t raised that way, so when my “non-modeling” mother tried to stick us with chores at a too late age, we were resentful and didn’t care.
    .-= Leigh Ann´s last blog ..Books about multiples for all ages =-.

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