What’s one of the first things we teach our kids once they are able to speak? We teach them to say “please” and “thank you”, right? The basic rules of civility and politeness are expected of a child by the time they enter kindergarten. I have observed, however, as adults the more intimate the relationship we have with a person, the less we seem to remember to be polite. We are considered rude if we don’t use these simple words with the strangers we encounter every day - the server at the restaurant, the grocery store clerk, the post office worker, etc. We might use them in the workplace if we are asking something big of someone, but in my experience, many of us forget all too often. What about in our marriages? I don’t know about you, but I have had to learn to be intentional about saying “please” and “thank you” to my husband, but I know that when I do, he feels respected and appreciated. He has actually thanked me for thanking him. Sounds cheesy, doesn’t it, but it truly has a profound effect on our relationship.
When it comes to saying “please” and “thank you'' to our kids, I think we deem it as unnecessary, if not detrimental. Our kids should simply be expected to do what we ask, the first time we ask. Doesn’t saying “please” and “thank you'' to them communicate that we don’t expect them to do those things and they are going above and beyond by simply doing what they’ve been asked? I don’t think so and here are two reasons why:
Just like anyone else, our kids hear that we appreciate and respect them, as well as their time and efforts.
We are modeling good manners for them.
A few years ago, I had gotten into a mode of demanding things from my kids and then getting frustrated if they didn’t follow through. It didn’t make for a very pleasant home environment, and my kids were feeling under appreciated. My son even told me he felt like a slave! (Watch the full story here). Now, he’s been known to exaggerate matters, and he was probably eight or nine at the time, so I took that comment with a grain of salt. Still, I got his point. I needed to change my approach, so I prayed for creativity.
What the Lord impressed on my heart was not as creative a solution as I was looking for. I needed to apply the same intentionality of saying “please” and “thank you” to my children as I had to my husband. Even though this wasn’t exactly a light bulb revelation, it made a big difference in my attitude first, and then in my kids’ over time.
By making sure to say “please” when asking my kids to do something, I was naturally prompted to check my tone. I had to actually look for times to say “thank you” which prompted me to be more grateful for my kids and the various ways they contributed to the overall joy and function of the family. What was their response? Over time, it made a difference in their willingness to do what I asked of them. I noticed less arguing and complaining and more consistent, immediate obedience. And they are more prone to say “please” and “thank you” as well! I’m not perfect, and neither are they, but it certainly is a more peaceful home!
Here are seven ways to cultivate a “please” and “thank you” home:
Say “please” when correcting behavior. “Could you please carry the headphones by the band rather than swinging them around by the chord?”
Say “please” when asking your kids to do chores. “Please put the leftovers in containers and put them in the refrigerator.”
Say “please” when reminding your kids to do something they forgot about. “I think you forgot to clean your bathroom. Would you please do that now?”
Say “thank you” when you notice your child doing something you asked them to do.
Say “thank you” when you notice your child doing something nice for someone else.
Say “thank you” when your child corrects a mistake they made.
Make sure your kids hear you saying “please” and “thank you” to others regularly, especially your spouse.
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