Manners are huge, right? But here is the thing: they are not huge. I am all about raising polite kids. I spend very little time worrying about my kids growing up to be successful. I do spend quite a bit of time worrying about raising my kids to be nice to other people. So, why don’t I think manners are huge? Because I am dealing with toddlers. That’s why.
My reason for not requiring “please” and “thank you” is a two part reason. So stick with me. The first one is simple. I think it is stupid to make a kid say “please” and “thank you” for food that they don’t want or think they don’t want. Yeah, I said stupid. I am allowed to. I am a grown up. Just ask Hank. But seriously, if you have a kid who is already squirming and grumping because they don’t want peas….don’t give them peas and tell them to “say thank you.” This is ridiculous. Don’t do that. Don’t add stress to your kiddos already stressful meal time. And also, you have very few moments to scarf down your own food…don’t waste those moments telling your kid to use their manners.
And then there is the whole teaching your kids to be genuine thing. If you spend a ton of time with me and my kiddos, you know that I rarely do that whole “What do you say?” thing. You know the thing I am talking about. I don’t say “What do you say?” because I say “Wow, thanks! Hank, isn’t it nice of her?! She set up the pool for you!” And do you know what almost ALWAYS happens? Hank says “Yeah, thank you! I love ……” Because kids learn through modeling!
And something even better….it becomes genuine! Hank is starting to say “Thank you” all on his own! It is never just “Thank you,” it is always something even bigger and better. “Thank you for making me cookies Mommy. You are a good cooker!” as he chows down. He is not thanking me for forking over a cookie, he is thanking me for what I really did, which makes this mama’s heart a happy one.
Hank picked out special gifts for his teachers to say “Thank you.”
He has started doing it for other people as well! “Grandma, thanks for buying hot dogs to make for lunch! I love hot dogs and ketchup, and my mommy won’t make them for me.” (True story.) “Thanks for playing basketball with me, Papa. You throw the best passes.”
These are the things I want him to be thankful for. And as much as I love him to say “please” and “thank you” for me passing the ketchup, I would rather him be genuine.