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Tips for Teaching “Please” and “Thank You”

Updated: Nov 4, 2021

1. Model the behavior.

  • Adults should say please and thank you to children:

“Please pick up your toys.”

  • Adults should say please and thank you to each other in public and at home.

“Can you pick up cat chow on your way home, please?”

  • If all adults are not on board, that’s OK. It’s OK for there to be different expectations for children than there are for adults. For example, You don’t model going to sleep at 7:00 PM to get them to go to sleep.

  • Modeling alone is usually not enough.

2. Correct the right way.

Do you ever have this exchange?

Child: I want a cupcake.

Adult: What do you say?

Child: Pleeeese!

Adult: Here you go!

The problem: The child may think that this back and forth is exactly what’s supposed to happen. After all, they got the cupcake. They may not realize that you want them to say "please" without being prompted.

The Solution: Give them the exact words you want to hear, and make them say the whole thing again. This let’s them know they’re being corrected.

Child: I want a cupcake.

Adult: Say “May I please have a cupcake?”

Child: May I please have a cupcake?

Adult: Here you go!

3. Correct them every single time.

  • Even at home.

  • Even to you.

  • Even when the request is reasonable or routine.

“I want water.” can be “May I please have water.”

4. Meet them at their level.

  • Nonverbal ---> use the sign language for please

  • Just learning to speak:

“Me” can be “Me, please.”

“I want it!” can be “I want, please.”

  • Older children (4 years and up): Give them more ways to ask nicely. Point out exact phrases they can use.

“Can you get me a fizzy water while you’re up?”

Do you mind if I sit in the big chair today?”

If we want polite children, we need to teach our children to be polite. Coaching manners, being explicit, and teaching social tools is a gift we give them.

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