Why teaching manners can wait
Updated: Jul 26, 2019
Let me start off by saying we are strict parents when it comes to manners. We expect "yes, m'aam" and "no, sir." We do not tolerate potty talk at the dinner table and our expectation that our children use "please" and "thank you" has been drilled into them since birth.
HOWEVER...as a pediatric speech language pathologist I say WAIT on teaching "please" and "thank you" as some of your child's first words. Why on earth would a sweet southern girl, like myself, say this? Because our children need to learn FUNCTIONAL words first - words that get something DONE.
Lets look at the word "please." Your tiny little toddler looks at you with those big eyes, arms extended and says in his cutest way "pleeeese!" He could be saying "pick me up, please!"
But he could also be saying.....
-Tie my shoe, please
-I'm thirsty, please
-Wipe my hands, please
-I'm tired, please
-I want you to take me home, please
The word "please" could mean a whole host of requests.
Now if he looks at you with those same sweet eyes and says "UP," I would guess that he most likely wants you to pick him up and hold him.
He just communicated exactly what he wanted using a real word to meet a real need. "Please" just can't do that for him right now. Children can start to over-generalize or over-use the word "please" to mean so many different requests and that makes communicating even that much more difficult.
Also, when children use "please" for multiple reasons (to request milk, to ask for help, etc.) they are missing out on the opportunity to learn and use new words and expand their vocabulary.
Can you think of some more functional words? Here are a few of my favorites to teach as early words.
-common nouns they are requesting like 'ball', 'baby', 'milk' are great ones too
Words are magical. They help our little ones control their environment and get what they want. And what does every 2 year old want? - to get what HE WANTS! Let's teach our children functional words that increase their vocabulary and help them to get their wants and needs met. Manner words, such as 'please' and 'thank you', are polite social forms and can be encouraged and expected once your child's language develops. And, using these polite responses will most likely be enforced time and time again (ahem, we are STILL working on this with my 7 year old son!) until it becomes a habitual part of your child's vocabulary.
So in conclusion, PLEASE, wait on the manners! THANK YOU!