What is the best way to teach my daughter ‘please’ and ‘thank you’?

My daughter is almost two years old and I would like to know how you recommend I teach her about ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. I just spent a long weekend with my almost three-year-old niece who received constant reminders to ‘use the magic word’ and was told she couldn’t get things unless she ‘asked nicely’. It seemed like an exhausting process. Any advice?

I find it sad that some kids are rude.  Rude kids are aggravating to be with. They also may lose out on friendships.  However, a three year old failing to say “please” and “thank you” is not, in my opinion, rude. At age three years, yelling and screaming is rude . Using a hostile tone and demanding “Gimme some ice cream!” is rude, even at age three years.

By about four years, you can have a conversation with your daughter and make a fun game out of “please” and “thank you”. Show her how to say “Please” and “Thank you” and give her lots of praise. Model “Please” and “Thank you” in your family. Even exaggerate it a bit so it is noticeable.

Second, use prompts rather than reminders. Prompts occur before the response is completed. Mom says “Would you like some ice cream?” As the child responds, “yes” but fails to say “please”, mom says “Yes, PLEASE?” in an inquiring and pleasant way. The child doesn’t make any mistake, she is just helped.

The problem that you observed was that these courtesies were being coerced. It wasn’t fun. It was not pleasant. Your niece was being punished for mistakes. She may not remember what the “magic word” is under pressure.

In summary, a positive approach, when the child is ready to learn, is more likely to result in a courteous child.

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