Politeness and Your Toddler

Please and Thank You

Question

My daughter is almost 2, but "please" and "thank you" are not yet part of her growing vocabulary. I want her to be a polite child. What's the best way to teach her these words?

Answer

This is a great time to teach your daughter the value of manners -- she's just beginning to understand empathy, and she's acquiring language at breakneck speed. Good manners are learned by example and repeated exposure, so be sure that you and your partner say these words to each other for even the most mundane requests, such as passing the salt, says Sheryl Berk, author of numerous books on children's manners, including Mine! Mine! Mine! A Little Help with Sharing (Scholastic, 2000).

Next, prompt your daughter to use the words herself. When she asks for or receives a snack or toy, say something like, "What's the magic word?" and remind her of what she needs to say. If she's successful, let her know what a good girl she is. If not, don't make a big issue of it. It's important not to make this a chore, says Berk. Simply prompting your child will make it more like it's her idea, so she'll be more likely to do it. With enough repetition, you'll hear "please" and "thank you" a lot more often in your house.

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