Saturday, May 17, 2008

Please Please Me

I feel like I need to preface this with:



Anna will not, no never, never ever say please. Unless coerced or prodded with a red-hot poker and then she will spit out a 'plissss' like a basketball leaking air.

It was killing me and I couldn't for the life of me understand it, because she will say thankyou at the drop of a hat (mostly 'aww fanks').'You're welcome' is practically a visceral reflex. You should have seen her puzzlement when in England she would say 'fanks' to my Mum and wait patiently for her to say 'you're welcome', which obviously is never going to happen in the North of England. You've just thanked me? Well so be it, but I OWE YOU NOTHING!

I couldn't work it out, because the easiest ways to learn something as a toddler are by repetition, copying or reward, right? Thankyou gets you nothing, (except a knee-jerk 'you're welcome sweetie'). If you say 'can I have some candy?'. Not bloody likely. 'Can I have some candy please', absolutely, go crazy, since you asked so nicely. You would think please would be a no-brainer because the bottom line is, it gets you stuff.

Besides, Anna is generally a really well-mannered little girl. Staggeringly so sometimes. The other week I was hunkered down on a toddler-sized picnic bench having a 'Mothers Day Brunch' at Anna's preschool. Suddenly Anna trotted off and returned with a tissue. I was just in the middle of saying 'oh I have a napkin for you love', when she turned to the smaller girl sitting next to her, gently cradled the back of her head and wiped a giant trail of snot from under her nose whilst saying 'there you go sweetie'. Obviously she put me to shame - I hadn't even noticed the little girl's snot-slug. Anna's a genuinely good kid, and a fast learner. Why wasn't she saying please?

Then my friend R. enlightened me. People don't say please anymore (and I'm not prepared to make the cultural leap here and say it's just California - I honestly had not been paying attention to this phenomenon when in England, so I don't know if it's been abandoned there either). R's point was, please gets you nothing, because not saying please very often gets you the same stuff anyway. Furthermore, kids, and since I've started paying attention, adults too, don't 'ask' for things. They command.

"I want Anna tunes"
"Sure, do you want Old MacDonald or Twinkle Twinkle"

"Dada, I need a drink"
"Sure, do you want water or juice?"

"I'll take a ham on wheat, mayo no mustard"

See what I mean?

It's amazing that since we've issued the 'must say please' rule for getting stuff that what we're actually realizing is the number of times we give her things when she doesn't say please, and the number of times we don't say it either. No wonder she wasn't picking it up, we were effectively making it redundant - R. was spot on!

I know there are bigger pre-schooler battles so fight. Not peeing on somebody else's carpet for example (sorry Jen!), but I always wanted my kid to be the polite one. It would seem I might need to lead by example?

I blame the parents.


Daffodilly said...

I teach 3 & 4 year olds & it astounds me how little they say please or chew with their mouth closed.

I make a huge point of it & tell them that the Queen of England (me)will never invite them for tea unless they close thier mouths whilst they chew.

It does the trick!

Repeating it is the way to go!

Hey be proud she is a snot wiper that is a huge achievement!

Tranny Head said...

Snot wiper? I'm impressed - other kids' snot totally makes me shudder.

And it's so true - when you order something at a restaurant it's SO "I'll have the chicken sandwich" instead of "May I please have the chicken sandwich." It actually would seem odd if you said that to a waiter.

McMommy said...

You may have just solved my problem!! I am forever reminding my 3 year old to say please...but maybe the problem is ME!! I never pay attention to if/when I say it to him.

So THANK YOU (aren't I polite???) for the good advice!!!

Expatmum said...

Ah, vindication. I have been ranting on about this for a while now and no one (ie. Americans) believes me. I have been silently surveying this scene for years now and the word just isn't used. It's often implied with the inflection, especially in the south, and yes, the "thank you" is a big deal.
As for the kids. While I won't tell you to give up, (because I never have) it's you against the rest of their world I'm afraid.

Anonymous said...

I don't know, maybe it's a case of just not saying it when parents are around to be proud. I seem to remember a lot of "peas, can we do another pink one?" when we were dying Easter Eggs. She really is an exceptionally well-mannered child. Chilly

Godless Sunday said...

Yes! I have a two year old, and its the SAME deal. NO Please? What up with that?

ExpatKat said...

You're right about adults too. Only the other day I had to remind ExpatOwl when he asked me to bring him a cuppa in the garage.
"Haven't you forgotten something?" I countered. "The magic word? Please!" Yup, if you disrespect me by not using 'please' I'll make YOU look like a 2-year old!

jenny said...

tucker is just over two and he does pretty good with his 'peeese' 'thank you' and 'yer welcome'. if you don't say 'your welcome' back to him, he will say it for you! silly kid.

it didn't take him long to catch on - and i'm sure anna will soon too!

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