You know what my 2-year-old says totally unprompted when I get her something? “Thank you!” And you know what she tacks on when she asks for something? “Please!” Now, she is only a toddler, so this doesn’t happen 100% of the time. But I bet I will surprise you by telling you it happens 95% of the time.
I’m not raising some etiquette genius and I haven’t spent hours drilling manners and politeness into her head. In fact, I managed to get her to be polite with very little effort or time. Make sure you read on for my three tips.
The biggest thing I learned about manners from working in the toddler room is that you simply have to model manners for them. When my husband gets me something, I always say “Thank you.” When I ask for something, I always say “Please.” If she sees my husband and I using manners, she will catch on pretty fast.
The other way to model it is to supply the manners for the toddler. When they say something that should come with a polite word attached, repeat the phrase with the polite word.
For example: When your child says “More wa-wa” you get them the water and say “More water please.”
You may have to do that 200 times before they say it. It may get really old to have to say it every time you respond to their request. But at some point, they will actually use their manners.
I try never to force my daughter to use manners. I will model it and suggest she thank someone, but I try not to force her to say it. You don’t want to force your child to simply parrot manners. You want them to understand what to say and why exactly they are saying it.
For example: We are at a family party. An aunt (who Mac doesn’t know very well) gives her a small toy as a gift. Instead of saying “Tell Auntie thank you,” I say “Thank you for the toy! Mac, when you get a gift, it is polite to say thank you.”
Another example: Mac accidentally hurts someone. Instead of forcing her to apologize, I say “When you hurt someone, you should ask them if they are okay. If it was an accident, it is polite to say sorry.”