Teaching Your Children To Say Please and Thank You

Teaching Your Children To Say Please and Thank You
Valeria Sabater

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Written by Valeria Sabater

Last update: 08 November, 2022

Many of us still believe in the value of teaching children the importance of good manners. Saying please and thank you do not just reflect our civic values, but also our emotional connections. Through these words, we show recognition of others.

It is curious how, over the last few years, a trend has emerged of not “making” our children do anything. The idea is that children themselves should choose when to engage in an activity or say a certain word, as if in this way we could ensure a more respectful process of growth and maturity.

But we should not take the classic laissez faire to extremes. As parents, we can’t forget that we are the people best placed to encourage our children to properly integrate into the world.

We have to provide examples, strategies and abilities for our children to connect with the people around them at the right stage. For every lesson, there is a right time, and we have to be capable of recognizing this in our child.

Teaching our children to say please and thank you is not “making” them do anything. We are not imposing on them. We are helping them to discover the power of having good manners in our society. These are gestures of acknowledgement of others, and we have to teach them as soon as possible.

Now we will explain why. 

Saying thank you: the power of a word that should be learnt early in life

 Between 3 and 6 years of age, a child goes through a first phase of “awakening” in their social and emotional development. It is at this time that the development of language takes shape, according to the their experiences of relationships.

Children learn from everything they see, absorbing behaviors and reactions from their parents. Even nonverbal communication (gestures, movements and expressions) becomes stronger.

This is a small step that will lead to a process of evolution. Once the child begins to recognize those around them as equals, they will be approaching a level of emotional maturity that is both more developed and more complex.

What do we mean by all of this? As parents, we should always try to be the best possible model for the behavior of our children. In this context, a simple “thank you” can have an unmatched power, which we tend to underestimate.

cartoon of polar bear with small child

Manners show that we can’t get everything we want

There are some children who act like little tyrants. They take for granted everything they receive, and believe they have the right to act and react however they please.

  • We could, of course, blame the parents for this type of behavior. However, we must understand that there are some children who are more difficult than others. Dealing with this is a challenge, but also a responsibility.
  • A child’s social, civic and emotional education starts at a very early age. Long before a child learns to talk, they understand much more than we might think.
  • We need to work on frustration. Children can’t – and shouldn’t – always get what they want. And when they do get it, we need to teach them as early as possible to say “thank you.”

Positive words show recognition of others

When a child of three or four goes into a shop and says “good morning” or “please”, they will always get attention and smiles. This is a positive behavior, which allows the child to connect with others from an early age.

  • It is likely that at this age, your child may not understand how important these expressions are. But what they will understand is that saying them will help them to be respected, admired and valued.
  • Saying “thank you” is a way to recognize the things other people do for us. Practices like this help to lay the foundations for authentic empathy, which is a key aspect for a child’s social and emotional development.

Good manners are contagious

Teaching a child to say please and thank you is not hard, and it brings big rewards. If our children have picked up these good manners by the time they start school, they are likely to pass them on to their classmates. This is a positive model of the civic participation that builds social relationships.

  • Once again, we must remember that some words are of great importance to us as human beings. An “I love you”, a “you are important to me” or a simple “thank you” are not just words, after all. They are expressions that give rise to emotions. They are a way to pass the feelings inside us on to the person in front of us.
  • Making these words our own, and making them normal for your child will mean that they are more empathetic and mature in their close relationships. They will not just say thank you, they will also expect to be thanked.
drawing on small child ice skating with mom

When your child does something for someone, they will expect to be recognized and respected. They will want others to treat them with the same good manners that they show to those around them. All of this, they will have learnt from us. And all of this will be important in their everyday life.

So now tell us, will you teach your children the value of these words?

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.