Should we say “please?”


Anne Marie Ezzo recently brought to my attention the importance of saying “please” to our children when we make an instruction. I have previously cautioned parents when saying “please” because it can sometimes make the parent’s instruction sound like an option.

The key to using “please” with our instructions is saying it with authority and moving it from the end of the instruction to the beginning. Consider the following:

“Mary, put your toys away, please?”

“Evan, play time is over. Please pick up your toys now.”

The difference is subtle, the first example above is often said with a question mark at the end. When we say “please,” we can still be courteous, but we must do so with an air of authority.

Here is how Anne Marie Ezzo described it:

“While a parent may not want to tack a “please” to the end of their instruction, they can certainly use that courtesy when giving an instruction by simply moving it from the end to the beginning. Mom is demonstrating a courtesy, she is clearly stating her instructions, and the tone is one of greater control and genuine authority. The child is being addressed respectfully and being spoken to as we would like to be spoken to. Many principles are being modeled by a simple replacement rather than elimination of a word.”

So consider adding the word “please” to your parenting vocabulary, but we must be sure to say it with authority. And by the same token, we can freely use the words “thank you” after a child complies with our requests.