In our everyday parenting, it can sometimes be difficult to come up with the perfect logical consequence. We always want to strike the balance between teaching a lesson without being too harsh. Having our children say “please” and “thank you” is so important, yet it can be so difficult to ensure they do it consistently.
What can we do to encourage our kids to say “please” and “thank you”? First, be sure to explain the importance of being polite. Explain that we are not put on this Earth to serve their every desire. And expressing thanks is the first step toward instilling a heart of gratitude in our kids.
When our kids forget, there’s a great way to handle it. If your child is asking something from you, never give it to him unless he says “please.” This can be anything from a meal that you are expected to provide no matter what or a special treat. If he asks without saying “please” tell him no, and that he can come back to you in 5 or 10 minutes when he’s ready to ask appropriately. He’ll probably ask again right away. Simply walk away knowing you have told him what you require.
With an older child, you might leave it at that. Make note of the time on the clock and don’t allow the child to come back until 5 or 10 minutes have passed. For a younger child, set a timer. Set it for a solid 5 or 10 minutes so he gets a true sense for how long that is.
This is much more powerful than simply reminding our kids and having them ask again right away. As with all consequences, the “pain” of the consequence must equal the weight of the infraction. If the child says “please” and “thank you” 90% of the time and forgets once or twice, a verbal reminder with no wait might be sufficient. If it’s a consistent problem, a longer wait might be more effective. Always gauge the effectiveness of the consequence by the child’s behavior. If it works, great. If not, try again with a more “painful” consequence.