The mindlessness in manners.

I have never asked my children to say please or thank you.
It is after all culturally expected and accepted that we “teach” our children manners; that we force them to say thank you so they can be grateful and polite. After receiving something, it’s common to hear the parent reminding the child to say thank you. But What if the child is not thankful? What if the gift is totally inappropriate for them? Are we teaching them to lie?
I don’t believe that an attitude of gratitude can be so easily forced. It’s something that comes from the heart and sometimes it takes time to process how we feel about what we are grateful for.
. I am not so sure that forced manners equal kinder, nicer and more grateful beings. They can be just words, mindlessly recited out of obligation. Is that gratitude? Is it polite?
Often to me formal language feels so disconnected and demeaning anyways like when a child says “May I have an apple?”. It makes me think they are groveling to get their basic needs met. I don’t speak like, do you?

I’ll also take the heartfelt hugs and in detail descriptions of how much they love a gift, over a thank you.
So, I think I’ll stick to letting their language evolve naturally in it’s own time without my judgements and constant corrections. There’s more to language than the words we use. There are facial expression and tones of voice and ones character and reputation will play into it too.
There’s been many times that I was tempted to, and honestly it was to make the giver, an adult, feel good. It’s not always easy though, I’ve crossed my fingers and thought “please say thank you.” What I have been doing is saying thank you myself. Not for them, but for me because I am thankful when people are kind to my children.

The best thing I can do is express and model my own appreciation and gratitude. And that’s going to mean not blaming or being judgmental. They, the children are going to learn about expressing their appreciation he same way they are learning to walk and talk; by being immersed in it. I love that my children have the freedom to use more than a meaningless thank you. Often they will come back later, after some thought, with a drawing or a card of thanks. When my children say thank you, it means a lot because I know it was unprompted and is a genuine gesture of their gratitude.

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10 responses »

  1. I’ll have to politely disagree! Haha! Actually, I don’t completely disagree, but I do a little. I’ve struggled with the motivation behind my parenting and I think I’m at a place where I’m no longer controlled by social expectation. But I do wish for my kids to be polite and well-mannered. Not in a robotic way, of course. But in a pleasantly-interactive-with-others way. So I do remind them to be polite when we are going into a social situation. But I don’t freak out if they forget or choose not to. And I treasure the sincere, uninhibited outpouring of their love and appreciation more than the formality of polite language. But I don’t think I have to give up on the one to encourage the other. My two cents! Thanks for yours!

    • I know, Janelle. I know. I also never think in black or white terms. I am always more focused on the depth and meaning behind things. That’s what this is all about. Thats what it’s ALL about for me. And it’s scary sometimes and SO good.

      • Yes, Janelle. I love our conversations and simultaneous blogging. I love the opposition, a wonderful check and balance. Just trying to figure stuff out, right?

  2. I really agree with this post. I feel uncomfortable when adults demand a “yes ma’am” or “yes sir” out of children. It is so blatantly obvious to me that this is more about the parents than about the kids. Ultimately, manners should show that children, or adults, are able to think about others. That can be accomplished in an authentic way without turning children into automatons.
    I do remind my children when someone has done something kind for them. Children are self-focused so sometimes they need someone to point out the kindness of others. If they chose to say “thank you” or “please” they are rewarded naturally by others. No need for my hovering.

    Great post!

  3. I agree to an extent. I think please and thank you can represent good manners but it is mostly about tone and actions. I almost always say please to Madison and thank you after because I want to respect her, but also as a model for her and without me telling her to I have caught her saying thank you to me when I hand her something or get her something she is asking for….obviously she doesn’t know what manners are but she is still showing them. I don’t think you can teach a child manners by just telling them to say please and thank you, they are just words if they are forced. And a teenager saying thanks with a simultaneous eye roll isn’t manners, they are just words and not sincere ones at that. I don’t see the point in forcing it if it isn’t going to be sincere. Everyone, including the babes, can tell sincerity in action and words. That being said, I do want Madison to be polite but I will teach her by modelling and talking about it but never forcing her to say words that aren’t sincere. You said actions can be a great thanks and I totally agree, a hug and saying how much they love a gift is definitely thanks and sincere thanks. From reading other responses I most closely agree with Janelle on my expectations for manners and politeness.

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