When our daughters were young, I often had to prompt them to say “thank you” or coach them in other proper responses. I’m sure I asked the typical “What do you say?” when they’d get candy or a toy from someone until I was even tired of hearing myself!
Maybe you’ve done the same with your kids. So why do we do that? Yes, we want them to appear to be civilized human beings with good manners. But I think we want more than that. I think we want those feelings that we’re trying to force them to express to become a natural part of who they are.
In the beginning, when they say those certain phrases, it’s just an automated response that’s usually lacking the desired emotion. But we can begin training them early to actually think about how they’re interacting with other people.
There are typically plenty of opportunities to practice these sentences at home. Using them with parents and siblings provides a great training ground for learning to use them in public.
1. Thank you.
An attitude of gratitude goes a long way in life. Whether expressing appreciation for a gift or a thoughtful gesture, these are the words that many of us automatically teach our kids to say.
And by the way, this doesn’t end when they get to be teenagers. We encouraged (“made”) our oldest daughter to write thank-you notes for all of the graduation gifts she received. I know that not everyone does that anymore, but I think it’s a good way to be grateful and acknowledge the giver.
2. I’m sorry; I was wrong. Please forgive me.
Okay, that’s two sentences, but you get the point. These words can be difficult to say at any age, so the earlier our children can learn to acknowledge their wrong words or actions and ask for forgiveness, the better it is.
How much you get into having your child apologize certainly depends on their age. A two-year-old who just hit another kid because he picked up the toy she was playing with probably isn’t going to understand the dynamics of saying “I’m sorry.” But talking through a situation with a six-year-old who’s learning how to empathize with others can help them understand the need to ask for forgiveness.
3. I’m happy for you.
Much of our culture promotes self-centeredness and comparison. If we can help our children learn to be excited for someone else when that person succeeds, we can potentially give them a head start on fighting those negative feelings.
I’ve mentioned before how much I love Kay Wyma’s book I’m Happy for You (Sort Of…Not Really). It addresses this issue for moms. And it reminds me that the best way to help my children learn to say these sentences is to set the example by using them myself!!
Are there other phrases you emphasize with your children? Do you have tips on helping them remember to use these words at appropriate times? Please share!
- How to Have Peace in Your Home
- Parenting Is Not About Making Me Look Like a Good Mom
- I Can Be Happy for You
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