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July 11, 2006


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JJ Daddy Baby Momma

JJ Daddy gave Little Mary Sunshine a great start with the "Please, Thank You" game, which she thought was hilarious. They would just hand an object back and forth to each other for hours (it seemed) with him saying please when he got it and thank you when he gave it back.

With me, if they don't ask politely first, they don't get it (snack, playdate, whatever). Period. And no second chance to ask for it correctly. I practice the prong-choke-chain method of polite child rearin'.


If your efforts to instill manners into Peanut work, please let me know. I am trying to undo years of staunch cursing in hopes that my eight-week-old's first sentences won't be, "Fight it out!" or "Do it your damn self!"


Well, as father of three with years of experience in these matters, all I can say is: I have no fucking idea.

Mama Nabi

Ha ha, I'm the f'ing sailor at the Nabi residence - but I also have the manners of an uptight schoolmarm... For some reason, I tend to think that just because you have a fucking potty mouth does not mean you have to have shitty manners. PN's friend's 2 toddlers have the best manners - their little girl has been saying "Yes, please", "No, thank you", and all the other nice polite phrases ever since I've known her, i.e. 2 years old. Their mom's secret? Instead of giving them the choice of "Yes" or "No", they HAVE to say either "Yes, please" and "No, thank you". I hope it works with LN - coz bad manners makes me fucking bonkers.


I think you used please and thank you too much -- it has lost its value ;)

we are trying to get our daughter (2 years old this Friday) to be better at sharing. of course, she'll do things like take something of mine, then when I finally convince her to give it back, she'll say, "sharing!"

but, I will say this for her - she does say "please" and "thank you" when we remind her, and sometimes even without prompting.

she'll also say "excuse me" with prompting after burping (although, last night, she burped, I said, "what do you say?" and she smiled and said, "burp!")


I think we were both pretty polite kids, my brother and I, but mostly because we grew up in a church full of old ladies who would offer us treats, but only if we would "say please" and "what do you say?"

Yeah. Thank you. Thank you for the linty candy from the bottom of your purse. I couldn't have made it through the day without it.


My mom wouldn't give us anything we asked for unless we said please, and if "thank you" didn't come out when it was given, she'd ask us why we'd skipped it. If we really weren't thankful, then she drilled it into us that we needed to say it anyhow -- this wasn't a test of gratitude so much as a primer in the social expectations of others. Obviously, you don't say thank you when someone gives you a needle or hands you a bag of poo. But everything else? Yep.

She also taught us not to interrupt adults, not to screech like banshees in public places, and that if we were rude to ANYONE -- unless they were hurting us, and then GIVE 'ER and LEAVE A SCAR -- then it was up to us to make it right again.

Also: no swearing, leave a great tip, give your seat to the elderly, DON'T USE CALL WAITING UNLESS SOMEONE IS DYING, don't make faces at the food you are served, and know when to shut up and listen.

These were the tenets. My parents modeled them, we followed along.

I, too, am a creative swearer now, but would never do it around anyone it would offend.

I think it's just a matter of not moving forward with activities or processes until the right manners surface -- and modeling them so Peanut can never throw it back in your face that you don't do what you're asking her to do.


I've found that you can try and lecture or teach all you want but most young kids will only be polite because they're conditioned to do so by their parents. However, that's ok. But, in my parenting experience, the best way for them to really abide by the spirit of the laws of civility is to lead by example. Kids will often imitate their parents so it's best to let them observe you being nice and considerate to others. Good luck!


Don't worry too much, MD. As Peanut starts to talk more, you'll have specific opportunities to "enforce" politeness. For instance, when she wants something from you and asks for it, it can easily be part of your dialogue to remind her the correct way to ask (with a "please") before she gets it. She'll catch back on and in a few years you'll be loving that "please" and "thank you" are normal parts of her vocabulary. She's still young, though.

Motherhood Uncensored

Modeling is great - at her age - plus just repetition.

Q does it all the time now - and even says you're welcome to herself if we don't say it when she says thankyou.

She even says "THANKS" and PLEASE PLEASE (twice for good measure) if she really wants something.

They learn. No worries.


Dude is tracking Peanut Girl EXACTLY. He'll say "ahng-goo" which we think is "thank you." But can't/won't do the "please" or "sorry." Now I think we've even lost the "ahng-goo." I've heard it's just language aquiring phases.

Motherhood Uncensored

Also... you can teach her the signs for them - which are easier (IMO) than saying them - don't worry -she'll say them too.

Q said please and thank you up until she could say them using sign language.


You're doing the right thing. Kids always learn how to say and pronounce words before they learn the correct context. You can tell her something like, "Thank you is something you when someone does something nice for you" whenever she uses it out of context. But, overall, it IS hard for young kids to understand somewhat altruistic motivations like 'being polite to others is a good thing' (That's why the whole "how woould you feel if someone else called you names" doesn't really work until kids are much older.) So leading by example like you are doing is a great way to go.

But, as child psychologist, I'm always thrilled when I see people treat children in a developmentally appropriate manner, like you and BossLady have.


I have three, one is polite, one is bossy and the other can't talk yet.


OK, freaky. We were at that water park on Sunday, and I seriously looked around and though, "I wonder if MetroDad is here right now?"

And unless pointing and making grunting noises is good manners, I can't help.


I am right there with you. We model good manners in our home *and* do the repetitive "please, thank you, I beg your pardon" routine.

This post is so timely. Just yesterday I was at a playdate and Bunny was in the kitchen looking at photos on the fridge. My friend's MIL was in the kitchen preparing lunch and Bunny sidled up to her and said, "Excuse me, is that a picture of you?" Then a polite exchange ensued and I really couldn't tell where 4yo ended and adult began. It was that civil.

After it was over, I lept out of my seat, ran over to Bunny and planted a huge kiss on her cheek. It was probably my proudest parenting moment to date.

Politeness counts for a lot in my book. So does being respectful to adults.

zygote daddy

So, as the self-professed "William Strunk of Swearing," do you have a series of established rules, or do well-placed "fuck's" just emanate from the gut?

(OK people, just because I've provided an easy setup doesn't mean you have to go for it...)


The Peanut is not too young to learn this concept. We started off the Munchkin very early - we insisted that she say "please" to receive something, she had to say "thank you" after she got it (if it was a cookie or a Pocky, she could not take a bite until she said thank you), and we constantly modeled these for her when her Daddy and I talked to her. She now uses all of these terms withour prompting, and it's even gotten to the point where she farted the other day and said, "Mommy, I fart! 'Cuse me."

And then she went and grabbed a toy from her brother and shoved him over. So, we still have some things to work on. ;)

Lumi (Pickle's Mama)

This will become a real issue in our house soon, as neither the Boy nor myself can get through a simple 5 minute long conversation without using language that would make a drunken sailor blush (him) or very rudely interrupting the other person mid-sentence (me).

If we don't nip this in the bud soon, I will be getting some very interesting phone calls from a very disgruntled kindergarten teacher.

Good luck!!


A couple things...

1) I think it would have been much more amusing if the big guy opened up his mouth and swallowed the little boy whole. I have no idea why I thought that, I have a lot of problems.

2) I think it's cute that you're trying to teach her manners. It's noble to try to halp Nurture overcome Nature. But, "oppa" and "appa" are phonetically similar, and "sah joh" isn't all that hard to master either.

3) Even if you succeed, and I hope you do. She will still have "The Look." you wife has the look and it has forced to do things that may have been against your better judgement, morals, the Geneva Convention, etc. You daughter will have it too. Heck, a Korean girl can make me wear brown socks with black shoes if she does it right.



Teaching children "selflessness" is a tiring job and requires persistance and consistancy.

Just when you think your failing at driving the importance of "please", "thank you" & good manners home you'll get the affirmation you need when one of the Peanut's friends parents tell you how wonderfully polite & courteous the Peanut is.
(For some reason kids seem to "remember" all the stuff you've been drilling into them when they are with others and not at home.)
Don't give up but remember how much joy that little boy in the park brought to the sanitation worker and those like yourself & Bosslady watching with just a few kind words.


No sweat MD, she's going to learn by example. I'm afraid you're just going to have to deal with a courteous, well-spoken, (dare I say frighteningly?) literate child. I'm betting she'll learn how to diagram a sentence or two as well. In fact, now that I think of it, please do let us know when she starts blogging. :)

What I keep seeing with my little guy (2.5 yrs. old) is that even when he doesn't seem to be noticing or following daddy's (or mama's) lead, he's still observing, and it does comes back...on his own schedule and not so much when we solicit for it. Peanut is watching you and BossLady, and all that good stuff resurfaces eventually... as does the bad. (Bad stuff? MD? No, he's perfect. I mean have you seen his hair?)

Having said that, I'm all about seizing a "teachable moment" like seeing the little boy thank the sanitation worker and then commenting in front of Peanut on how fine that was, how that probably made the man feel, how observant and thoughtful the 5 yr. old is etc.
In fact, it really seems to register with my son when I comment on something like that *to my wife* and he just "overhears" it because he's within earshot as opposed to nattering on to him directly... all this being rather anecdotal.
So, to sum up:

1. Be yourselves

2. She's watching and learning even when (maybe even especially when) you don't think she is.

3. You don't need this advice. You're M-fucking-D. She's going to be just fine.

4. Never be such a gasbag that you find yourself having to sum up and *good Lord, man!* number your points, especially when commenting on a blog. Bad manners, indeed. Many apologies.

4(a). And if you find
yourself outlining,
holy hell, run away!
4(b). Please note you
should always have a
subpoint (b) if you
have an (a).

5. Go back to #3.


I'm with Kristen on this one. We model politeness to The Voice, but we don't actually let him have what he's asking for unless he asks 'properly.' It's actually worked very well, and he's the most polite, sweet little boy. Except when he's talking to us, in which case it's still a strugle.


Like most parents here, I recommend that you lead by example. That's what we did for our kids. Both are extremely well behaved. Unfortunately, they curse like sailors as well.


I agree with the other posters. She'll learn by example. She'll learn by repetition. She's not too young, as my 2 1/2 year old can say, "Please," "Thank You," and "You're Welcome" and has been able to do so for a long while now.

I, too, do the "What do you say?". Sometimes she says it and sometimes she doesn't.

I can't agree more about the importance of manners.

That said, I also can't agree more about how much curse words can carry. Be it fuck or any other curse word, the meaning can change, based on how it's said. So much meaning in just one word.


Mastering please and thank you were pretty easy, actually. It's getting her to say "excuse me" when she butts in that's taking some time.

The most important thing to remember is that the peanut's development happens in ebbs and spurts. At just about any moment, "please" and "thank you" can be squeezed out by the next skill she is devoting her concentration to mastering. She's also exercising that good old free will. As long as she knows using manners is non-negotiable (and that may lead to a battle of wills, but it's one worth winning), she'll get there eventually.

My #1 teaching philosophy, both at home and at work, (available free for the first time in the comment section of Metro Dad's blog!) is taken straight from Heraclitus (all is flux, etc). You can never tell a child the same thing twice, because she's not the same child, and you're not the same parent...


The Mister and I always talk politely to baby. Once in a while we remind her that it's polite to say thank you when people give her things. If we are out and someone does something nice for her, we tell her to say thank you. She never did, however, and was wondering if she just didn't get it or was being stubborn. But magically in the past few days, every time we give something to the baby, she says thank you. So I guess she does get it. It just took her in her own time to start saying it. Peanut will get there in her own time. I think she'll grow up with fine manners so don't worry too much. ^_^

Pickle's Papa

That is so far from being the worst onoe-act ever. Sam Shepard wrote one in his drugged out period that had an indian, a cowboy at a kitchen table with a guy in a 1950's style space-suit under the table in a cabin in the woods in a snow-storm.

even in silence - yours is better.

JJ Daddy-O

I'm sorry, maybe I'm missing the point here, but shouldn't that billboard say "Go Fuck Yourself, PLEASE" ?

Mega Mom

I never, ever, stop reminding them to use please and thank you. I never pass up an opportunity to teach them about waiting to let people out of a door before they go in. I never let things pass. I'd say about 80% of the time they are great little mannerly guys. Although just when you think you've got it down, they'll surprise you with a doozy!


Leading by example is fine, but I believe in incessant nagging. Makes the kids hate me, but conversely gives them something to complain to their friends about. Seriously, as long as we can laugh with them and teach them proper manners/ettiquette at the same time, we are satisfied. The wife and I know we are teaching them manners, we just don't get the benefit of seeing it personally. We only hear second hand from our peers that "Your daughter Screeching Siren has wonderful manners". At home, she is a farm animal, and I've given up correcting every faux pas. Maybe she'll tire of trying to piss us off. Our 3 year old boy vacillates between good manners and farting on my head, and sees no incongruity between the two.
What we struggle with: children exhibiting roadkill behavior in public, then are demanding, wailing tyrants at home. THAT sucks...


As usual, I can't give you parenting advice since I don't have a kid. I can recommend that you and BossLady just keep repeating the Punch-and-Judy manner plays ad nauseum. She's bound to catch on eventually. Peanut's already a hip baby--how about They Might Be Giants' kids' album No! for a bit of repition on manners (Robot Parade).

I hear you on the cursing issue, though--sometimes what a situation calls for is a loud, resounding "f*ck", no substitutions accepted. End of story.

Papa Bradstein

Teach the Peanut basic economics at the same time: you trade her one lesson in appropriate cursing and she starts saying "please" and "thank you." If she cuts off the politeness, you cut off the potty mouth lessons.

That way, she can be polite like grownups: "I f*in' said 'thank you.' Now, would you please hand over the f*ing cookie?"


A tough one for us has been getting him to say "I'm sorry."
Please and thank you are just the beginning. Right now I'm reading Emily Post's the guide to good manners for kids.


My fast track to good manners -- GOOD DAYCARE. I think it is hard to do it outside of routine social situations for your kid. Or let's just say it helps enormously if you have a regular peer social settings under the guidance of another adult who shares your goals, or -- if absolutely necessary -- you could be that adult. Daunt-o-rama!

I was really pleased the other day when we left E.'s grandparents' house and they sent us off with a 'Thanks for coming over!' They had picked up on our work to ensure E. always thanks her guests for visiting. Nice!

It is so precious to get it from your toddler, but don't go too far with expectations. It comes and goes with E. and from a lot of external reports she ranks as quite polite. I noticed recently she's struggling with SORRY. She uses it whether she is sorry -- or she thinks you should be. Mysterious?

Last week my favorite courtesy was when our girl said "Daddy, thanks for coming home today!" As noted, precious n'est ce pas?

ps.. I think what you are doing is terrific though!


By surrounding her with good role models... Kids emulate what they see.


Tough one. I am sure many commenters have said "by example" but that does not always work. Okay I got it. ELmo. Elmo could probably teach good manners.



'Tiffany's Table Manners for Teenagers"


I only know from watching, but my little nephew is down with the manners. He pleases and thank yous with the best of them (though he does need a little prompting and it is ofter delivered over his shoulder has he runs off in the other direction).

The best mental picture I have of him though is when he was mid-temper tantrum -- tears, rending of garments, sulfer in the air etc. My sister tried to calm him down and he responded, in a big furious screech, "NO THANK YOU, MOMMY, NO THANK YOU."


First of all...

"William Strunk of Swearing" is priceless. LOVE IT!

Second...manners can be learned but they need to be constantly reinforced when they're little or they'll end up like my older one who frequently "forgets" even though she totally knows better.


People are always complementing my children (and me) on their manners. All I can say is that we've required them to be polite from before they could talk. They signed "please" and "thank you" before they could speak them. 21 months is a difficult age. She's testing everything, seeing what she can get away with. If it's important to you that she says "please" and "thank you" and all the other stuff, don't let her *not* say them. Sometimes that means you'll have a screaming fury on your hands, but so be it.

Just Linda

She'll get it, just keep modeling.

There are some behaviors we try to drill into our kids all their lives and they don't seem to 'get' them until they leave our nest. For example, my dad was a stickler about turning the lights off when leaving a room. All my life, he drilled it into me and I always forgot and he always sent me back to turn them off after I forgot. But? Now I'm 41 and I GOT it! I DO it!! I LEARNED. Somewhere around age 20, I realized my parents knew everything (just as I was bringing children into this world who would grow to think I knew NOTHING!)

They learn, they pick it all up.

But can I talk to you about this elevator thing? You polite men are driving me freaking NUTS. Yes, I understand you want to let me get on first, which puts me in the back. And when it's time to get off? You want me to exit first, too, which causes this really uncomfortable elevator dance that I HATE. Can't we apply a modicum of practicality to it all??? Please?


Abby was manner-trained early on. She was taught to say "Yes Ma'am" and "No, Sir," she would ask "Please" and follow-up with "Thank You." She would even relish the chances she had to say "Your Welcome" when someone told her Thank you. About 6 months ago, she completely stopped using ALL her verbal manners. I was not bothered at first because I have always read that kids take one step forwards in one area and two steps back in another. She was, at the time, starting to concentrate on writing letters and words and started to spell out and read, so I figured her attention was just elsewhere. BUT THEN, the little monster starting demanding things. We went from, "Mom, may I please have some milk," to "Mom, can I have some milk," to the very rude, "Mom, I'm thirsty. MILK."

So we started demanding she say please, thank you, sir, ma'am and all the other things in the appropriate places, or her requests were not fulfilled. You want to go out and play? You need to ask nicely, or there was no play-time. You want an apple? You had best ask politely, or you will be hungry. After about one month of this, she was back to normal.


You're doing great, MD, but you already knew that!

I love that story about the little guy in the park!


21 months is a tough age, MD. They're old enough to process the information but they're usually too distracted to care at all. Keep insisting on the "please" and "thank you." It will take a lot longer than you think (YEARS, in fact) but Peanut will undoubtedly get it at one point or another. Now, learning how to share? That's a tough lesson!


I think manners require YEARS of practice and constant reminding. We try to lead by example and I have to say that it's the only way to really do it without driving anyone insane or having our kids think that manners are a game. Despite not being visibly obsessed that our kids have good manners, our 4 year old reminds us to say please and thank you now and is one of the more polite kids in her class. I think not being overbearing or stressing and expecting too much help as well as positive reinforcement. We try to praise our kids and make a "big" deal about it when they've been well behaved and well mannered and explain to them why bad manners aren't nice when they're not. Our 15 month old has been saying "Guh" as his "thank you" for the last few months so I think we're on the right track.

I totally believe, as someone else mentioned, that words like thank you and sorry lose their meaning when they're said too much so I try not too nag or force my daughter to say thank you for everything. I'm more a stickler on "Please" and "May I"

You shouldn't worry too much about that, you're a good person, so I'm sure your daughter will be a good person too.

In terms of manners all over the place. Yes, people seem a bit more rough and gruff these days but perhaps that's a sign that American culture in general is becoming much more relaxed. Despite all the bad manners, Americans are still some of the most generous people in the world. When something happens in the world, the Asian tsunami for example, Americans are still amongst the first people to help out. I think that speaks volumes more about people in general than somebody eating Big Macs on the subway.


HA! Funny you should ask. I just published a post about this over at my place . . .


Holy smokes, Batman! This is the age old question and it really has no easy answers. Kids learn by watching us, MD. You don't have to continue with your act...although it is probably cracking her up. As she gets older, she will be polite, just like you and BossLady are. Toddlers are weird creatures. When you think they aren't listening, they generally are, they just choose to do things when they please.


Oh...I love the new tagline.


I'm enjoying reading the comments just as much as the post. Even though my daughter can say a few mumbled words, we're hoping "Please" and "Thank You" are somewhere in there.

Can I even tell you how much I HATE adults with bad manners? Because their "spawn" has even worse manners.
I really does feel like "Planet of the Apes" sometimes...


I am a stickler for manners as well..
And My daughter is 8 and I can say that she has manners and uses them appropriately.. I love the fact that I hear please, thank you pardon me, excuse me, I'm sorry and after you on a regular basis with us and with friends...
Her friends on the other hand are a different story...
We had a kid over here the other day and my husband daughter and her were playing badminton...
After the game my husband came into our kitchen livid and recounted the story to me
ME: She actually said SUCKED? Honey, Must have heard wrong...
HE: No... She said I Sucked, all right"
Me:What did you say?
He: We don't use that language here.
He: She says that she uses it all the time at home with and then she used her PARENT'S NAMES...She calls her parents by their first names!!!!!!
Me: ohhhhhhh....

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