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Manners Maketh Baby

Manners Maketh Baby

'Please' is such a little word, a single syllable, but lately it has become a battleground. Because we're all about good manners - whether they be practiced sincerely or otherwise!

As a parent the word please becomes even more important. It, along with its close colleagues 'thank' and 'you', is the difference between the outside world thinking your child a little angel or a selfish little brat.

(Okay, I might be exaggerating, but only slightly.)

It's a big deal, is what I'm saying. So, when Marianna started stringing two, and sometimes three, words together I decided it was the perfect time to introduce a new word to my daughter's vocabulary.

As her mum I'm obviously biased, but Marianna is a very intelligent twenty month old. A concerted effort to teach a new word usually bears fruit within an hour or two, often less. I was sure Marianna would pick up the word and its context quickly, if she hadn't already.

Hours later with a screaming tantrum in full swing I began to doubt myself. Perhaps I was being overambitious? Maybe she just didn't understand what 'please' was all about, and I was being cruel for not giving in and reading her the beloved Rosie and Jim book it was so obvious she wanted to hear. ('More', 'book', and 'now' already being commonplace.)

Rosie and Jim books
These books haunt my dreams - and my nightmares...

We put the issue aside for the night with the resolve to begin again in the morning.

This time I approached it from another angle. One of Marianna's favourite games is 'waiting for the bus'; lining up all her toys in readiness for the shape sorter bus to arrive. For over an hour we sat together and played, working in a new element. The bus driver asked each and every potential passenger whether they would say please, Marianna responded with 'yes' or 'no', and the toy was treated accordingly.

The good, polite toys were obligingly shoved through the shape sorter holes on the top of the bus. The impolite toys - much fewer in number - had to huddle together on the pavement. When everyone had had a chance, I went through the second group again to find a couple had changed their minds. That done, the bus took its passengers to the Rainbow House (a doll house covered in pictures from a Rainbow comic) for a party.

The no group could only look on morosely.

I talked over why they weren't at the party, on and on until there was absolutely no doubt Marianna understood the concept - and context - of 'please'.

This was the result:

It took two full days of all out war. No Rainbow, no biscuits, no endless re-reading of Rosie and Jim. If Marianna couldn't say please, she couldn't have the things she wanted. I had visions of her aged twelve, being praised by her dentist for having perfect teeth because I had lost the battle of wills so completely she had never given in and said please, and so had never tasted anything sugary again.

Then, finally, her willpower wavered. She wanted my mum to play with her, and operate the strange electric toy which beeps, and flashes, and bounces little balls around inside it.

She wanted it so badly she finally said please.

We clapped and cheered, showered her with hugs and kisses and all the praise we could muster.

Two minutes later when she wanted something else it was back to 'No'.

Three weeks later and we're still at an impasse. Occasionally Marianna will say please, most of the time she outright refuses. She will sit and pretend to read a book to herself - ignoring the fact it's upside down and she's repeating the same word over and over - rather than say please, and she would sooner go without anything than capitulate.

Even Bungle, George and Zippy can't motivate her some days, and we remain at loggerheads every time she remembers Rainbow exists but she isn't watching it. (About every 15 minutes, give or take.)

We'll get there, I'm sure.

After all, I know who she inherited this stubborn streak from... ;)

Did you have problems getting your toddler to say please? Do you have any tips to make the going a little easier? Please let me know in the comments!


  1. Oh it is a never ending battle. When mine was four and his teenage cousins were visiting he wanted something and I made his cousin hold it back from him until he said please. He did rather quickly then added "we have to use manners and say please and thank you." My sister in law immediately looked at her kids and said something to the effect of "I hope you learned something."

    But, we have to keep trying. ;)

    1. Hehe xD Marianna is just so stubborn - nothing is more important to her than not giving in!


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