When my older daughter was a baby, I used to enthusiastically encourage her to ‘wave hello and bye bye‘. However, I noticed that when I would say, “Wave bye bye’, it would startle her from her natural state of just ‘being‘. She would wave, but it wasn’t sincere and sometimes she would go all shy on me or flat out refuse… Most of the time, she just wanted to be a fly on the wall, happily observing the situation, with little, to no interaction. So, I stopped asking her to wave.
The same reason I stopped asking her to ‘wave hello and bye bye‘ five years ago, is the same reason why, now, I don’t make my kids say ‘please’ or ‘thank you‘.
Asking a child to say or do something unnatural, in a social context, breaks them out of their nature, which is to just ‘be‘.
Young children, especially babies, live in the present moment. They are 100% sincere observers in all situations. Their ego (their sense of ‘I’) has no strong definition because to them.
When they communicate, *if* they want to communicate, kids will naturally express themselves with 100% enthusiasm.
In some cultures, it’s considered normal to have very little spoken communication with a young child, in order to let the child simply be an ‘observer‘.
I found there was no need for me to encourage my babies to ‘wave bye bye‘, or to later teach them to say ‘please‘ or ‘thank you‘, because they would do it naturally when the time was right. Until then, it was learn by observing, with no forced social etiquette needed.
A child’s expression is pure. In our house, kids never have to add a ‘please‘ or’ thank you‘ to make their requests more sincere because kids already are sincere!
Now that my kids are older, they certainly do say ‘please‘ and ‘thank you‘ and they ‘wave hello and bye bye‘. They are actually quite polite.
If kids ask for or receive something, what good does it do for them to make them ask nicely, or to tack on the word ‘please‘ or ‘thank you‘, if they don’t really mean it?
If kids ask or receive ‘rudely‘, then there is something much deeper going on than them just being ‘rude‘. I actually place no value in whether a child asks nicely or not, as the way their words come out, is only their pure expression. And let’s face it, kids are not very good at hiding their emotions, or at least, they shouldn’t be.
When children act obnoxious, their behavior means they have an unmet need. So, rather than address how ‘rudely‘ they asked me, I would focus more on what it is that is bothering them. Children naturally want to cooperate and be pleasant and will only act obnoxiously if there is an underlying issue.
When my kids are old enough to understand, around 7, then I explain how people in our society like you to ask for things nicely, even if you don’t feel like asking nicely. But I won’t force them to be nice or to say ‘nice‘ things when they’re little, because that would mean that I’m asking them to be unnatural. I want my children to feel comfortable expressing themselves now, so that when they’re older, they feel confident and secure to do the same.
In some cultures, saying ‘please‘ and ‘thank you’ is actually considered a bit awkward, because it means that the person you are talking to is doing something out of the ordinary for you — showing a separation or lack of belonging.
Of course, it’s fine to teach kids to say ‘please‘ and ‘thank you‘ and to ask nicely, but I don’t believe we need to force kids to say things when they don’t feel it. Through my experience, I’ve seen that when they get old enough, they will see have seen enough good role modeling that they will say and do the ‘polite‘ things anyway, if their emotional needs have been met. And, when they do it on their own accord, it comes out sounding so beautiful and authentic!