How to Teach Your Child to be Polite - The Magic Words

It’s driving you crazy reminding them to ‘say please!’ but what else can you do? Here's how other parents approach the thorny subject of teaching your child to be polite.

When kids forget to be polite, here are some tips from parents for reminding them!


Softly softly…

“I don’t force my kids to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. They do spontaneously most of the time but if they forget I think it’s wrong to get them to say something they don’t mean. Instead I repeat what I’d prefer them to say, so ‘water please’. It’ll sink in eventually.”
Kerry, Mum to John, 5, and Adie, 3

Excuse me?

“I tried reminding my kids constantly but just repeating it all the time didn’t seem to be working – plus it was making me mad! Now, until they say ‘please’, I act like I haven’t heard the request and if I’m expecting a ‘thank you’ I just stand and wait for one until they remember what I’m there for!”
Lisa, Mum to two kids, aged 8 and 4

Make it fun…

We have two ways to encourage the kids to mind their manners when it seems like they’re forgetting to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. At first we had a reward chart just for this, but it was difficult to remember to add the stars if the kids remembered their manners when we were out and about. So then we invented ‘P & Q spotting’, and the person (could be Mum and Dad, too!) who’d said the most (genuine!) pleases and thank yous by the end of the day won some sweets! It works a treat!
Jim, dad to Sam, 5, and Martha, 2

Manners to ransom!

“Just getting at the kids to ‘say please’ wasn’t working – they’d just repeat it mechanically after me and I felt like they didn’t mean it at all. So now if they don’t say please, I’ve taught them that I’ll clear my throat once to remind them, and if they still don’t remember, they won’t get what they’re asking for for ten minutes. It might seem harsh but it worked so well I only had to do it for a couple of weeks!”
Gail, Mum to three kids, all over 6

 What's your secret?

How do you help your kids remember their manners? Share your story on the Official Supernanny Facebook page

Related links

  • Stop the Backchat! Many parents complain about disrespectful behaviour from their children. Backchat, sarcasm, bad manners, swearing and cheekiness can be frustrating and difficult to handle – but handle it you can, with this advice from Supernanny expert Victoria Samuel…
  • Get Your Child to Listen – and Listen to Your Child: Your child’s selective hearing can be a big source of frustration, but training him to listen isn’t as hard as you think…
  • The Reward Chart Positive attention and praise are the most effective rewards for good behaviour – including saying please and thank you! 

Find out more

  • Excuse Me! by Karen Katz. Cute lift-the-flap pictures make please and thank you fun and easy to remember – this is the perfect way to introduce those magic words that all little ones should know.
  • 365 Manners Kids Should Know by Sheryl Eberly. Full of role-playing exercises, games, and other activities you can do with your child, plus age-by-age tips on what you should expect, what manners to teach, and fun ways to make learning manners fun.
  • How Rude!: The Teenagers' Guide to Good Manners, Proper Behavior, and Not Grossing People Out by Alex J Packer. From rude noises and table manners to netiquette and dating manners, all your teen needs to know presented in humorous tones with plenty of  cartoons, boldface headings and goofy quizzes to liven things up.

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