The Cap’n and I are sticklers for the word “please.” From the time our children learn to talk, we teach them the formulas for requests, such as “May I please have/do…” and “Would you please do/give me…”
We have both had occasion to notice that many parents do not teach this little word. Many is the time my children have had young guests over who, when I’ve served a snack, just stare in expectation, or bellow the Israeli formula, “I also want!” We have also had the very great pleasure of having the occasional young guest who, while he or she might not use the word regularly at home, is ready and able to use it in our house.
One thing I learned from working with challenged kids of various types is that they need adults to have expectations of them, and they in turn will live up or down to these expectations. To decline to teach a child proper table manners (napkins in laps, no elbows on the table, chewing and swallowing before speaking) makes them rude, unsavory company at table. To believe that a child cannot learn to ask with a “please” is to sentence him or her to years of barbarism, and eventual “please” training fraught with resistance.
I must also distinguish between a polite request (“Would you please pass the potatoes?”) and a barely softened command (“Pass the potatoes, please”). The former is unassuming, and good manners. The latter is entitlement.
I love it when my children say “please” and “thank you.” Not only does it give me some pride in my own children’s manners; it also proves that children are as capable of kindness and consideration as adults. As a mom who runs her own household, I sometimes feel a bit like an indentured servant. When my children say “please,” I feel like a human being again.
For heaven’s sake, if Dumbledore can say “please” to Severus Snape in his final moments, a child can certainly say “please” when asking for a second helping of strawberry shortcake.