I recently read a post that said manners shouldn’t be forced on children, as in, “Don’t force your kids to mutter ‘please’ and ‘thank you’; instead, instill in them true gratitude.” While I’m all for teaching children to be truly grateful, I think it’s an interesting approach to suggest that we not teach our children to repeat words of thankfulness.
I’m not trying to stir the pot here. Let me explain.
There are a million different parenting styles, but in the end, we’re all in this together trying to raise decent human beings. As much as we as parents don’t always agree with each other, we can all still respect our fellow moms or dads and their parenting approach. Unless a parent’s style includes harming his/her children, no parenting style is better than another, and that’s the beauty of it.
For all of us to live peacefully in this space that we share, we must learn to respect our differences. For instance, if I don’t have a problem letting my kids vandalize my house with spray paint but I know my neighbor hates graffiti, I think it’s only fair that my kids don’t use the neighbor’s fence for their art, right? (Note: In this scenario I would be the neighbor, so please tell your kids to not vandalize my house.)
One of my biggest pet peeves is people who don’t acknowledge when someone holds the door open for them. I’m sure it has happened to you: You’re entering a building, a person is walking not far behind you, and because you’re a nice person, you stop and hold the door for them so it doesn’t hit them in the face. But instead of noticing that the door isn’t magically holding itself open, they just walk past without a “thanks,” a smile, or a nod. Nothing.
I can’t stand that.
I know if I’m making the decision to hold the door for a stranger I should do it because I want to and not because I’m expecting a “thank you” in return. I believe I should be respectful of you regardless of anyone’s response. That’s why I don’t go running after someone who refuses to acknowledge by kindess and say, “Excuse me, you forgot to say ‘thank you’!” But isn’t it an unspoken agreement that we should all at least try to be nice to each other?
This is probably one reason I utter, “And what do we saaaay, boys?” whenever the cashier at H-E-B hands my kids some Buddy Bucks and they take more than three seconds to respond. Somebody once told me that if I push my children to say “thank you” they will only say it in a robotic way and not really mean it, and that politeness is overrated because you are putting others before yourself.
But I don’t think it’s one or the other.
You can be polite and still be grateful.
You can be courteous and still be sincere.
You can acknowledge others and still be independent.
You can be respectful to others and still have self respect.
While I respect someone’s decision to not make their kids say “thanks” as an immediate response, I still believe “please” and “thank you” are magic words that are even better when we really mean them. Being grateful and appreciative are important virtues and amazing feelings that all of us adults and children should strive to experience. But the actual act of being thankful is a strong social skill that sometimes can make the difference.
Whether you decide to teach your children to say the words or to let them figure out thankfulness on their own, the important thing is to raise kind, strong, good-hearted children who respect each other, because those are the kind of people we need. In the meantime, I’ll try to nod, smile, or say “thanks” when somebody does something nice for me, even if they don’t feel like saying it back.