I am sure you have come across someone asking a child for the ‘magic word’ or as we adults call it, please or thank you. However, these basic manners aren’t magic, and by referring to them as ‘magic words’ children are associating that when saying them, they will magically work get what they want.
Please, thank you and sorry are basic manners, children need an understanding of what those words mean. Simply saying thank you on cue doesn’t mean you appreciate something, just like saying sorry doesn’t magically fix whatever has happened and made it okay. These words need to be attached with intent and an understanding of why those so-called ‘magic words’ are meaningful. Making them meaningful can’t happen by making a basic rule that magic words must always be said.
Of course, anyone working with children, be it a parent, family member or teacher wants them to use manners and be polite, however, wouldn’t you rather that your child means and understands what they say rather than just saying it for the sake of the ‘magic word rule’? These words can mean so much more when accompanied with real meaningful intention, such as a thank you with real gratitude behind it or sorry with a heartfelt hug.
How can you move away from ‘magic words’ and instead establish manners as a part of daily life?
– Talk with your children about what good manners are
– Chat about compassion, being gracious, being thankful or remorseful
– Lead by example. Model the right words and ways to act in situations – explain it to your child as it happens. For example, if a friend stops by with a plate of cookies, thank them genuinely and state a reason why you are thankful. Or if you have made a mistake, honestly model the feelings of when you have hurt someone and how you can fix that with a meaningful sorry and actions.
– Support your child in finding the right words and manners in social situations – use cues such as: it might be nice to tell your friend how you appreciate them or how can we make this better because I can see you’ve hurt someone?
– Use manners when you are going about life with your child, they deserve your meaningful thanks, sorry or please just as much as anyone else.
– Breakdown social situations that went a bit off course later with your child and brainstorm what could have been done differently
– Show them unconditional love, they are still learning and working these things out.