For or against: forcing children to say please and thank you

“Hello”, “goodbye”, passing by “please”, and “thank you”, here are polite expressions that we often teach our children very early on. But is it really useful to teach them this from an early age?

For: Being well seen by those around you

Imagine your pride: when you arrive somewhere, your little one always says “hello”, and precedes all his wishes with a “please”. Everyone congratulates you: “But how well your child is being brought up!”. Because behaving well in society is one of the objectives of education. For some, it comes through polite phrases . As a parent, you have a lot of pressure from society and those around you. You are bound to have moments of doubt, and having your child’s education validated and recognized by others can be very important to you. Nevertheless, Valérie Roumanoff, hypnotherapist and author of the book “He stings crises, appeases the anger of your child thanks to hypnosis” explains “You don’t educate your child for others, but to be independent later ”.

Against: Children do not understand polite words

In her book For or against: The great debates of early childhood in the light of scientific knowledge , psychologist Héloïse Junier is rather against this injunction. She writes: “ The polite words which are obvious to us are for young children a set of abstract terms which do not mean much ”. Indeed, they are, as the writer explains, in the concrete and the physical: “ They only understand the words which refer to objects which they can handle (ball, truck, plate), or to actions which ” they were able to experiment with the body (jumping, hitting, throwing) ”. However, one cannot materialize a “thank you”, or a “please”. Especially since before the age of four to five, the child is not “off-center”: “ He is not yet in a position to attribute to others beliefs and intentions different from his own ”, so he does not understand these formulas. So, even if he says “thank you”, when you serve him his plate, it does not mean that he has grasped the meaning of the word: “ The child has simply associated a given action with a sequence of syllables ” affirms the psychologist.

Theory of mind

In her book “ For or against ”, Héloïse Junier evokes “the theory of mind”. It means “the ability of children to understand the mental functioning of those around them ”. In other words, this is the moment when they are going to be able to understand that the mental states of others may be different from their own. The author explains that this is a key skill, for example to understand humor, and other subtleties, such as polite words. Before that period, forcing him to use the words “magic” will have, according to Héloïse Junier, “ no psycho-pedagogical meaning. This has only one merit: to please the adult! ”.

The politeness of the child

Just because your little one doesn’t always say “please” and “thank you”, doesn’t mean he’s rude! “ Young children are polite in their own way, ” explains the writer. She continues: “They don’t need adult words to show you their gratitude. They have been doing it naturally since they were very young ”. How? ‘Or’ What ? “ They smile at you, caress you, grab your arm, shake your hand, ” says the author. Sometimes they give you something precious, which in their eyes represents a real treasure, like a beautiful pebble that they found while going to play in the park . Valérie Roumanoff adds: “ Politeness is something that is supposed to come from the heart”. And what could be more spontaneous than a big smile?

Learning through mimicry

What is important is not so much the polite expressions, but rather the way your loulou will behave. Indeed, he can very well use it mechanically, and yet be very rude. To behave well at the table , not to cut the word, and above all to respect others , such is a pledge of politeness. Heloise Junier explains that for some parents, forcing children to learn these formulas is a way of “ contributing to their education and especially of instilling in them the rules of good manners in society ”. But we must not skip the steps, because the understanding of these words by the child depends on their brain development., and not out of their goodwill. The easiest way to instill these values ​​in your little one, and to be polite yourself! “ Children spend a very large part of their time imitating us. The more polite we are ourselves, the more we will pass this on to them, ”says Valérie Roumanoff. In this way, it will also allow him to put more meaning behind those words. Because if you don’t address him in a polite manner, there is little chance that he will do it with you and the others!

Learn respect

To conclude, we could therefore say that the main thing is to teach your child to respect others . “In the end, saying please and thank you is pretty superficial. What matters most is respect for the other person. We could very well say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and for all that send everyone out for a walk “, affirms Valérie Roumanoff. The writer also reassures:” It is useless to put pressure on yourself so that children master the use of these words from early childhood . “Indeed, both experts are unanimous: to learn politeness in a lasting and profound way, be polite, and set an example!