Please Teach Your Children Their ‘Magic Words’

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teach your kids mannersI remember very distinctly the first time I got yelled at for asking a child to use their manners. It was at a childcare facility that I worked at, and the entire interaction lasted somewhere around four seconds:

Four-Year-Old Kid: Gimme goldfish.

Me: Say please, sweetheart.

FYOK: Gimme goldfish, please.

Me: Sure thing, big guy.

I gave the kid some goldfish crackers and a high five, and then suddenly I was being pulled into an office and chastised about how children that young can’t be expected to use manners and that I would be “on notice” if I tried to inhumanely force a child to use their “magic words” again.

Um, okay, but also: wut?

My biggest pet peeve when it comes to other people’s kids is when they can’t meet the baseline for human decency by saying, “excuse me”, “please”, “thank you”, and “you’re welcome”. Obviously I don’t expect your two-year-old to curtsy and address me using the Queen’s english, and honestly I’m pretty squicked out by parents who insist that their kids call them “ma’am” or “sir”. But the basic stuff? Come on.

I don’t know why it irritates me so much when one of my daughter’s friends comes up to me and demands stuff, other than the fact that it just feels really wrong. After all, if it was an adult, I would probably side eye them or mock them or else tell them to fuck off. My years as a server at Bennigan’s has given me an extremely low tolerance for bad manners. I guess I instilled these manners in my kid as a preventative measure: I didn’t want her to be only as polite as the shittiest four-top at a cheesily decorated family restaurant.

Another thing that keeps me annoyed at kids bereft of manners is that I feel a little ripped off. I taught my kid to be polite but not deferential, so why can’t you be arsed to do the same thing? It’s kind of like skipping the express lane at the grocery store because you have 20 items, only to find that some asshole mows you down to get there with five carts packed to the brim.

Like most things parenting-related, I am probably wrong; there is probably some study out there that says kids who demand goldfish crackers from day care workers on minimum wage without saying please grow up to be captains of industry or some shit, but I kind of don’t care.

I mean, we live in a world that goes absolutely bananas if you forget to send one measly thank you note, and yet, it is also a world in which I get written up for asking a kid to request his morning snack nicely. Why? Will it damage them somehow? Is it not positive enough? Is asking for a simple “excuse me” the equivalent of smacking a kid across their face or demanding a “please” on par with destroying your child’s creativity?

Either way, try teaching your kids manners, because unless they say “please”, I’m just going to pretend I don’t hear them, and they can get their own damn crackers.

(Image: Mikkel Bigandt /Shutterstock)