When my girls were very young I often felt like a broken record. Every single day, this was the phrase that came out of my mouth multiple times, “What do you say?” “Girls, that gentleman just opened the door for you, what do you say?” Or, “Ladies, the nice waitress just gave you your milk, what do you say?” ARGH! Stop the madness! I can’t tell you how much that got on my nerves. The constant reminders to use their manners and say, “Thank you,” was enough to drive me up a wall.
For me, I knew that this four word phrase was ranking up there with Chinese water torture, so I could only imagine how annoying it must have been for the girls. But moms, you get it, this is one of those high-ranking parenting necessities that we all have to check off that elusive “Stellar Parent To-Do” list. We want children who are polite, respectful, and innately grateful! And we all know, our kids are flawed humans just like their parents, but just on a smaller scale.
But seriously, there had to be a better way than the constant parrot-like harping and reminding to say a simple thank you. I was determined to find another way and so I started DOING what I was preaching in a more intentional manner. And bingo. It started working. Here’s what I did.
Disclaimer: this isn’t rocket science, but I’ve seen some cool behaviors come from this so here we go.
Instead of constantly pulling out the, “What do you say?” verbiage when the situation called for it, I began finding more reasons and situations for ME to say “thank you” in front of them. For example, every single time we eat out at a restaurant as a family, and my husband pays the bill, when we get up to leave I always thank him for our meal. Every. Single. Time. I didn’t specifically tell the girls to thank him, but I made sure they saw me do it. Then guess what? One day, one of the girls beat me to it! I almost fell out of my chair. She said, “Thank you Daddy for the food!” And before I knew it, it became a habit that my girls are usually very good about doing consistently.
My husband does the same for me when I cook at home. He makes a point to thank me for the food I’ve prepared, and it’s becoming a modeled behavior that the girls are picking up on and doing themselves without being reminded. It’s a beautiful thing to watch! (It’s especially nice, on those nights when they think what I’ve cooked looks and tastes like something you might find on a distant planet. And oftentimes the restraint in making that fact well known to all at the table is non-existent. Still working on that one, folks.)
This goes for so many other situations and instances. Pretty much anytime that a “thank you” is necessary, make sure your kids see YOU doing it and doing it with confidence. Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely still times when a little reminder nudge is needed, but over time I have seen this become an expected behavior. I haven’t had to solely rely on the annoying, “What do you say?” reminders.
Again, I know this isn’t some earth shattering concept, but it was a huge reminder for me that our kids are watching everything we do. It’s a real time version of “Monkey See, Monkey Do” so if you want your kids to act a certain way, be the example that you want them to become!