Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Ps and Qs

My toddler is driving me bananas with his absolute refusal to say please and thank-you!  

I don't know what's causing it.  For ages when he was first learning to talk he was quite happy to say please, and  because I always responded with "Good boy" it mutated to "pleaseboy".  We haven't even heard that for a good while now.  I always model pleases and thank-yous, and when he asks for something I say "please mummy" to demonstrate what's missing, and "thank-you mummy" when I give him something.  When I ask "How do you ask nicely?" he just either smiles coyly or makes a pained moaning  noise.

I think it's a control thing for him.  It's something he can withold that he knows we want. 

After a bit of a stressful week trying to enforce it after our return from holiday in June, which resulted in lots of crying and screaming (because he would be put in time out, or go to bed with no story), I wondered whether maybe my expectations were out of kilter with his being a toddler.  I decided to just let it go for a bit, keep modelling what I want him to say, and hope that he just starts spontaneously.

However, in the last few weeks we've been in contact with two little girls.  Their vocabulary is nowhere near as broad as Little C's.  They say please and thank-you willingly.  So as far as I see it, there's no reason in the world why he can't say it too.

We went back in with the "time out" and not giving him what he wanted unless he said please.  Result - more tears, screaming and stress.  We've also gone with the "Your cousin D...... says Please.  If you want to be a lovely boy like D......, then you need to say please as well."  It's just not happening.  So the way I see it, if I want him to use please and thank-you I have three options:

  1. continue modelling desired behaviour, praise it if and when it occurs and hope that it just starts one day soon
  2. persevere with the time-outs, screaming, stress etc. and do so consistently so that he knows this is not optional
  3. Stop using the "stick" approach and try with a "carrot" instead, going with the dreaded STICKER CHART.
I'm going with option 3.  I don't think the way to promote good manners is to punish when they don't happen, and I'm not sure how I fell into the trap of doing that.  When we return from our camping trip I'll have a laminated sticker card and some reward stickers.  Every time he says please or thank-you in an appropriate context, then he gets a sticker on the card.  At dinner time, if he has at least ten stickers on his card, then he gets to transfer them to his sticker book, and choose a fun activity for the next day to put up on  to our weekly planner (I'll post about my weekly planner tomorrow).  The activities will all be things we do anyway, like: Go to play-park; play on bike; Go to library; lunch in a cafe; messy play; noisy play; water play; but the point being that he gets to choose for the next day.  

My only doubt is once you start a sticker chart, how do you wean them back off it, so that they do the desired behaviour without need for a reward?   

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