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Please and Thank You: Teaching Your Toddler to Be Polite

I get compliments about how polite my toddler is. At two-and-a-half years old, she greets adults by name; she says please, thank you, and you're welcome when it's appropriate (most of the time); and she is very complimentary herself ("I like yours shoes. They're so pretty.")

It isn't by accident that she is this way. This is behavior that I actively tried to instill in her from the time she was born. I have seen conflicting advice about teaching keeds to be polite so I think it might be useful for others to know what I do.

1. Model Good Behavior

I think this is a key step in teaching kids how to do anything. We say please and thank you to the toddler. When I ask her to do something, I say please. When she complies, I thank her. It's not difficult. I started this when she was a newborn so that I would get into the habit. ("Don't roll off the changing table, please. Thank you.") I read in a book that you should only model behavior and never tell your kid to say please and thank you since they will naturally pick it up, but I don't agree. Kids need prompts.

I compliment her every day and I compliment other people in front of her. I tell her she's funny, or I say that her hair looks cute, or I like the picture she colored. She says thank you, and she copies that behavior with others.

2. Remind, but Don't Demand

I read in a book that you should not force your tiny toddler to say please and thank you. You should remind them to do so and let it go. If my toddler forgets to ask for something in a nice way, or to say please, or thank you, I remind her, but I don't force her to do it right then. Using this method, her use of please and thank you gradually increased on it's own.

This was another thing I started when she was a newborn. It was a little ridiculous at first because I would be holding my tiny baby who couldn't even hold her own head up and I would say, "Say hi to Aunt Marie," and then I would say it for her, "Hi, Aunt Marie." But, at her two-and-a-half-year check-up, she greeted her doctor with, "Hi, Dr. Altmann," when the doctor walked in the room so, as ridiculous as it seemed then, it has paid off.

When I started this post, I thought there was more to it, but as I got into, I realized it really has been as simple as that.


Julie Melendez


I feel the exact same way. People tell me my four year old is very polite. My husband and I both did the talking for them thing when the boys were babies, not only to demonstrate politeness, but to keep them hearing normal language. I would always narrate what I do in my day. The more normal speech ( and not baby talk) they hear they better they will speak. My 4 year old sounds like a 20 year old with his language skills. And you are right, don't force it. I remind him when he forgets, but then let it go. When I ask him to do something I always say please and thank you. I also make sure that I do this with others to set an example. Especially in public, at the bank or the drive thru. I feel the same way on complimenting. He also will give unsolicitied compliments. I also make sure I give a kind of debfriefing after punishment. We heads are calm, explain why the behavior was a problem and that I expect A, B, or C. Now, when he is being a butt, and we have a time out or whatever, typically he will come to me and say, "I am really sorry that I did not listen and do 'X' and I know I should have". So, I think it gets them thinking about it, and working through it.


Actually, this is so ingrained in me from years of working with (raising) other people's children, that I say 'please' and 'thank you' to my cats. "Please get off the counter. Thank you!" It cracks me up.

When my sister asked me about the most important thing she could do for my nephew to make sure he did well in kindergarten and thereafter, I told her that cute kids get the most breaks. After that, polite kids get the best treatment. You have no control over how cute your kid is - but you can train them to be polite.

Peeved Michelle

Julie: Actually, my post tomorrow is about fostering language skills. After time outs, we sit her on our lap and say, "Kenna, you were in time out because blah blah blah. When you do blah blah blah, it blah blah blah." And then we have sorries and I love yous and hugs. She put her doll in time out the other day and then had a little talk with the doll afterward about not listening.

Robin: I do that with the dog, too. "Shelby, outside, please. Thank you."


Aww. Poor baby stella. She didn't listen? Awesome.

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