Saturday, September 17, 2011

How Much Should You Give to "Please?"

A mother I know posed the following to her fellow Facebooking mommies:

3 year old son: I wanna watch da monkey.

Dada: We’re eating lunch, Buba. We’ll watch it later.

3 year old son: I wanna watch it now, please.

Dada: After we eat breakfast.

3 year old son: I said “please”...

You: Should he get to watch it (NOW!) or not?

The replying mommies spotted the potential power play right away and offered great advice. These wise women advised against popping in the video lest mom and dad be held hostage by every please ever uttered – from “One more cookie, please!” to “Three more cups of water before bedtime, please!”

Still, if you’ve been working on saying "please" in your home, it is hard to pass up the opportunity to reward the deliberate use of the word. The supportive mommies were hot on that trail, too. They advised thanking the child for saying please, but to following through with what was said the first time. No monkey until after breakfast.

Thanking a child for using the word "please" is certainly an appropriate response and may encourage him to do it again. However, if parents are really interested in motivating their children, a response using Descriptive Praise is the most effective encouragement. Descriptive Praise explains why saying the word is delightful and necessary.

Some parents feel Descriptive Praise is over the top or unnecessary. Children should simply do what is right because they are told. However, those of us who make Descriptive Praise a practice know it is a powerful tool in encouraging good behavior and is significantly less draining than demanding, enforcing, and reminding our children to cooperate.

A Descriptive Praise response in this scenario from Dada to his three year old son might be: “I noticed you said "please". You remembered!” This would be affirming the child for remembering the family is working on saying "please". Or, Dada could say, “Saying 'please' is very polite when you ask for something. You did the right thing.” In this case, this Descriptive Praise encourages polite manners without making "please" the child's all powerful key to getting what they want. There is no need to repeat the fact that there will be no monkey before its time.

Amanda Deverich (see profile below)
Williamsburg, VA

1 comment:

  1. I love reading this, again, after all this time. We are "fairly" consistant with Descriptive Praise and not at all consistant with using television as a reward for good behavior. This reminded me that we really need to start sticking to the idea that TV is a reward for doing the right thing (recently this would mean finishing dinner without incident - right now we are in the habit of throwing food or spitting water). I am reinvigorated to do the right thing, tonight!