Please and Thank You are NOT magic words! Instead, they are NECESSARY! Yes, they are the “Open Sesame” in many situations and with many people; however, if that is all that is necessary to get something special, then many people won’t get it. And the reason they won’t is that they don’t say those words-or, if they do say them, they do so grudgingly and unconvincingly.
When I was a child, I learned early to say both “Please” and “Thank you”! And I learned that I had better sound sincere when I used either of them! My family was poor, and neither of my parents had much education, but they were rich in how to conduct themselves in different situations. They insisted that we always say “please” when we asked for something, whether it was a glass of water, a friend to come over, or money for something. And we didn’t get whatever it was if we didn’t say please-and sound as if we meant it! And if we didn’t say thank you for it, we didn’t get to keep it. Simple. Direct. We all learned the lesson, and never forgot it.
As I have aged, though, I have seen fewer and fewer people teaching their children these simple words and their meanings. The children say “I want” and their parents give it to them, unless it is something that is too expensive or dangerous. They accept their children’s “wants” as “needs” and turn their entire lives upside down, at times, to give the children whatever they want. That, in itself, tells the child that he or she is the boss, and he/she will continue asking for more and bigger and more expensive things, trying to find the parameters of the parents’ acceding to their demands. Thus, the children become rulers in the household, and the parents become the underlings.
This is unhealthy for all the family. The children have no limits, and the parents have no idea what they are doing to their children. I have seen it over and over, and the children are miserable, but can’t figure out why; the parents are also miserable, but contend that they are doing all they can to be good parents. But limits have to be set, and the parents, as the adults, are the ones who should set those limits. Only when limits are set, and everyone is aware of the limits and of the consequences of exceeding the limits, can order be restored to the household. But the battle won’t be won that easily; the children will constantly try to push the limits past the set place; it will be up to the parents to “play the heavy” by reinforcing the limits and consequences.
When children know where the limits are, and know what the consequences of exceeding those limits are, then they will be able to relax and enjoy being children. And remember, part of all limits is to ask politely (say “please”) and show gratitude (say “thank you”)! And then, when they grow up and leave home, they can see for themselves what their “mean ol’ parents” saved them from, and they will come back, at some time, and say, “Mom, Dad, I thought you were being mean, but now I understand, and I want to thank you for all you did in making me follow the house rules”. That is when you know that you have succeeded in raising your children right!