Sunday, February 5, 2012

My Little "Magic Word" Monster

Child: "I want more milk."
Parent:(Long pause)"What's the magic word?"

I have a theory about teaching my daughter to "say the magic word." Not that I shouldn't have taught her to use manners. Rather, it is the manner in which I taught her that I believe inadvertently created a little "Magic Word Monster."

She has now taken the Magic Word to a new level.

At the store:
My daughter: "Can I get this?"
Me: "No, sweetie."
Her (in the sweetest voice possible, with HUGE puppy dog eyes and a teethy smile): "Pleeeeeease."
Me (Loving but firm voice): "No, darlin. You already have one like that at home and you don't even play with it."
Her: "PLEASE, Mama? PLEEEEEEEEASE? I said, Please."

She said the Magic Word, after all.

It occurred to me that it was a learned behavior, and that I, yes I, was her teacher.

I mean, from the time she could ask for things with words, I began to require her to use the word, "Please" before she could get what she was asking for. I think it was mainly that "pause" between her asking and her getting, really. She would ask for something, I would pause and not give it to her... UNTIL.. she said, "Please." The magic word. THEN she would get what she wanted.

And boy, did she ever get it.

She worked out in her little mind that PLEASE was a very big and important word, a "magic" word, in fact, for getting what she wanted. She didn't say it, she didn't get it yet. But as soon as she said it, she got her heart's desire.

It made me wonder, was there a better way to teach her about manners, specifically the word, "Please"?

What if, while she was still a young toddler, I had gone ahead and handed her what she wanted right away (as long as it was something she could have, of course), and after I had given it to her had said, "The right way to ask for something is to say, 'May I please have...'"

I wonder.

Of course, it is too late now. The damage has been done. The Magic Word Monster will inevitably strike again on our next trip to the store.

So I have come up with a strategy to undo the damage, so to speak. On our next trip to the store, the word, "Please," will only be magical ONE time for each item she might ask for. After that, it loses its magic. No more Pleases, and she puts it back on the shelf.

If she does say Please again for that item, I will then pull out a large yellow stick (large craft stick painted yellow) from my purse and give it to her. It's her WARNING stick. She will hold it in her hand as a constant reminder that if she says Please again, she will then lose two reward chips from her cup at home (which she collects for good behavior, etc., to earn a prize from her prize bag). As soon as she puts that item back on the shelf, she can then give the WARNING stick back to me.

This rule will also apply to home, or places other than a store, anywhere she might use the word Please to try and get what she wants after she has been told No.

Of course, every now and then, I might say, "Yes." :-)

We'll see how it goes.

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