“Please” “Thank you” and “I’m Sorry”

Joey and Carla Link

March 1, 2023

How often have you heard a parent say to their child, “Now what’s the magic word?” before giving the child something he/she wants? Teaching your toddlers to say or sign “please” and “thank you” seems to take forever. Why is that do you suppose?

In light of all the other things you work on with your child, is saying “please” and 

thank you” even worth it? Won’t they start saying it when they are old enough to know people want to hear them do so?

Mark Batterson, author of “The Circle Maker” that was popular a few years ago in the Christian community has a new book out titled, “The Three Words That Change Everything – Please, Sorry, Thanks”. I think if he was in your home, he would tell you that saying “please” and “thank you” most certainly is a big deal and to keep working on it with your kids. Batterson goes on to say that in his opinion, these three words can take you a long way towards healing broken relationships.  

Let’s look at the big picture. What is your child doing when he/she says “please”? Rather than demand something, he is asking for it. Let’s say your 4 yr. old tells you he wants a cookie in a nice tone. What is your first thought? If I am with a child who says to me, “I want a cookie”, my first thought usually is, “Well, if you want it, how should you ask for it? Depending on how well I know the child in question, I might say “Too bad wanting isn’t getting”. 

How many times, when I say this do you think the child (over 3 years) immediately says, “May I please have a cookie?” That’s right, most of the time. Your kids know what to do. For whatever reason they are choosing not to remember to do it and need parental intervention to get them to choose to do so.

Asking or demanding. Which do you want your kids to be characterized by? If your answer is “asking”, then work with them to say “please”.

Your child should say “thank you” when he/she gets something. Working with your kids to say “thank you” is teaching them about gratitude. Being content is based on having a heart of gratitude. When you are thankful for what you have you are not always begging for more. 

So why aren’t kids characterized by choosing to remember to say “please” when they want something and “thank you” when they get it? If your kids are 4 years and older, it is because they don’t want to. Asking instead of telling is putting yourself second and the other person first.  When you say “thank you”, you are putting yourself second too. Everyone wants to be first. Kids expect to be first. No one likes to be second. This is a big reason kids “don’t remember” to say these words on their own initiative. 

When you apologize to someone, you are telling them you know you wronged them, usually physically or emotionally or both and you want to let them know it is your responsibility to take that wrong away. 

This is why we teach parents to work through the Repentance, Forgiveness and Restoration process this way: 

· Their kids need to tell the person they hurt they were wrong for hurting them and why what they did was wrong

· Asking for forgiveness comes next which is to restore the relationship 

· The last step is to either ask or tell the one they wronged how they intend to make that wrong right.

Apologizing is putting yourself below the feelings of the other person and this is very difficult for adults and/or kids to do. This is why “I’m sorry” is so hard to say. Little kids won’t understand the Repentance, Forgiveness and Restoration process, so for kids under 6 yrs. of age “I’m sorry” is good enough. By the time they reach 7 years they should understand what asking someone for forgiveness is all about, because this is the age most kids start to understand why Jesus died on the cross to forgive us our sins.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins 

and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

I John 1:9

What do you do when your kids won’t say these 3 phrases?

1.  Stop reminding them. When they won’t say it unless you remind them, they are putting the ownership on you of “remembering” to pay attention to whether they say these phrases or not.

2.  Give consequences. Every time they don’t say “Please”, “Thank you”, or initiate an apology it is time to remind them to do so with a consequence.

· If your kids don’t say “please”, they don’t get what they are asking for or demanding. If your child throws a fit, have him/her sit to get self-control. After his apology, he still doesn’t get what he wanted even if he asks for it again and says please

· If your kids don’t say “Thank you”, take away what they have just been given. If your child throws a fit, have him/her sit to get self-control. After his apology, he still doesn’t get it back. 

· If your child won’t apologize on his/her own initiative, have him sit until he is willing to do so and listen to his apology when he gives it to make sure it is more than “Sorry”. Pay attention to his tone as well and if neither of these are done correctly, back he goes to sit. Make sure he asks how he can make what he did wrong, right.

Three phrases. They teach your kids a lot more than just learning to be polite and repentant. It is up to you to decide if it is worth your effort to ensure your kids learn to say them on their own initiative because they most likely won’t do it without your intervention.