Should we teach children manners? Yes, absolutely! Manners should be taught once children have language. For children who do not have language, their attempts to communicate are for the primary purpose of living, in other words getting their wants and needs met. By expecting children to use please to request what they want, they are at a disadvantage because they do not have the vocabulary to request specific objects. Thus, communicative partners have the burden of deciding what the child needs or wants. This can lead to frustration and communicative breakdowns if the communicative partner is unable to figure out what the child needs or wants. Imagine a child walking up to their Kindergarten teacher and saying, “Please.” The teacher will have no idea what the child is requesting.
Words associated with manners are abstract (hard to understand) because they are not related to concrete items/objects. Children’s first words are nouns (people, places, things). Let’s teach children these types of words (mom, dad, milk, water, cheese, blocks, bubbles, etc.) so they can make specific requests. Once children are producing multi-word utterances, they also have the cognitive ability to understand manners. For example, when children are using sentences like, ” I want milk,” adding the word “please,” is appropriate. Then expecting them to say, “thank you,” when receiving the desired item is also appropriate.