I don’t know about you, but I melt with shame every time my preschoolers forget to say, “Thank you!” After all it’s such a simple phrase. But no, most preschoolers must be taught how to say thank you.
How to Teach Your Preschooler to Say Thank You
Don’t Start a Fight in Public
Usually you don’t even realize there’s a problem with your child’s ability to say thank you until your child refuses to say, “Thank you”. Your mother-in-law hands your preschooler the beautiful blanket she made. Your child looks at grandma, pokes at the blanket, and hides behind your legs.
And that’s when your mother-in-law gives you The Look. And you shrivel up.
Much as you’d like to haul your child out from behind your legs and force them to say thank you, it’s not the time. You’ll only end up with a fight. Instead model good manners and say it for your child.
Later you’ll teach your child to say thank you in private!
Pull Out the Stuffed Animals
When you get home, pull out your preschooler’s favorite stuffed animals and have a gentle conversation with them. Explain why it’s important to say thank you. After all you’re showing appreciation for Grandma’s hard work.
Now pick two animals to begin practicing how to say thank you, and pick a toy to be the gift. I’m going to choose a teddy bear, a monkey, and a toy banana.
Have the teddy bear hand the monkey the toy banana, and encourage the monkey to say thank you. Now have the monkey hand the banana back to the stuffed bear. The bear now says thanks!
Remember to have the monkey and bear forget to say thank you once in a while. Then you can gently prod the toy, “What do you say?”
At this stage, your preschooler is still watching the show.
Eventually invite your child to pick a stuffed animal to join the fun. Now enjoy a round robin while all the stuffed animals hand toys back and forth. Remind the critters to say thank you every time something is handed to them!
Role Play with Your Preschooler
Once your child is comfortable saying thank you as a stuffed animal, begin role playing. This simply means you and your child practice handing toys, cookies, and crackers back and forth saying thank you.
Role play is even more fun when you’re doing it with M&Ms or marshmallows. Let your child enjoy a treat every time they remember to say thank you!
Don’t rush the process. It takes time to cement manners into preschoolers’ heads. After all, it wasn’t many years ago they were still learning to talk!
Practice Inside the House
Once your child is comfortable with the role playing, practice inside the house. Have your child say thank you when you make them a sandwich, hand them a glass of milk, or pull down a cookie. And don’t just have your child saying thank you to you. Have them say thank you to Daddy and siblings as well!
Keep going until saying thanks becomes a reflex.
Talk About Expectations
Before you meet with your mother-in-law again, chat about what might happen. Remind your child that they may be handed a cookie and will need to say thanks. And if they forget, you’ll gently remind them.
Don’t leave anything up to chance!
It may take a few weeks before your preschooler will say thank you in public, so be patient. Shy children often require more practice before they’ll speak up. Just keep role playing until your child has the confidence to say thank you.
Books About Manners and Saying Thank You
Do your preschoolers have trouble saying thank you?