It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Some days you have to take the long view…

“Want shoes! Want shoes! Want shoes!”

“We’re all getting our shoes on, Nigel. It’s not your turn yet, and that’s not how you ask.”

I continue shoving small feet into wee shoes. Nigel’s pushiness just put him at the end of the queue. (How else to learn patience? And I don’t reward rudeness. Harrumph.)

“How do you ask politely?”


“Yes, politely. You know how to ask politely, Nigel. Say the whole Sentence.” In fact, I don’t know know that he knows The Sentence. He should know it. It’s been a very “I-want-y” week, so he’s only heard/repeated The Sentence about 500 gazillion times in the last four days.

“Sentence.” This is standard. Ask him to do something, he echoes back part of the request. I have yet to decide whether it’s a stall tactic, or he truly doesn’t understand the concept of question and answer. I lean to the latter, but you know what? It really doesn’t matter. The ‘why’ of toddler behaviour doesn’t often matter.

Meantime, foot-shodding continues. Anna is done, Emily is done. Malli, bless her Big-Girl self, can put her own shoes on.

“Hey Tims, bring me those little feet, buddy.” Timmy trots over and plops himself in my lap. “No, Nigel, say The Sentence.”

“Say the sentence.” Bah. Just with the echoing, yet. I’ll have to give the words to him.

“May I…” I pause, raise my eyebrows, smile at him. I’m hoping to prime the pump, here. Get him started and he’ll know what comes next. I hope. I want those polite words to come automatically, of his own volition.

“May I?” He beams back at me. He knows those are Good Words! Too bad for you, bud, they’re not good enough. The bar is much higher than that for this verbal little boy. Still, it’s evident that I’m going to have to spoonfeed him the entire Sentence. Sigh.

“May I have my shoes, please?”

“May I have my shoes, please?” See? Echoing he can do. And he’s familiar with The Sentence, having heard it about 500 gazillion times this week. (Oh. Said that already, did I? Not as many times as I’ve SAID THE DAMNED SENTENCE!!!) Still, we reward these things, no matter how much work they were to get out…

“Well done!” I beam, and clap in appreciation. “THAT was a polite Sentence! ‘May I have my shoes, please?’ Yes, you may. Come here and let’s get them on.”

At least he said it. Sooner or later he’ll ‘get’ what ‘polite sentence’ means, and it’ll come of its own volition. Sooner…

“Want coat! Want coat! Want coat!” …or later…

Civilizing them is a long, gradual process…

May 4, 2007 - Posted by | manners


  1. Is Nigel my son???? Except three-and-a-half and not living in Ottawa? Hmmm…

    Comment by bubandpie | May 4, 2007 | Reply

  2. No, bub and pie, he’s mine. Two and living in Utah. Of course, I can only summon the strength to demand a please, which I can now usually get with a raised eyebrow, so most sentences sound like this: “I want oatmeal, mommy.” ((pause–eyebrow up))”pleeeease?”

    *sigh* Yet another reason I’m not a stay-at-home-mom.

    Comment by stefanierj | May 4, 2007 | Reply

  3. Ha! Too funny. Can you come over to my house and teach my kids?

    Comment by Kellie | May 4, 2007 | Reply

  4. Maya learned “the sentence” well enough that when she wants down from the dinner table it’s “May I have some down, please?” I want to correct it, but it’s so stinking cute that I don’t.

    Comment by Allison | May 4, 2007 | Reply

  5. that’s pretty much how i ask for things. 😛

    no, no, i’m kidding. i’m obviously more civilized than that. usually…

    Comment by Lara | May 4, 2007 | Reply

  6. Hah! This is one we have figured out.

    “Oh, mama, you-so-beautiful-pweese can I have some appa-juice?”

    The next one we are tackling is how to find the balance about being a tattle-tale….. although the funniest was last week… “Mmmmoooooommmmmm, Daddy said shiiit.”

    Comment by Homestead | May 4, 2007 | Reply

  7. We finally got Ian to understand what we mean by requesting the magic word, “Please.” That little clue usually turns something on in his coconut and he asks again much more politely.

    Comment by mamacita tina | May 4, 2007 | Reply

  8. Huh. Around here, the reminder comes as

    I wanna banana.
    I wanna banana.
    I wanna banana.
    Can I have a banana, please?
    Oh, that’s nice asking. Sure, you can have a banana.

    Thank you was a lot easier!

    Comment by kittenpie | May 4, 2007 | Reply

  9. Miss Pink is very into manners these days (she’s 4 1/2). If she forgets to ask nicely, a reminder gets a quick rephrase with “please.” Of course, she thinks that just because she says please, she should automatically get what she asked for! And she often reminds us if we forget to say “thank you” or the like. It *only* took four and a half years!

    I like Homestead’s version of The Sentence. Nothing like a little flattery to get you some more apple juice!

    Comment by Alison | May 4, 2007 | Reply

  10. Bubandpie, Stefanierj: I think Nigel is Everytoddler. It’s an exceedingly rare child who doesn’t go through something like this at some point before they turn four. By which point we all fervently hope they’ve absorbed the lesson!

    Kellie: No. I’m tired. 😛

    Allison: Oh, no, you couldn’t possibly correct that! Too stinkin’ cute is right!

    Lara: You can be as uncivilized as you like. Just not around my kids! Thanks. 🙂

    Homestead: He doesn’t do that! Not seriously? Oh, my lord. My rule of thumb for tattling? If nobody’s bleeding, or likely to be bleeding – I don’t want to hear it. It’s basic, but it works. Mostly.

    Mamacita Tina: Oh, Nigel will say ‘please’. He’ll echo it same as he’ll echo anything else. But he doesn’t take it from there, and one word is not sufficient for a child who speaks in full sentences. Besides, I want him to say it himself, not echo me. Sigh.

    Kittenpie: Tried that. It went like this:

    I wanna banana?
    I want a banana, what?
    I wanna bananawhat.

    SSsigh… Nigel is hard core, I tell you…

    Alison: Four and a half, huh? That means I only have two. more. years of it with Nigel. Sigh…

    Comment by MaryP | May 5, 2007 | Reply

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