Parents' lives are easier and more pleasant when their children are polite and respectfully do what they're told. But reasonable parents don't expect or demand blind obedience from their children at all times. They recognize the importance of raising children who can think for themselves and who know when to toe-the-line versus when to test the limits. Loving support combined with good discipline, helps parents raise independent, well-behaved children.
As soon as your toddler begins to speak it's time to teach her to say "please" and "thank you." But merely learning to mimic the words is not enough, if they don't convey genuine appreciation. Talk to your child about expressing feelings of satisfaction and happiness so she'll learn to connect the words to sincere feelings of gratitude. For example, asking her, "How did you feel when Grandma gave you the dolly?" helps her understand the meaning of thanks.
Model Politeness and Show Respect
Children observe their parents and copy their behavior more than we realize, so it's essential to be a good role model. Express politeness at all times in your interactions with her and with everyone else. It's a particularly powerful teaching tool if you stay in control during stressful situations. Talking respectfully to your car mechanic, even when you believe he's botched the repair, demonstrates how to assert your rights politely.
Although the way you express disapproval of your child's disobedience might vary depending on the situation, it's important you always react. For example, if your youngster does anything dangerous, such as a dash into the street, you'll probably shout and grab her, while an attempt to take a bite of cookie, after you warned her not to, might warrant nothing more than a stern look of admonition. Don't forget to positively reinforce her obedience -- smiles, hugs and telling your child you're proud of her are usually the best rewards for good behavior.
Reinforce the benefits of behaving politely and obediently whenever you can. Read stories on these topics to your child and discuss the issues by asking questions such as, "Why is Baby Bear sad? What did he do wrong?" When watching TV together, talk about the rudeness and disobedience you see. Play the "what if" game with your child, asking her to describe how she thinks the story might be different if the characters were polite or obedient. When you see other children misbehaving, talk to your child about what's wrong with that behavior.