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I'm rather pleased with my latest attempt to remind my 4 year old to ask for things nicely - if she asks/demands something without saying "please" then I ask her to count to 10 and ask again.

It seems effective, and she even seems to quite enjoy it, but I wonder if there are any downsides I hadn't thought about?

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I think that's a nice way to handle the situation. I'm not particularly concerned about the fact that you're encouraging the interaction; really, the fact that she's feeling positive about the correction will help the outcome more than it will hurt it. You're getting her to practice doing it right, and eventually it will become ingrained.

I don't think I agree that giving high praise, for example, just because she gets it right is necessarily any better than this; that has a problem where the praise becomes the goal (and she needs the external validation). I like your approach for its simplicity and in particular that it focuses on giving her some space to think about how to perform the action (asking for something) correctly, rather than on punishment OR praise.

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You're probably more interested in knowing if it's effective than whether or not it's acceptable. It's not necessarily harsh, but it is unlikely to achieve what you want.

The best way to get your 4-year old to remember to say "please" or "thank you" (or do use good manners in general) it is to:

  1. Be consistent in doing these things yourself. Even go overboard by saying things like "Why thank you so very much!". I don't do this all the time with our 4-yr old, but when I do it makes her giggle, and sometimes she does it now too.
  2. Give high praise when you get the behavior you want. Saying things like "good job, you remembered to say "thank you"! I'm so proud of you!" goes a long way. It's even more effective if your significant other is in the room with you when it happens, so you can turn to them and say things like "did you hear that? She just said, "thank you"! What a big girl, are you sure she's not 5 years old?"

On the other hand, by giving them what might feel like a punishment, you are not only making manners associated with a negative feeling, but you are telling her that counting is a punishment.

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    I've enjoyed using your suggestions. As a note, she doesnt act as though what I'm asking her to do is a punishment, I guess because it is very low impact. She enjoys counting as well so it doesn't come off as harsh, other than she has to wait for 10 seconds to get an answer. – conradj May 6 '18 at 6:57
  • that's great (It sounds like you love being a parent, I do as well)! Thanks for the feedback! – jonschlinkert May 6 '18 at 17:18
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It's probably just the interaction with you that she's enjoying. This could unfortunately be re-enforcing undesirable behaviour.

If you want her to ask politely, then responding in a positive way (from her perspective) when she doesn't do this, may not be the best approach.

A better approach may be to simply ignore her until she asks politely, or inform her, in a matter-of-fact tone that she needs to ask politely.

The general rule is, avoid engaging with them in any way, positively, or negatively, in response to negative behaviour.

  • When you say "general rule" perhaps you could provide a link to research / thought leaders in the field of childhood development or a similar field. Otherwise, it's "your rule" and not really general. – benjaminmgross May 2 '18 at 17:17
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    I'd be interested in understanding more about the benefits and effects of ignoring a child. It's not a natural interaction and instinctively I feel it would have downsides. – conradj May 6 '18 at 6:53

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