I have often wondered why the word ‘Please’ is not as often used when we conduct lessons for children. Take a look at the following ways of inviting a child to the work area by asking him questions like:
“Would you come with me please?”
“Would you like to come with me please?
“Would you like to come with me to the work area?”
“Would you like to follow me to the work area?”
I find that I get the same response whether or not I use the word ‘Please’. In fact, if I drop the word please, it goes unnoticed and then child will respond just as well.
I watch children educational programmes Dora The Explorer, Diego, Hi-5, Barney or Blues Clues. There are no deliberate attempts to use the word ‘Please’ to get the viewers to stay tuned to the programmes. All the characters used in the programmes manipulates the psychology of the mind with speech modulations, articulations, graphics, songs and drama to edutain (educate-entertain) the child. There is no need to use the word ‘Please’ to get them to dance, sing along or play pretend. The power to move the child does not rest on this one so called magic word.
YET, when a child forgets to use the word ‘Please’, they get a quick reminder to rephrase and repeat. It happens all the time to children. Let me highlight 2 things relating to the real life experiences between a child and the adult:
You don’t always get what you want even after using ‘please’. My daughter wants to watch television after dinner at 6 p.m. and has asked me permission. My response has been “No dear, you have homework to do and school in the morning.” She wants to drink coca cola with her McDonald’s meal, she doesn’t get it. I saw a 3 year old boy who struggled with his mother who refused to let him sip his apple juice before he takes a bite off this burger. He stared at his mother who talked down at him, “Say please first.”
You don’t earn your respect from a child just because you say please. Some children are just boisterous and need a lot of room to express themselves.
“I want to eat now,” says the boy.
“How do you say it?” asks the mother.
“May I eat now?” asks the boy.
“No how do you say it politely,” the mother asks.
“May I eat now please.”
“That is better.”
There is nothing wrong with ‘May I eat now?” The boy knows no difference between saying please and not saying it. However, adults are apt to stretch children’s psychological development so much so they become egocentric at teaching a child to use the word ‘please’ in his request for favours. The child who has been rejected once or twice whilst he has used the word ‘PLEASE’ can no longer understand why he should serve the selfish desire of his parent to feel respected before receiving a harmonious response.
I used to think ‘Please’ is a magic word. I think it is probably only a word that reconstructs the psychological freedom path the child is walking on. If the child asks, ‘May I eat now?’ in a soft, comfortable polite tone, he should already be rewarded for his effort to express his wish in proper correct sentence. Anything more to correct it, will only lead him to question its relevance and the paradox becomes greater and more confusing.