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One mum shares why she doesn’t believe in “magic words”.

Tracy Gillett is a mum of one, she calls herself a nature-loving, adventure-seeking natural mum.

She has lived in four countries over the last decade. Originally from Australia and New Zealand her family now call supernatural British Columbia home.

She recently shared a post on her blog Raised Good that caught my attention with the title “Why I’ll Never Teach My Son Manners.”

Tracy explains a recent experience while out shopping with her son

“What’s the magic word?” said the shop assistant, waving his new purchase in front of him.

Are you serious? I thought to myself.

His expression turned from excitement to confusion. Moments earlier he confidently approached “the lady”, smiling and greeting her with a cheery “hello”. He placed his chosen dinosaur carefully on the counter and proudly paid for his new toy.

“We don’t do the magic word”, I interjected, “can you just pass him the toy, thank you.”

My instincts wouldn’t allow my almost-three-year-old son to be spoken to like that.

Children are often treated as second class citizens, as somehow less than adults. Adultism describes the bias for adults over children. It leads to a phenomenon of “little adults” where the belief is children are “adults-in-the-making” rather than who they really are, which is spontaneous, playful and fun-loving children.  This discrimination precipitates manipulation of children and fuels society’s expectation of a parenting approach centred on adult’s wants rather than children’s needs.

It would never have entered the shop assistant’s mind to ask me what the magic word is. Ironically, if she’d paused she would have heard a resounding thank you from my son – freely offered of his own volition. Holding our children to higher standards than we would hold ourselves to is hypocritical and provides yet another avenue for adults to exert their control.

Tracy goes on to explain…

“Knowing what we stand for and, more importantly, what we won’t, and having the courage to respectfully defend our children sends a strong message. It lets our children know they’re safe in this big, wild world, that we have their backs and they needn’t be fearful. It gives them the courage to grow into their full potential and a freedom to take risks as they learn to navigate the choppy waters of society.

So, I’m never going to teach my son manners, at least not in the conventional sense because children learn more from what we do and who we are than what we say.  I’ll teach him manners by modelling kind and respectful behaviour and in doing so, I hope I’ll become a better person too.”

Tracy adds, “If I’m being honest, my son bursts with infinitely more compassion and kindness than I ever could and all I need to do as a parent is encourage it to take root and flourish.”

I can totally see her point. Of course actions (or in this case modelling good manners and spirit) always speaks louder than words. Do you agree?

Share your comments below

Image via shutterstock.

  • This lady spurts a lot of hogwash. Manners are not intuitive and copied. they need to be taught.

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  • I don’t get it – she said that he would have said thankyou anyway, so what’s the issue with asking?

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  • So her son is allowed to demand what he wants and expect to receive it and possibly to be allowed to do what he wants to. Sorry but don’t bring him to my place and let him demand something. not say “please” or “thank you”. He would get absolutely nothing. What an arrogant rude child he will be. ggrrr!!!
    Good manners cost nothing. If his Mum expects others to respect him, he has to respect them too. Good Luck with that one!!! Every child I know says please and thank you. I know of parents who have taken things away from their children when they refused to say thank you and were old enough that they normal do. I did it on one occasion after seeing others do it. Never an issue again. I wonder if he has been taught to respect other people including adults at all. Regardless, I think there will be issues when he starts school. I pity the first teacher who has him in class. He’ll possibly get suspended by the end of the first term.

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  • AN interesting opinion.
    However, I will continue to remind my son to use his manners, justas I do with my 2 year old daughter

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  • Our children definitely learn from us, we teach them every second of every day whether we’re meaning to or not. Be kind, be respectful & our children will see this.

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  • I think the sentiment of this article rings true with me – that children should be taught manners.

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  • Treat those how you want to be treated. Respect gives respect. A child is not respectful if their parent isn’t respectful towards them.. Showing kindness, being thankful and many other things produce good manners..

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  • I don’t recall ever referring to it as the magic word, but I certainly have taught my son manners and display them for him to see.

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  • The shop assistant didn’t have the right to correct him.

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  • I agree 100%.
    I recently had a talk with an adult make that was demanding that a 15yr old apologise to him for the wrong that had happened that weekend. I pointed out to him that the kid was still angry over something far worse that had happened 3 months earlier that the adult male had committed and never apologised for. He saw my point instantly and saw it was in fact he that needed to apologise.

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  • It so annoys me when ppl prompt my little shy guy without giving him the chance to get it right himself. I do teach correct responses and please and thankyous. But the magic word at our house is abracadabra and there’s always a little bit of me that wants that response when he’s prompted for the magic word

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  • We don’t use a magic word. We model manners and encourage our daughter to do the same

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  • I agree with the concept of modelling good manners, but you also have to explicitly teach kids things and explain why they’re important. In this situation I would prefer the shop assistant to keep out of it and let me step up if my child doesn’t act appropriately.

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  • We always say it takes a village to raise a child, yet when someone (in this case the shopkeeper) is requiring the child to say thank you (and in so doing reinforcing manners), the parent sees this as an attack on her child. I personally think the parent is over-reacting.


    • I agree



      • I can’t see why the shop assistant said anything anyway. He said hello to her. He handed over the cash for it.
        I agree the boy needs to be taught manners. Sure she can at least encourage him to say “please” and “thank you” in circumstances that warrant it. You need to teach a child when to say the appropriate “words”. Our 3 years old knows if he doesn’t say “please” when he asks for something he definitely will not be given the object or allowed to do what he wants to. Now at 4 y.o. If he is given something and doesn’t say thank you it will be taken away from him until he does. In general people do not appreciate blatant rudeness. Teachers consider it disrespectful.


      • Completely agree

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  • I totally agree children are so often treated as second class citizens, however, the piece seems to equate being reminded something (ie socially appropriate words) is treating them as second class citizens. I disagree. The child experienced a public social interaction and was included in the adult world (by the storekeeper) engaging with the child over social norms. I see that as a positive, elevating the child from their normally marginalized and ignored position. Of course she might not ask an adult for the ‘magic word’ but would engage them at their level should the need arise in her shop.

    Reply

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