If your child doesn’t often say “please” and “thank you” on her own, there are a number of things you can try. Watch for times when she uses polite words, and reinforce that behavior by saying, “I really like the way you asked for that.”
If you know that your child is too shy to say “thank you,” you can do the thanking for her, which may make you both more comfortable and let you model polite behavior for her. And if you’re unhappy with the way she’s asked for something, say, “When you ask me that way, it doesn’t make me want to give you juice,” or “You’ll have to find another way of asking.” Such statements give her an opportunity to say “please” or to change her tone of voice.
Tone is very important. As adults, we’re usually more concerned about using a polite tone than about always attaching “please” to our requests. When your child makes frequent demands (“Zip my jacket!”), you may be so frustrated with her tone that you find yourself harshly demanding politeness (“PLEASE!”). If she mimics that harsh “please,” you still won’t like the way she sounds. But, if instead of demanding a “please,” you model the right tone, she may understand what you want, and she’ll learn to respond more pleasantly.
Finally, and most importantly, remember to say “please” and “thank you” when you ask your child for something or when she’s done what you’ve requested. And remember to speak politely to others. All too often we make demands of children and others without ever saying “please” and “thank you” to them.
When your child hears you speaking politely to her and to other children and adults, she’ll begin to do as you do.