Thursday, May 1, 2008

No Thank You's

I could use some parenting advice. Here goes: my boys are 2 and 3/4 years old. They are shy, in fact, they still often don't talk in front of strangers. Sometimes they hardly even talk in front of friends they don't see very often. I'm okay with that. I'm shy too, and there's nothing worse than being forced into being overly sociable.

My problem is what to do when they are given something by a stranger or acquaintance: a lollipop from the bank teller, a cup of milk from a waitress, a sticker from the librarian. N-man and B-man are fairly polite in our house: they often say "please" and "thank you" unprompted, and always do with prompting if they forget. But in public, forget it! I remind them to say "thank you" and they cower behind my leg, or hang their head and stand there mute.

So, here's where I need the parenting advice: how far do I push it? Do I let them get away with not saying thank you? I've been trying to model good behavior by asking them to say thank you once, and if they don't, simply saying thank you myself. But they're getting older, and eventually they're going to have to put those good manners on display in public, not just in our house. But I don't want it to turn into a showdown, where I repeated ask them to say thank you, probably making the person they're supposed to be thanking feel very uncomfortable. And I'm not sure that taking the item away would be appropriate, either, given the fact that I believe their lack of thank you's is a direct result of a hopefully mild case of shyness and social anxiety, which I don't want to make worse by turning every interaction they have with a stranger into a battle of wills.

I realize it's completely normal to be shy and reserved in public at their age (although there are plenty of kids who are the exact opposite as well), but I also think it's reasonable to expect almost three year old kids to say "thank you" when they are given something. So what do you think? How would you handle this?

Random unrelated thought: I cooked with grass-fed organic beef for the first time today. Any vegetarians reading this, close your eyes: when I took the meat out to cut up (I was making stew), it smelled awesome. I'm talking about raw, bloody, uncooked meat. Usually it's all I can do not to get all skeeved out by raw meat. But this actually had a delicious aroma. That was a pretty surprising revelation to me. Maybe I'm one step closer to understanding how anyone could force themselves to eat beef tartare. Hmmm, no I'm not. Anyway, the stew came out incredible. One of the best stews I ever made, if I can be so humble. But who knows if it was due to the beef. I might have just been having a moment of culinary genius today that had nothing to do with the meat. Some day I'm going to have to cook two identical meals side by side, using organic meat in one and conventional in the other and then do a blind taste test to see if there's a real difference.

Because I don't trust my taste buds. I expect there to be a difference, so I'm tasting a difference. But I used to think I could taste the color of M&M's (okay, to be fair, I only thought I could distinguish red from all the other colors. I felt like it had a slightly more bitter taste). TK didn't believe me, but I was so sure I said I'd do a blind taste test. Yeah, it turns out I can't taste M&M colors. Who knew!


jill said...

My girl is shy too (though a little younger than yours-- just over 2). Here's what I've been working on with her at home... I tell her that when someone gives her something she doesn't have to say thank-you, but she should smile and give them a wave. This allows me to say "That's her way of telling you thank-you". I think most people are forgiving of kids under 5 if they're clearly shy...
Anyhow, we've been practicing this at home and it is (sort of) working. The smile is a payoff for the generous stranger and I haven't made my kid feel too uncomfortable.

Snickollet said...

I say keep modeling and don't push it in public, not at this age. You can say thank-you on the boys' behalf, and that's more than enough if you ask me.

Amnesia said...

I don't push it. I tell the person Thank You for them and let them be shy. Either they will come around, or they will stay shy - but regardless, they are polite, they are not mean, they are not they are learning manners. They are just afraid of people they don't really know. Embrace that - it will keep them safe.

KCRSummertime said...

How about reminding them of the sign for thank you? So they can sign it when they're feeling shy? I don't know if they'll be more outgoing in sign language then they are with their voices, but they might. Lila still hauls out some signs on occasion, esp. when she's a little flustered.