Being a teacher I spend a fair amount of my day harping on about things like saying sorry, please and thank you and as I was sitting on the bus I saw a 13 year old boy hope onto the bus and very politely say a return ticket into town please, it was perfect. But is it worth it? Should I bother trying to teach manners?
I decided saying sorry was very important to learn especially for kids who are constantly rushing past and bumping into each other, who don’t realise their strength, and who don’t look where they are going (too enthusiastic and still learning, not malicious). For these things I teach that if you hurt or annoy someone that it is important to say I’m sorry I didn’t mean to because that way the other person knows its an accident and you weren’t trying to hurt them (which is confusing if you don’t know and I often get children telling me that so and so doesn’t want to be their friend any more, how do they know? the other child ‘hurt’ them as often as not the other child has no idea what they had done and upon asking other children it is usually an accident like stepping on someone’s fingers, bumping into them as they go past etc). And before someone goes into it it takes many children until they are at least 7 before they can tell with some accuracy when someone has done something on purpose or by accident (I am not quoting studies just what I have seen from watching children at playtimes and in a classroom).
Learning to apologise when you have made a mistake is important, it takes away the confusion for the person affected.
But what about please and thank you? Are they as important?
They definitely make what your asking sound better, and from my experience they tend to make it more likely that the person your asking will say yes. Which is a rather important part of the whole exchange, I don’t normally ask people for something hoping for them to say no. Also it makes the person you asking feel better about it (generally not always), I myself love being told thanks for that etc, and am more likely to help out that person again even if it means going out of my way to do so.
But back to the classroom, one complaint I often hear is she/he stole my rubber/pencil sharpener/pencil etc 9 times out of ten they were just borrowing it but hadn’t bothered to ask, so then I model “please may I borrow your pencil sharpener?” or “can Mary please borrow your eraser?” to which the child being asked normally looks up nods/hands me the item and carries on with what they are doing. So then remind the borrower that that is a good way of getting what they want.
The conclusion I have come to is that manners are important mostly to stop confusion because it communicates to the other person what you need, that your are grateful or that you didn’t mean to. Just asking may/can I, may not actually need a please and is miles ahead of just taking but it helps. Thank you and sorry are the most important.