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Teaching My Kid to Say 'Please' Bit Me in the Butt

In college, when it came time to choose a foreign language, I opted for sign language. The Spanish I took in high school just never stuck, so I told myself that this would be harder to screw up. It turned out to be a good choice. I liked sign language, and my friends and I picked up a few choice words to sign to each other from across the bar on weekends. It was perfect.

Then, I became a mother. And my education in sign language became even more exciting — now I could sign to my baby! And she could sign back! Ever the communicator, I loved the idea of teaching my daughter words long before she actually grasped how to vocalize them.

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Just my luck, my little one was an early talker, using those words far sooner and more often than the signs I had tried to teach her. But a few signs stuck, including the one for “please.”

Let me tell you, there is nothing sweeter than my little girl looking up at me with her big brown eyes as she swipes her hand across her chest in an attempt to politely ask for what she wants. And now that she has started to throw in a “pwease” with that hand swipe, I melt.

The problem is, I don’t think she has fully realized that “please” is about being polite, not about automatically getting whatever she wants. And that’s where we run into issues. Because it turns out, it is really hard to say no to a toddler who is asking so nicely. You want to encourage that behavior, but sometimes … you just have to put your foot down. No matter how nice their words may be.

And that is when teaching a kid to say “please” can actually bite you in the butt, like:

When They Want Your Chocolate

Sorry, kid. Nope. You can’t have free reign of mommy’s chocolate supply. First of all, do you even realize how coveted that chocolate is? Or how expensive? That stuff is the real deal — the fancy chocolate that lets mommy go to her special place. And mommy only lets herself have two pieces a day. Just two pieces. But you want handfuls? Sure, I’ll share a piece of dark chocolate with you here and there. I’m not a monster, after all. But just because you flash your pretty face at me and say “pwease” does not mean I’m going to hand it all over.

Why is it that kids always want what some other child has?

When They Want to Play in the Toilet

Are you kidding me right now? I just pulled your hands out of the toilet and you are trying to swipe them across your chest as you plead for more playtime in the “wa-wa”? No. And gross.

When They Want Another Book, 10 Books In

I am all about encouraging a love of reading. I’m a writer, after all, so reading is kind of a big deal in my world. But there hits a point when you have to put the books down and get your child in her crib — which is inevitably when the cries of “pwease” begin. And I almost cry myself, because now I am saying no to books and nice words. Fail.

When They Want a Toy Someone Else Is Playing With

Why is it that kids always want what some other child has? I’m sorry, sweet girl, but you cannot just take that truck away from your little buddy. No, that hand swipe across the chest won’t help. Wait your turn. And stop looking at me like that.

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When You Have No Idea What the Heck They Want

This is the worst. I can’t tell you how many times a day my little girl looks at me with near tears in her eyes, swipes the hand across her chest and pleads “pwease,” and I have no idea what she wants. Maybe it’s something I would be totally fine giving her, but instead — I’m useless. I’m sorry, but I literally have no idea what you are asking for right now. So even though you are using your nice words, I can’t help.

Maybe if I had taught her just a little more sign language.

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