I Don’t Know How It Happened, But I Have A Polite Child I Don’t Know How It Happened, But I Have A Polite Child
My nearly-three-year old son has been polite since he could talk. Being somewhat of a pessimist, I’ve been waiting for this amazing attribute to disappear... I Don’t Know How It Happened, But I Have A Polite Child

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My nearly-three-year old son has been polite since he could talk. Being somewhat of a pessimist, I’ve been waiting for this amazing attribute to disappear – but fortunately for me, it’s showing no signs of abating.

Politeness makes me happy. Love is certainly important, but my delight in his politeness reinforces that manners really do make the world go round. I would strive to be a good parent to him no matter how he speaks, of course, but his politeness makes looking after him a dream.

His ‘nice-talking’ covers most situations. He is good at please and thank you, the latter often extending to “thank you very much”.  He says “excuse me” often and he is quick to say sorry when required, following it up with a little pat or kiss if the inflicted injury is physical. Recently he spilt his drink and, without prompting, declared, “Sorry Mummy, sorry table, sorry drink.”

Where did this child come from?

Even when he’s not happy he can be polite. I struggle to get him dressed every day (in sheer denial of his preference to remain naked). He responds to my requests to put on each piece of clothing with a polite “no, thank you”. While this response doesn’t make him any warmer, or more willing, it does make me a little more cheerful about the battle that is inevitably about to take place.

I’ve enjoyed wondering why he is so polite. My hubby and I are generally polite, however, like most parents, we have lots of rushed conversations where manners are not our highest priority.

He certainly hasn’t learned from his older sister. My five-year-old has many delightful attributes, but politeness is not one of them. In fact, with only a small push, I would call her downright rude. We are lucky at times if she will talk rather than grunt, let alone add a please or thank you to the experience. She struggles to say the word sorry even when she knows full well that it is needed.

It’s possible though that his sister’s lack of politeness is the cause of my son’s good manners. Since infancy, he has vicariously experienced several campaigns aimed at increasing his sister’s civility. There was the ‘nice Easter talking’ episode, the failed ‘please and thank you’ star chart, and the calm ‘try that again please’ slogan. Two years running, Santa filled her stocking with little books about manners. None of this was aimed at him, but maybe the campaigns were more successful than we thought – just for the wrong person.

It could be simply that my son is a cheery, contented kid to whom most things come easily. Maybe this gives him both the temperament for politeness and the capacity to consider it in his everyday actions. When he was learning to speak, he went through a delightful stage where he had mastered how to say ‘yes’ but hadn’t quite got the hand of ‘no’. We had a couple of months when we were the envy of all other parents as our little toddler said ‘yes’ to pretty much everything asked of him.

My sister also has polite kids, but as they live interstate we can’t credit their influence. She laughed when recalling how she had to insist to her polite (and loquacious) daughter that “I need a bucket” would suffice when she needed to vomit, as opposed to: “Please beautiful Mummy, could you pass the bucket if that wouldn’t be too much trouble?”

Whatever the origins of my son’s good manners, I love the fact that I have a polite child. I hope it will long continue … and that just a little will rub off on his sister.

Henry Okafor

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