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Expecting Manners at Age Two?

Question

Our son will be 3 in a few months He is very verbal and outgoing which can sometimes get us into trouble. Anticipating the holidays coming up and him receiving gifts, do you have any advice on manners or coaching him to say thank you (vs. I don't like this which he recently did with a gift he received in front of the gift giver...or a food item someone made at a holiday dinner) or can we just try to prepare him for the situation and hope for the best since there are no guarantees with a 2 year old?

Answer

Great question that I am sure other parents with a 2 year old face. I have been paying particular attention lately to how parents state the age of their child and have noticed many people will say “they are going to be” instead of the age they are at the present. So, although your son will be 3 he is 2. As such, I caution you to lower your expectations concerning his complete understanding of manners. After he glides into his third year of life, he will increasingly learn the benefits of using please and thank you. Until then I predict it will be hit or miss. While I understand it can be quite embarrassing at times, if an adult takes offense at your son’s inability to be grateful at his age, I suggest that the adult never learned just what a two year old is capable of accomplishing.

Key to your survival is your ability to step back from the emotions of parenting and to accept the truth that being 2 is pretty much a time of self absorption. Continue to model, not coach, the behavior you expect when you receive something, as a start. Make it a game and have your child hand an object to you, accept it with a thank you and then hand it back to him. If he says nothing, remind him once to say thank you and repeat.

I am hoping you can enjoy the Christmas Season without the worry of your child’s manners.

Gretchen Slover, Psy. D., LMFT
drgretchenslover.com

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