“I’m the Parent. I Don’t HAVE to Say Please”

A Connected Families story

Have you heard ungrateful demands (like the ones below) from kids who seem to expect you to drop your life in order to take care of them?
 
“Mom! Where’s dinner?” 
“Dad, I need a ride to the gym!”
“Bring me some water!” 

When kids do this repeatedly it can drive parents nuts! We naturally feel disrespected, unappreciated and want to nip this apparent entitlement in the bud. Perhaps you recognize this common parental response, designed to teach kids the importance of saying please: “Excuse me?!? Want to try that again?!?” and the common obligatory response from the child, “Fine. Can you drive me to the gym….please?”

It’s right to want to address this. But there may just be a little more going on than your child’s ingratitude. 

coaching client and I (Chad) had an email exchange about the topic of saying please and an unexpected lesson she learned from her grandson, whom she is raising. As you read, you’ll recognize the grandson’s insight as well as the grandma’s humility. Insight and humility are a powerful combo for learning about, and changing, old patterns!

Here is what she wrote:


Without intending to, my grandson reminded me of some of my “baggage” last week. I had asked him to do something, and he looked at me and said, “Please?” I said something like “I’m the parent here and you’re the child. I don’t have to say please”. (Wow, where’s the love?) He came back with, “We say please because we respect each other.” I said, “You’re right, Noah. Thanks. I needed to be reminded of that.”

Later, in a car ride, I thanked him again and explained that my old attitude was from my days as a child. I told him that the “I don’t have to say please, I’m the parent and you’re the child,” attitude came from my dad, who got it from his dad. It’s part of my baggage and I’m glad to be rid of it.

Since that incident with my grandson I have been saying, “please” with a needed (and formerly lacking) touch of humility. It has softened our exchanges. Now I see that he probably felt demeaned by my lack of courtesy. What a breakthrough!

And the fact that I would humble myself, I think, has taken away some of his defensiveness and maybe lowered a wall a bit.

Admitting to God that this task is impossible for me to do on my own has made all the difference. With Him all things are possible! He leads. I follow, holding His hand, because I will stumble and lose my way (oh so quickly!) otherwise.


There is so much insight in these few paragraphs! Graciously using simple words like “please” and “thank you” with your child models humility and kindness.  Your child will notice and learn from your example!

Many kids are raised to believe that simply using the “magic word” will get them whatever they want.  But by showing your family what graciousness looks like, in your own life, you have a better chance at helping them grow in true respect and kindness for those around them.

Here are some questions to ask as you learn to apply this principle:

  • Ask your kids why “please” is an important word to include when making a request. What did they say?
  • What role does humility play to decrease defensiveness in our kids?

As you can see, from the grandma who wrote this email, it is never too late to change your habits and influence your family for generations to come.

We love partnering with you in your parenting journey! Share your story with us.

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