Is my child too polite?
“I’m very polite,” my three-year-old daughter proclaimed.
“Yes, you are,” I agreed.
“My friends at nursery aren’t as polite as me. They don’t know how to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. I need to teach them.”
I thought about pointing out that it might not be very polite to tell people how impolite they are, but I want to encourage this whole politeness kick. My daughter tries to be extra vigilant about it – when she asks for something, she not only says “please” but “yes please.”
“Can I have some milk yes please?”
She often thanks me profusely for bringing her food. She may then go on to tell me that she doesn’t like it – or even that it’s “ewww, disgusting” – but she means well, at least initially.
Her obsession with politeness really struck me when she started talking about how naughty other children at her nursery were being. She’s just moved up to the pre-school room, and comes home talking about kids fighting, not listening to their teachers and getting time-outs.
“They were being NAUGHTY,” she said.
Naughty (adj): (especially of a child) badly behaved; disobedient.
I realised then that my daughter has never been naughty.
I’m not saying that she’s an angel or anything. This kid can give me and her father a hard time if she wants to, but she’s never deliberately disobedient. Yes, she went through a tantrum phase during the Terrible Twos, but I wouldn’t classify that as naughtiness. In any case, she’s been pretty easy every since. She’s never hit us or other kids. She doesn’t throw things or grab toys out of other children’s hands. She doesn’t cause a fuss when she doesn’t get what she wants. She follows the rules. She does what she’s told.
At times, I worry that she’s actually TOO obedient. If an adult or older kid tells her to do something, she’ll probably just kind of go along with it. For the most part, that’s a good thing. But then I have this vision of her as a teenager, doing something stupid like eating a Tide Pod or whatever dumb thing teens will be doing in 10 years, just because an older friend suggested it.
“Don’t just do things because someone told you to!” I want to say to her. “Think for yourself. Make smart decisions. Question EVERYTHING.”
At three-years-old, she’s too young to understand the concept of obeying authority except for when you think the authority is very wrong (like when the authority is Donald Trump and he’s just said something incredibly racist), in which case you should totally stick it to the man. That’s a lesson for after she’s grasped more basic concepts, like time. Right now she thinks that everything that happened in the past happened yesterday, and everything that hasn’t happened yet is happening tomorrow. I think it’s safe to assume that she would struggle to get when it’s appropriate to question what you’re told and when you should just go with it.
For now, I’m just going to be grateful to have such a polite, agreeable child, and hope that she stays that way for as long possible. It’s going to get harder as she gets older and is exposed to more meanness, more fighting and more general kid obnoxiousness. If she can retain her quiet sweetness throughout all of that, but still feel brave enough to stand up and be heard when she thinks something is wrong, then I’ll have done my job.