Toddlers learn by example. There is a reason that the saying, “monkey see, monkey do!” is so popular amongst parents of toddlers. They literally watch everything we do, all day long. Every day we show them how to act in public. When you thank the barista at the drive thru window, when you interact with the cashier at the supermarket. It is all one big lesson in manners. Recently I was trying to load groceries in to my cart at the store. There was no bagger, and halfway through the bagging/loading process a young teenage boy showed up. He very kindly began bagging and loading my cart for me. I was distracted. My 5 month old was crying in my arms, the cashier was asking for me to press ok, and my 4 year old was in the cart watching everything. Suddenly I heard, “Thank you for helping my mommy.” I stopped. My daughter has noticed the boy helping, and thanked him. Without being prompted, without me even noticing. I was proud, dumbfounded, and relieved. I hadn’t even noticed him, but my daughter did, and knew exactly what to say to him.
I make sure to take the time to show her this behavior, when I remember to. But I admit, there are days I am so busy it doesn’t always happen. I credit my good behavior on most interactions, and the books I read with her. Books like The Thank You Book (An Elephant and Piggie Book). We read this series occasionally at bedtime. I never stopped to think how important they were. She thinks they are cute little books. It stars a pig and an elephant, it just drips cuteness. But it truly models the interactions we want our kids to use, and it does so in a cute, slightly cheesy, but understandable way. I love this book. It is helping me to achieve one of my most coveted goals; polite children.