Thursday, October 25, 2012

Instead of "Please say Thank you." I think: "I trust you."

When I go and pick up Leander from the creche he comes running towards me and cannot wait to go. Well at least out to the front garden where the bigger children play. He does not turn back. He does not say „Good bye.“ I know that this is something I can not force him to do. But the teachers are making a real effort in meeting and greeting all the children by their names. Every day they say „Good bye Leander, see you tomorrow.“ Sometimes I ask him if he wants to say Good bye. Sometimes he does. Sometimes not.

I know that teaching a child when to say Hello, Thank you or Sorry is not necessary. And I don‘t. Yet there is this tiny bit of „Good behaviour“ that I have learned from my parents and the society‘s critical look sitting in my neck.

Then I remember how my mom used to tell me to say Thank you to my granny for my birthday or Christmas presents. And although I obviously had done it already I did so again and when we left the house I did again. And still wasn‘t sure if that was enough. When I grew older and Christmas presents resulted in a money transfer to my bank account my mom would call me to ask if I had called my granny. Again I wasn‘t sure how often I should call her to make sure she knew that I indeed was grateful. It was awful and even today I am sometimes not sure how to thank people. Is it enough to say it? Do I have to give something back? How often can one say „I‘m sorry“ so the other one really believes that I AM sorry indeed? How often do we say sorry, although we aren‘t really?

Alfie Kohn has made it quite clear: ‘Thinking a child is going to feel sorry just because you make him say he’s sorry? The only thing that’s going to do is teach the child to lie about his feelings!’

So no. No matter how much society expects my son to be well behaved. I am not teaching him to say „Hello.“ to somebody stretching out his hand towards him. Because I trust him that he can learn that himself. He watches us. Watches society. Carefully and closely. You might think is a little out of space, sitting in his stroller, sucking his thumb. Instead he is trying hard to get to know the world around him.

The other night I was lying next to him in his bed waiting for him to go to sleep. He suddenly sat up and asked: „Mommy, where are you?“ I said „I‘m right here.“ But it was so dark, he couldn‘t see me. So he startet crawling around to find me and he accidentally kicked his knee on my head. It didn‘t hurt much and I didn‘t say anything. Suddenly I felt a tiny warm hand stroking my forehad and Leander whispering: „I‘m sorry mommy.“
That‘s how I know that I can trust him.


  1. Ohh, I love this so much...probably because I received a similar gift from my little 26 month old daughter recently...she bumped my leg while running through the kitchen, stopped, touched me and said "I'm sorry." So much sweeter, this utterly sincere apology, than any prompted, forced apology could ever be. Same with the dear way she says "Welcome." I truly enjoy your blog, thank you. Oh, and thank you. And thank you. ;-)

    1. Those moments are so precious, aren't they. Thank you so much for reading and commenting.

  2. this is precious! & such an awesome reminder :)

  3. I absolutely agree with you on the part of saying "sorry" and "thanks" - these are only valuable if genuine, and you can make them say it but it wouldn't mean much. And these two are within their understanding. But some other things are not withing young kids grasp yet as they are social norms and it's up to the parent to instill it in kids to be polite - things like Hello and Goodbuy. Especially if someone says hello or goodbuy to a child and the child ignores it. It's rude not to reply and it's difficult for a child to understand this. Not always a child would understand when they are hurting other people's feelings like not saying thank you for a well-meant gesture or present. and they need guidance to understand this.

  4. Hi Velvetkatze, thank you for your comment.
    To be honest - I wouldn't call a 2,5year old rude for not responding to a Hello or Goodbye. As for the example i mentioned in the post - I don't think he is ignoring the Good bye. He is just too impatient. His mind is elsewhere already.
    I still believe that modeling polite behavior is working well and will teach our children without instilling anything. As with everything - it just takes time for them and that's ok. Children WANT to be like us adults. If they refuse to do or say things (especially at an older age) I believe other reasons to be behind that than parents not having taught them well enough.

  5. Hello nadine..this story really touching me..i am a mother too and your story gives me support to keep trust my Son. I really missed your post