That’s been pretty much every other phrase out of my mouth for the past four weeks.

A WHILE back (maybe last Winter) when Ali was first starting to get good with words, she would scream out what she wanted.




I let her do this for a long time, because I was just so relieved that she could communicate what she wanted.

Until one day, I was working in the infant’s room at Church and heard her next door in the toddler’s room. Wow. There’s nothing like hearing your child in a different light when they’re talking to others. Or screaming at others, as it may be. A humbling moment when I realized that I had allowed, nay even encouraged, my toddler to become demanding at a Queen-Like level.

So I started making her say “Please” after everything. And as I was teaching her, I would always smile and say “say ‘Please'” in a very sweet sounding voice. I had to do this every time she asked for something. It took about three weeks for her to start saying it without being prompted. Then all of her requests came out with a smile and in a very sweet little voice.

:D “Juice Peeeeeeeese” :D

It was heavenly.

But then, a few months later, the requests took a whiny turnpike. They became “JUUUIIICCEEE PLEEEASE” in a very discontent, whiny way with the following whiny face:
So I had to start all over. “Can you say that with a happy face?” “I didn’t see a smile!” “Can you ask sweetly?” “Can you ask that with a smile?” “You need to have a happy heart!”

Then I get one of these cheesy grins (which I personally find very adorable):
It’s been about four weeks, and I’m still having to prompt for the right attitude in asking. I started last week telling her that she needed to ask sweetly the first time, and denying her requests until she asked sweetly the first time. I tried this a few times, but I’m not sure she understood. Either that, or the adage “old dogs can’t learn new tricks” should be “old dogs can’t learn new tricks, and it takes toddlers a LOOOONG time to learn new tricks”.

Is anyone else out there working feverishly to break habits and change behavior patterns in their kids (ones like this one that aren’t “disciplining” issues)? Or have any great tips on how to speed the process up?

6 thoughts on “Can You Say That With a Happy Face?

  1. I’d go with “it takes toddlers a LONG time to learn new tricks.”

    You know, I kind of accidentally taught my kids to say please. I had this habit, whenever they asked for (or demanded something), to give them a “script”. Like this:

    “I want chocklit milk!”
    “May I PLEASE have chocolate milk?”
    “May I PEEEESE have chocklit milk?”
    “Why yes, I’d love to give you chocolate milk.”

    Like I said, it wasn’t really intentional. But I think it worked because I didn’t give them what they wanted until they asked correctly. And I made it easy by planting the words in their minds. And then I was so pleased and cheerful to honor their request when they asked correctly, that they felt very proud of themselves.

    Best thing: I wasn’t frustrated. I got what I wanted with minimal effort on my part. And I think it was easier for them to copy my words and inflection than to apply what “happy” or “cheerful” mean.

    It worked really well. Mine are still demanding divas in their own ways. But they usually make their demands in a cheerful voice. ;)

    It really does take kids a LONG time to learn new tricks. And 4 weeks is nothing. (Sorry to break it to you.)

    Hope that helps.

  2. Her little grin is adorable. ;o)

    My 2, almost 3 yr old has just started getting demanding. Because she has an older sister, the please & thank you's came quickly, but in the last couple of weeks, she's been leaving them off & saying, "get me juice!" Um… no, "can you ask nicely, please?" "Get me juice, please!" Yeah… it's not going to so well, getting her out of that face.

    Like you, I'm trying the ignore thing, until she learns to ask nicely, the first time.

    I've found that everything comes in stages. Eventually, she'll pick it up & get it the way I want her to… but then she'll follow it with something else that needs work, lol.

  3. That bib is too cute. And I have too many habits of my own I need to break, not to mention all the ones my kids have! AH!


  4. I like Steph’s advice! That’s awesome! I need to be better at responding happily to their polite requests so that not only will their polite requests be reinforced, but also to help them learn how to respond when I ask them to do something.

  5. As a mom of four I can tell you it does take a long time. Keep at it and eventually it will come very natural to them. My mom started us saying “yes mam” to her from the beginning and I still say it to her and everyone else today. It is a training issue and it will become a habit for her one day. Make sure she understands what is asked of her and then don’t give in. These toddlers are smart cookies! Don’t get angry with her about it though, she is just a toddler. Just keep being consistent and really praise her when she does right.

  6. I’m working on “Please and Thank you” with my 1 year old, “I’m sorry and I forgive you” with the almost 3 year old, not squishing the baby with my 4 year old and “YOU are not in charge, mommy is” with my 5 year old.
    I think I’ve hit 4 different stages at once!

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