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Monday, August 20, 2007

Two Little Words

The tone, the conjugation, in conjunction with the body language conveyed "Thank You" and "Please" in my mother tongue, when I was growing up. I was racking my brain to remember the word for "Please" in Tamil and came up blank... Of course, I do remember the word for "Thank You" in Tamil, reserved for more formal occasions, not necessarily used on a daily basis within immediate family...

Anyway, as I grew up, I knew to say the words "Thank You", in English, and mean it sincerely, even to my immediate family - my parents, my brother, my aunts, my cousins - and not feel in any way distant or formal. And, over the last 15 years here, it has become second nature to use "Thank You" and "Please" appropriately in everyday speech, especially with immediate family.

Around 18-20 months, when Ana started talking discernibly enough, even if not in full sentences, D and I agreed we had to teach her the two little magic words.

We, of course, use it a lot a home with each other, so Ana had plenty to imitate/pick up on. But, I decided to enlist her daycare care-givers' help in this matter and they were quite willing to help me teach my baby some good manners:-)

It started slowly - when Ana would point at her sippy cup and demand "doos!", I would chime in, "Juice, Please?" in an exaggerated way and she would nod her head, most probably trying to relearn that her "doos" is now called "doos please"... but we kept at it.

When D handed her the toy or book she asked, I would pitch in gushingly, "Thank You, Appa!"... and D did the same...

Her teachers at daycare reinforced this every day as well - in almost everything the kids did -viz., "Ana, move away from the table, please", "Ana, pick up the toys, please", "Ana, inside voice, please" and so on...

I did not want this to be forced or contrived, and have her repeat it begrudgingly, without thought. So, we did not compel her to say it. We gently kept reminding her.

After about 6-7 months of this, Ana now seems to have caught on really well.

But, when she started whining a lot right before her second birthday, and she just was getting ready for her tantrum phase, we wanted to discourage the behaviour as best as we could. Rather than making an issue of it every single time she whined, we started telling her that she would get a response if she asks nicely...

She does have lapses, moments of being a willful toddler, when she would whine and fuss... but, she is a baby after all, and she is learning, that's all that matters. But, on such occasions, a gentle reminder by way of, "Ask nicely, please, Ana" delivers the required lightbulb moment for her:-)

One day, around her second birthday a few months ago, she was at the nook, I was in the kitchen, when she wanted some coffee juice, so she simply whined, "Ana ishio kaffe juice!". I simply ignored it as I didn't want to encourage her whining tone. And then she got all the more upset and demanded, "AMMA, ANA ISHIO KAFFEE JOOOOOOS!"

Quivering with guilt as my upbringing told me never to deny a child her food, I managed to simply stand unmoving, barely convincing myself that I am not denying her anything but just helping her learn something important...

Then, just like that, all on her own, the little baby doll had her lightbulb moment without any reminder! In a delicately thin voice, with head tilted gently to one side, coming close to me and tugging my skirt, Ana piped "Amma, Ana ishio kaffee juice P-L-A-Y-S."

I jumped with joy, rushed to get her drink nodding and repeating, "Sure, Ana, hold on OK... good job, let's get you some kaffee juice".

Nowadays, she automatically (perhaps consciously?) adds a "playyyss" (please) when she wants something: "Amma, read the book, playyyss?", "Appa, do the puzzle, playyyss?"...

And, the lilting "playyyss" makes it almost impossible for me to refuse her anything she asks.

Except when she wants to watch her DVD shows back to back, or have cookies and ice cream for dinner, that is.

And every once in a while, she does manage to say, "Thaan-key-oo" as well, and I think she still needs time to know what it means and how to say it with sincerity rather than by rote or force.

For now, I am glad that at least the two little magic words are in her vocabulary and she has a fair idea how to use them...

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4 Comments:

At 11:37 PM, Blogger Poppins said...

That is awesome that Ana says that and that you actually stood your stance and got her to say it. I admire that, and I know how hard it is to deny a child food (esp when asked, I'm usually just jumping to go and get it).

I use Thank you in that exaggerated way a lot and she sort of gets it, but doesn't say it (yet)

Please is sadly a little underused in our household. You are making me feel ashamed now :)

 
At 5:43 AM, Blogger Kay said...

How wonderful that she's learnt to say her please and thank you! :) yayy Sheela!

I can only come up with 'thayavu seydu' for 'please' in Tamil. but that translates to 'Could you kindly do this for me'.. not really please..

 
At 8:48 PM, Blogger Tharini said...

Wow...no word for please in Tamil?? I have to grill my husband on this!!

Felt so proud of Ana for having that lightbulb on her own and modifying her behavior likewise. What is coffee juice btw? :)

 
At 9:36 PM, Blogger utbtkids said...

How about 'Dhayavu seidhu' isn't that please?

 

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