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The magic word

I'm not going to say abracadara or even supercalifragawhatever.

I'm not going to say anything because...

I really hate to be the buzzkill...

I really hate to break it to you...






Not really.

Not even PLEASE.

I know that it is practically rote in our culture these days, to prompt children to use "the magic word." I know every parent wishes he or she had a dollar for every time he or she says, "Say the magic word!" I know most would be able to accumulate enough for a major, major Venti Starbucks frappachino habit.

But not me. I carefully---from the beginning---never, ever called 'please' the magic word.

I do ask my children to speak and ask kindly, using kind words in a kind voice. I offer examples, and model it for them and to them. I say please is a good way to really make one's words kind.

But I never say it is the magic word.

This is because it isn't magic!

Please doesn't make words or tone nice.

Please doesn't automatically get you what you want.

Despite me not saying it and pleading as if my life depended on it for nobody in my immediate family to say it, my husband does anyway. Oh well. It wouldn't matter. My daughters both hear it absolutely everywhere, so Patience is positive please is a magic word.

I am apparently the only crazy woman in the world who doens't know that it is.

Therefore she demands, "Mom, get me lemonade now, not in a minute, NOW!! Please."

And expects results.

She whines, "I don' wanna get ready for bed, I wanna watch a show Moooommmm. Turn me on a show, Moooommm, now. Please."

And expects results.

All because she used what she is convinced is the magic word. Anyway, her daddy says it is the magic word. So do all the other adults she knows.

I am the only one she knows who is so deluded as to Not. Get. It.

She speaks like this to me, and I say, "Patience, sweetie, I need you to ask kindly, using your kind words and kind voice."

She demands what she knows is a no, and I say, "Patience, my precious, no. And remember, please ask kindly."

Her eyes flare in fury, her chin juts forward, her chest puffs out and she exclaims, "Buuuuutttt I saaaiiiddddd PLEASE!!!!"

And I tell her, "Please is a nice word, but it's not magic. It doesn't promise that you get what you want. I know it's disappointing,"

She stares at me, horrified to be the daughter of the crazy woman who does not get it. "Why me?" I can hear her wondering, disappointed and infuriated.

Nevertheless...I'm sticking to my guns. Please isn't a magic word. It's not a word you can wish on, like a genie in a lamp. It's not a satisfaction guaranteed, Disneyworld magic word.

It's simply a word.

And we can all have a grand laugh at my know the Pre-Planned Theoreical Parenting Technique that is, as is often the case, completely and utterly down the toilet.

Well you know...the best laid plans and all that.

By Julie Pippert

© 2006. All images and text exclusive property of Julie Pippert. Not to be used or reproduced.

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cinnamon gurl said…
Great post! I never really thought of it like that before, but I knew I was still dissatisfied after various children I know have demanded something, then said please, and waited. And it felt wrong. Now i know why. Thanks!
Mad said…
Just want to say I very much appreciated your comments on some other blogs over the last few days.
Julie Pippert said…
Cinnamon Gurl...anytime. Thanks for coming over. :)

Mad Hatter...any time. :) And can I say two things: (1) you probably appreciate what I didn't say more LOL and (2) I really, really appreciate your comment about my comments. It means a lot. Thanks.
Mad said…
No problem. I'm just glad you were there making the points that needed to be made.
Mary-LUE said…
I agree with Cinnamon Gurl. This is a great post. We want so hard for our children to act a certain way and behave a certain way that I don't think we always think through some of the things we are telling our children.

I know I have felt a cringe when my assertive daughter, who has to be coached to ask nicely, does say take the initiative and say please. I can't always say yes and then I feel bad because I'm the one who was pestering her.

My personal rant was a few years ago when I heard kids using the phrase, "So and so said the "S" word." The "S" word meaning stupid. Now, I don't like my kid calling someone stupid but it isn't a swear word. And I get tired of parents freaking out about their kid saying it WHEN THEY (the parents) SAY IT ALL THE TIME. (Pardon me for e-yelling.) If you don't want your kid to say a word, well, you can't guarantee that. But first, you should make sure you aren't using it in front of them.

P.S. This was probably a little too ranty for someone who is new to posting here. I hope I haven't offended anyone. I'll be nicer the next time! ;)
Julie Pippert said…
Mary-Lue...I don't mind e-rants. :) I enjoy points like that.

That's a good one, BTW. To say one thing and do another, with different expectations for your kids than for you. To some degree, that's unavoidable/inevitable.

But in general...I try to treat my kids the way I want to be treated by them, and when I blow it and then they blow it, I'm not too surprised. ;) It's actually a pretty good reality check for me.

Yes, I agree also with your point about expectations and so forth of the kids, and how we achieve those.

I feel a lot of internal conflict sometimes.

I also have an assertive DD LOL.

I want her to remain so, because it can be beneficial in life. But as a assertive person, I also know that you need to know when and how. KWIM?

It's a juggle.
Run ANC said…
Excellent point! I never thought of it that way. I'm going to have to keep that in mind for the future. Right now, it's just enough to get The Boy to say please at all - it ain't often! I love it when a post really changes my thinking. Thanks!!
Gwen said…
I will admit I am guilty of referring to "please" as a magic word, but I can mitigate a little of the guilt by knowing that I also insist that the word be used politely or kindly.

Because shrieking "Get me my peanut butter toast NOW! PLEASE!" has no magic powers in my house, either.

And ironically, my child is sitting on my lap right this minute whining, "let me type, please."
Her Bad Mother said…
I love this. You are so right. The word itself - words themselves - are never magic.

I'm going to be thinking about this all day.
Momma Star said…
It's "I'm sorry" here that the four-year-old thinks is magic. As if "I'm sorry" is a get-out-of-consequences-free phrase.
It really is just a word and it seems we ask our children to say it simply because other parents and society at large expects us to do so. If not, we might be lumped along with our children as rude or impolite. Thanks for stopping by today, BTW.
Kate said…
I never call it the magic word, either. I just tilt my head, cup my ear, lift my eyebrow, and wait. If she says just "please!" all by itself, I ask her, "Do you think you could say the entire sentence, please?" And if it's a whiny or nasty tone of voice, I ask, "Do you think you could ask in a nicer tone of voice, please?"

Now I have to go check out Mad Hatter's blog to see if there's a trail to the commentary you're discussing...because I'm nosy as hell. :D
Julie Pippert said…
Momma Star oh AMEN about I'm sorry. Ditto ditto.

HBM...that is absolutely what I was trying to say...words can be powerful, or weak, but not magic.

Nomotherearth, you are welcome. I'm glad it brought forward an idea for you to ponder.

Domestic slackstress...oh you hit a KEY KEY KEY thing to me! That is what I was trying to say to Mary-Lue in the comment above. There is such an element of parenting as we believe is expected, of both us and of our children. And BTW love your mean girl topic. I love reframing things like that.

Gwen, I had to LOL at your child sitting there demanding typing time with "please." As you can see, you can mitigate your guilt in calling it a magic word because avoiding doing so has not landed me in any better a place LOL.
Julie Pippert said…
Oh Kate LOL the cupping the ear! I haven't doen that but oh I knwo ti well, that move.

I have Selective Deafness.

I have informed my children that Dad and I are Adults, and Adults are unable to hear whining and tantrumming.

It's mostly true. ;)
©Jac said…
I don't use the phrase myself! Love your perspective!

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