Characters form a word. Words can form a Character.
The choice of words to teach a child is crucial. The first words a child learns can influence the child’s emerging character. I have learned from observing my 2-year old that the words and phrases we’ve taught her have somehow become her.
1) “Please”. The Magic Word. Whenever she asks for things, she’d sweetly add “please” and sometimes it makes all the difference between asking and bossing us around. When she asks “Mama, watch Elmo, please.”, I forget that it’s the hundredth time she’s asked me this morning. When I’m very tired, I’d ask her to say please “with all your might”, and she would oblige with the sweetest of “pleeeeeease…” with hand on her chest. How can I say no to that?
2) “Thank You”. It is even sweeter when she blurts out “thank you, Mama…” out of the blue. “Thank you, Mama, for the food.” while she’s munching the apple I just sliced for her. When she says this without my prompting, I can feel that she’s sincerely appreciative. It’s a great start to teach her about gratitude. And it is my hope that she grows up not having that false sense of entitlement.
3) “Are you OK?”. When she thinks I’m hurt or when I’m unusually quiet in a corner, she’d ask “Are you, OK, Mama?”. And I can see the sensitive, empathic Amelie. She really cares.
4) “No, thanks.” She is not afraid to say no. She knows that she can decline. Lately, she’d return her plate, food untouched, and tell me “I don’t like this, Mama.” And I have to learn to honor it, or at least sneakily convince her to agree with me. 😉
5) “Sorry.” She knows when she is hurtful. At least, physically. When she accidentally hits the baby brother, she’d recover and apologize with a kiss.
The words she’s using tell me we have a sweet, polite, and grateful daughter. Of course, on a bad day, you can forget all that I just said.