Yes, Please!

A typical exchange in my class:

Me:  “Raymond, would you like a Reese’s or a Hershey’s?”

Raymond:   “Reese’s.”

“Excuse me?”


“Excuse me?”


At which point I simply wait, a patient smile on my face, until somebody hisses at Raymond, “Say please!”

“Oh.  Reese’s, please.”

When kids get to about 5th or 6th grade, they may decide that manners are childish, so they stop using them.  I, however, still expect – and demand – them in junior high.  But not by reminding them, as in “Say, please” or “What’s the magic word?”  I just wait, which causes them to figure it out for themselves.

Sometimes it sounds like this:  “I need to go talk to my coach.”  I’ll say, “I understand.  But were you making a demand, or did you want to ask a question?”  Most of them will come back with, “May I please go talk to my coach?”

If I’m distributing worksheets or newsletters, as soon as anyone says, “Thank you,” I comment on how much I appreciate his manners.  Most of the rest of the students will follow suit.  I also thank students for not interrupting, for saying “Excuse me” when they bump into me, and for holding the door open.

I like to say, “It’s my job to civilize my students.”  I teach them to walk around  two people who are talking, instead of between them.  We also practice looking people in the eye, shaking hands, and saying, “Nice to meet you.”  These are useful skill for adults to have, but teen-agers don’t pick them up without being taught.

Do a self-check:  do you expect the teens in your life to be polite and well-mannered?  Do you model that for them?  As in, “Pick up your coat, please” (instead of “Get that coat off the floor!”) or “Excuse me, can I interrupt your show?” (instead of “Turn that thing off so I can talk to you”!).  Or maybe you resort to nagging – “Can’t you ever say please?” instead of waiting until the manners show up.

Please encourage your teens to be polite.

Thank you.


  1. I remember when you had this very conversation with me last year. It took me awhile to follow suite. One of my friends had to remind me to say ‘please’.
    I love the last sentance in your blog. It pulls the story to an end, and put a smile on my face.

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