Power 2 Parent
Published: December 11, 2023

Opinion: Teaching Our Children ‘Please’ And ‘Thank You’ Sets Them Up For Success

By Rachel Caldwell, Power2Parent

By: Rachel Arroyo Caldwell | Power2Parent

I recently visited a fast-food restaurant with my three little boys. While standing in line to have my order taken, a teenage employee paused while assembling meals to tell me – over his shoulder and while avoiding eye contact – that I had to order on the kiosk. He was not allowed to talk to customers, he informed me rather awkwardly.

This situation is hardly unique in a climate where front-of-house interactions are increasingly becoming dominated by tech. The interaction reinforced a glaringly obvious truth – that children are being raised in an environment with significantly decreased opportunities to be taught and to practice social etiquette. And, yet, social etiquette carries greater weight than hard skills when it comes to workplace success.

A longstanding study combining research from Harvard University, the Stanford Research Center and the Carnegie Foundation shows that 85 percent of an individual’s success in the workplace is determined by soft skills. A mere 15 percent is attributed to hard skills.

Etiquette is one such soft skill that can and should be taught at home. It is the tool that gives our children a competitive advantage in all manner of social situations and garners a second glance. Why? Because well-mannered individuals are usually more emotionally intelligent individuals. And higher emotional intelligence is linked to greater success.

Using manners in our interactions with others conveys an inherent respect for the individuals we are interacting with. Manners increase awareness, fostering greater empathy.

A study in the American Journal of Public Health shows that kindergarteners with greater socio-emotional skills have higher emotional intelligence as young adults. The outcomes of the children with high emotional intelligence were positive in areas of education, employment, criminal activity, substance abuse and mental health.

The long and short of it is that parents need to capitalize on opportunities to improve the socio-emotional skills of our children, and the teaching does not need to be complex. We can start with placing emphasis on saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’ We can gently insist on eye contact from our children when speaking with them. We can insist on tech-free family meals. And, most importantly, we can model these behaviors for them.

I used to detest having to be asked to be excused from the dinner table as a kid, and now I find myself thanking my parents, and requiring the same thing of my kiddos. Long-term, these social graces will serve them well.

With three boys age five and under, the teaching sometimes seems futile, but then they will surprise me with an unprompted ‘thank you’ when given stickers at the grocery store or served a meal in a restaurant. And, I am reminded the struggle to raise little gentlemen is worth it.


Early Social Emotional Functioning and Public Health: The Relationship Between Kindergarten Social Competence and Future Wellness

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching ‘A Study of Engineering Education’ by Charles Riborg Mann