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Please and Excuse Me as Part of Children's Vocabulary

I completed my primary education from a convent school in a small town. There was tremendous focus on good and polite behavior. I remember learning how to use both please and excuse me as a part of our regular conversation. Excuse me miss, may I drink water please? Excuse me, is this seat taken? Could you pass me the salt please. 

Fast forward to today - now, we are the ones in the driver's seat when it comes to raising kids. There seems to be a conscious effort on our part to follow a somewhat different approach from what our parents did raising us. To right what we thought was wrong? To keep up with changing times? Probably a bit of both.

However, where does that leave terms like excuse me and please? And how do children use them these days?

Excuse Me

When it comes to the use of Excuse Me, there are some interesting observations, at least basis my experience with kids over the last ten years at our daycare in South City 1, and more so now that we have kids coming in not only from all corners of the country, but also internationally through our online preschool program.

When it comes to children under 4 years of age, in India, we do not really introduce the term in preschool. At Morning Glorie, the logic behind that really is that we want children to be able to freely express themselves most of the times, and the resultant cacophony at times is only welcome. At other times, we really teach children to wait for their turn, and therefore, somewhere they learn to not talk out of turn. Excuse me, as a polite interruption isn't the focus, and we expect children to naturally communicate otherwise, at least at this age. 

However, older children coming from formal schools do use Excuse Me, and then, in the Indian context, the focus seems to be on using Excuse Me whenever an adult or caregiver is being addressed. Somehow children do not feel the need to use Excuse Me with peers.

However, we also have an international student in our online program coming in from Scotland. Now, this is a 4-year old child, and he extensively uses Excuse Me. This may happen every two sentences. It may at times distract the teacher from what she is doing, but the child is only doing what he has learnt - make use of a polite phrase when you have to get in your point edgewise.


When it comes to please, the observation is even more interesting. Irrespective of geography, I haven't seen kids up to even 6 and 7 years of age ((both at our daycare in South City 1 and at Eggheads Activity Club) using the term Please. That seems to be a generational shift in attitude, where 

a. kids are learning to be more assertive.

b. we are moving away from times when one had to plead for something. This is not out of sense of entitlement, it is instilling a sense of what can be rightfully asked for, and identify what should not. 

With this in mind, the use of Please has actually moved to just older kids, who use it with adults around whom they are so comfortable, that they use Please incessantly to get their way where they can. This is more a sign of great affection, and the use of Please for just polite conversation slowly seems to be going down.

Which leads to the question, are Please and Excuse Me still relevant for children today? 

There is really no substitute for politeness, and children must know what both these phrases are used for. Please may not find much use in daily vocabulary at a younger age, but extra knowledge never hurt anyone. The use Please can work like magic at times! So kids must be aware and learn to use it right. And when it comes to Excuse Me, it still remains relevant, only we must teach our kids how to find the right balance. Children must learn to identify the situations where they need to enter a pre-existing conversation, and also identify the times when they must wait to speak. And of course, the evergreen Excuse Me or Excuse Me, Please at the end of a sneeze always works :)

Up Next - Development Milestones - Language Development and the Role of Stories


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