I began teaching Jack and Gus the sign for "please". The ASL sign is to make small circles on your chest with an open hand. Small circles presented a problem for 15 month olds, so we modified it to patting with an open hand. It turns out that the chest part is a bit of a stretch right now, too, so the boys will pat their bellies with varying degrees of enthusiasm when they're asking "please".
Their first signed phrases include please. "More please" "Milk please" and "Food please" are some of them. They have learned the power of please. In fact, Moviedad and I will sign it to the babies often when we are asking something of them. When Gus started standing up in his chair during meals I worried he'd fall over. Thus begins our delightful dance. It goes like this:
Gus stands up.
Mama says and signs "Sit down, please."
Gus does so with a mischievous look.
Mama signs and says "Thank you, Gus."
Gus beams and stands up again. So does Jack.
I know some people might think this is conditioning the boys to perform for praise. And maybe that's the case. But there is also safe limit-testing going on, and the forming of a wonderful habit.
Jack and Gus are learning to sit down whenever and wherever I say "Sit down please". This has kept them from stepping off a playground step that was too high for them, slipping by me while I was putting shoes on the other one, and from running headlong into each other during a rowdy game of chase at Nana's house.
The power of please has also come into play when Gus and Jack want something from me. Today we were wrestling when they both decided they wanted to nurse. There I was, sitting on the floor, watching my babies advance on me saying "na-na" (their word for nursing) and signing please frantically and with great joy. How could I resist? We had an impromptu nursing session right then and there.
Ah, the power of please...