Applications for the 2024-25 academic year are open. Enroll today!

Tips for Parents

Sorry, Thank you, Please!

Remember, our children learn from what they see, not what they hear. 

Author: Nikita Phadnavis
Award Winning Trainer and Education Specialist

Hi, I am Nikita, and I am an Early Years Professional. I have been working with children for almost 20 years now, and every day I read stories to my children. I am sure, as parents, you do the same, don’t you? Think about it, how often do you read stories to your children? Every day? Every night when you put them to bed? On the go to keep them entertained?  

But when was the last time someone read a story to you? Or when was the last time you read a story for yourself? Can’t remember? Never mind, I’ve got a story for you.  

On a usual Wednesday morning, I was out for my routine observation of my colleagues in their classrooms. When I went into the two- to three-years-old children’s classroom, I was filled with joy to see these little children enjoying themselves. Some of them were playing by themselves, and others were at the stage of parallel play. The teachers were facilitating their play. Everything was going well, just as I expected to see. But then something caught my eye. This little boy, who was just over three years of age, grabbed a toy out of someone else’s hand, said sorry, and carried on playing. He then pushed someone out of his way, said sorry to them too, and carried on with what he was doing.  

This little boy was really engrossed in his play. He was building something, and occasionally he would get up, walk around the room scouting for something that would fit with what he had in his mind, go get that, and continue building. Sometimes, it was off the shelf or floor, and sometimes, he would snatch it from other children. But he never forgot to say sorry. When he did that about the fifth time, I went over to him and asked, “Hey buddy, Emma was playing with it. You just took Emma’s toy. What do you think you should do?” And without wasting a second or bothering to make eye contact, he promptly replied, “It’s okay; I already said sorry!” And he walked away to his construction site. I was amazed to see that. I observed this child closely and soon realised that he was using “sorry” as a licence to do what he pleased. He would push people out of his way, snatch things, destroy other people’s play or construction, and just walk away with a sorry.  

I was curious to know why he was doing what he was doing. I soon noticed that it wasn’t just him. There are lots of children who say sorry, thank you, and please without really meaning it. Why? Because that’s what we teach them to do. When our toddler pushes someone, hits someone, or snatches something, we promptly rush there and teach them to say sorry. “Ben, say you’re sorry.” When someone offers them a present, we teach them to say thank you. “Ben, what do you say?” When they ask us for something, we teach them to say please. We ask them, “What’s the magic word?” And we as adults use sorry, thank you, please so often that it hardly means anything. I’m not against teaching good manners to children; in fact, the point of writing this chapter is that we need to teach our children to say “sorry, thank you, and please.” But it’s important to teach our children how to use these words. It’s essential to teach them to tap into their emotions.  

How do we teach social skills? 

I learnt this in a very unexpected manner. A while ago, I attended training by Professor Peter Vermeulen, who talked about the importance of context. Well, Dr Vermeulen was talking specifically for individuals on the autistic spectrum and how they might miss the context and hence their actions might seem a little inappropriate. But that action in another context might be appropriate, so understanding the context is crucial. For example, wedding parties and funerals are both occasions where all family and friends get together. But things that you might do at a wedding party might not be appropriate at a funeral. Both are social gatherings, but the context is different. Similarly, the way you might greet your friend at a pub isn’t the way you’d greet your colleague at work.  

Dr Vermuelen talked about the importance of teaching a child to tap into their own feelings and to try to understand how the other person might be feeling. Now, this applies to all human beings. Dr Vermuelen gave strategies to make “emotions and social communication” easier for individuals on the autistic spectrum. Still, the underpinning principle was that the key to good relationships is understanding the feelings of others, tapping into your emotions, and then deciding what course of action would be appropriate. That’s the secret of good social skills. 

So, the question is, how do we teach our children these social skills? How do we teach our children to tap into their emotions and understand the feelings of others? Why is it not enough to teach children, “what’s the magic word?” or “what do you say?”  

When we teach our children to say “sorry, thank you or please” without really feeling it, they use these words without meaning them. And what’s worse is they don’t learn to tap into their emotions. So how do we teach our children to tap into their emotions?  

Saying thank you 

I used to ask my daughter some simple questions to make her think of her emotions. When someone did something nice for her, I would ask her, “How do you feel?” When her grandparents sent her a present from India, she would be excited. I would say to her, even as a two- or three-year-old child, “Oh, you seem to like that toy. Is it fun?” She would jump out of excitement and say, “Yeah, Mummy, you try it. It’s so much fun.” Then I would say to her, “Oh, it’s a good thing Nanny sent it for you all the way from India. We don’t have it here in London, do we? I’ve never seen anything like this in our shops. It’s terrific!” When she’d agree with me, I’d suggest to her, “Do you want to call Nanny (Grandma) and tell her that you like the gift?” She would do that. It wasn’t usually a formal “thank you”; it was more like, “Nanny come on Skype now. I want to show you how it works. I already learnt to use it.”  

Gradually I taught her the social etiquette of saying “thank you.” I also talked to her about the trouble her nanny had to go through to send her that present. That made her value not just the gift but the sentiment. So, she understands a thank you isn’t just when you receive something but when someone does something for you that makes you feel good. That gesture calls for you to express that gratitude to the other person. And there will be times when she might not feel satisfied with the gift, especially if she doesn’t like the present. But again, she can think of the trouble they went through to try and do something nice for her. So perhaps that needs an acknowledgement.  

Saying sorry 

Similarly, sorry isn’t for when you don’t mean it. When my daughter was younger, I had to teach her to tap into her feelings. For example, every time she did something undesirable, I would pause and ask her, “How do you feel?” If she had snatched a toy from someone, she’d feel good because now she had what she wanted. Then I’d ask her, “How do you think your friend feels?” And she would say, “I don’t know.” Then I would take that toy back from her and ask, “If I took this from you, how would you feel?” She would say, “But I want it.” I would insist, “I know you want it. So, if you don’t get it, would you be happy or sad?” She would usually say, “Sad.” Then I would say, “Now your friend doesn’t have his toy; how do you think your friend feels?” She would ask, “Sad?” And I would affirm, “I think so.”  

I would ask her, “Do you want people to take your toys and make you sad?” And she would say “No.” Then I would explain that it’s not the right thing to do to take other people’s stuff and make them sad. You should ask before you take it, and take it only if they say yes. If not, you wait. Sometimes, we might do things that make other people sad. And we want to correct those. So, if you feel that something you’ve said or done has made the other person feel sad, you need to make things right again. You can go over to them, say sorry, and then try to fix things and promise them that you won’t do that again. 

An apology has three parts. First, recognising that you’ve caused inconvenience to someone, feeling remorse for it, and expressing that in the form of an apology. The second part involves trying to fix it. For example, if you knocked over someone’s tower of blocks, then help them fix it. And third, promise to not do it again. We need to make a sincere promise to try to not repeat our mistakes.  

Next time you say sorry, thank you or please, ask yourself, “do I mean it?” Remember, our children learn from what they see, not what they hear. 

Categories: Tips for Parents

Popular articles

World Book Week

We just wrapped up an incredible World Book Week celebration from 4th-7th March. It was a true testament to the joy of reading and the power of books to inspire, educate, and entertain.

Ukraine’s Unity Day at BISU

On 22nd January, Ukrainians all over the world came together to celebrate the Unity Day commemorating a historic moment in 1919 when eastern and western Ukraine signed the Unification Treaty.

International Safer Internet Day

On 6th February, we're happy to show our support for the Safer Internet Day!

International Time Project

On 8 December, the Year 6 students took part in a worldwide quiz based on countries throughout the world

Christmas and New Year Celebration at BISU

Recently we experienced a magical day at our school. We had some fantastic characters drop by to spread holiday cheer and organise an unforgettable event for our students. It felt like stepping into a wonderful fairy tale, filled with laughter and the enchanting spirit of Christmas.

COP 28 Challenge Project

In the spirit of fostering global citizenship and environmental stewardship, our students recently participated in a COP 28 challenge, demonstrating their commitment to addressing the critical issues our planet faces.

BISU Travels To Mexico

On 17 November, our Year 9 students virtually travelled overseas to Mexico, where they met up with their peers at the International School of Queretaro (ISQ).

BISU virtually meets a school in London

On 10th November, our Year 9 students embarked on a virtual journey to the UK, connecting with peers from Little Heath School. It is a dedicated institution in London for pupils aged 11-19 with diverse learning needs.

Unforgettable Saturday Odyssey

Recently we embarked on an awesome adventure outside Kyiv, courtesy of our partners, the developers DIM! They treated us to a fantastic Saturday in Park Lake City

Creepy Tuesday at BISU

Halloween casts its enchanting spell at BISU, turning our school into a vibrant wonderland! From the fancy dresses party to the dazzling decorations, it's a day filled with treats, tricks, and endless fun.

World Mental Health Day

On 10th October, our schools took part in World Mental Health Day.

World Animal Day at BISU

On 4th October, our school buzzed with excitement as we celebrated World Animal Day!

Ukraine’s Recovery: BISU launches a new project

On September 28th, BISU took part in an impactful press conference centered around the theme, "Rebuilding Ukraine: Shaping the Future of Education."

Congratulations on the start of the new school year!

Today, on 1st September, our schools in Kyiv and Dnipro opened their doors to warmly welcome new and returning students. It was a wonderful gathering and celebration for all of us!

Defender Support: Our Charity Initiative for Ukraine

Brave hearts are strong and resilient, but they also need care to heal. Every day, we feel grateful to our defenders.

BISU Sings Together With The Whole World

School students around the world, including from The British International School, Ukraine, join together to sing out an anthem for hope and peace.

41st COBIS Annual Conference

Congratulations to our partners King’s InterHigh on winning Supporting Associate of the Year Award 2023!

Voices Around the World

Recently, our students took part in ‘Voices Around the World’ — an excellent international initiative that connects young people from all over the world through music, encouraging global solidarity and comprehension

COBIS Art and Poetry Competition

Our students were invited to write a poem or produce a piece of art based on this year's competition theme, 'Who am I?'

World Book Day at BISU

Recently, BISU joined the global community in marking World Book Day, which was initially introduced by UNESCO in 1995 and launched in the UK and Ireland in 1997. Its main purpose is to change lives through a love of books and shared reading. This year's theme is Making it 'Your' World Book Day

A School Year Amid Ongoing War

A year on from russia’s full-scale military invasion, the spirit and resolve of Ukraine and its people stays unbroken, despite the significant loss of life and destruction of infrastructure. Their firm response to this unprovoked, barbaric aggression is a source of inspiration for many around the world, demonstrating the power of courage, resilience, and commitment to national sovereignty and independence. 

Black Sea Schools Maths Cup Competition

BISU Year 5 and 6 students showed outstanding results in the Black Sea Schools Maths Cup Competition.

BISU students learn to speak in public

BISU students took part in the Freemen's Global Enrichment session 'Learning to Speak in Public' which was carried out by David Boddy, the Head of Freemen's Global.

Day of Unity at BISU

On 22 January Ukrainians celebrate the Unity Day that dates back to 1919, when eastern and western Ukraine signed the Unification Treaty.

BISU students share stories of “light” with their peers worldwide

Students at The British International School, Ukraine (BISU) constantly participate in discussions with their fellow students worldwide that cover all sorts of topics, thanks to BISU’s extensive partnership with international organisations and schools.

Music Inspires Ukrainian Defenders

A BISU music teacher supports Ukrainian soldiers and raises their morale on the frontlines with various performances

BISU Continues COBIS Membership

Our membership category is COBIS Member (Compliance)

At the sad passing of H.M. Queen Elizabeth II, BISU offers its deepest condolences to the Royal Family…

At the sad passing of H.M. Queen Elizabeth II, The British International School Ukraine offers its deepest condolences to the Royal Family and people of the United Kingdom.

1 September: BISU Reopens its Doors

Congratulations on the beginning of the new academic year 2022-2023!

Congratulations from Nicolas Harrocks, Deputy Head of Mission & HM Consul, British Embassy, Kyiv

Dear Children, Staff, and Community of the British International School in Ukraine,

Ukrainian Story Book: BISU Launches a Unique Art Project

British International School Ukraine students share Ukrainian Culture with the World

How BISU is managing to support learning during the war

Recently, our partner Firefly talked to the BISU team to find out what the impact has been on our teachers, students and parents, and how the school is continuing to support them during the conflict.

New Academic Year 2022-2023

BISU has always been committed to re-open in Ukraine as soon as it is safe for students and staff

Together for Victory

Home front volunteers help Ukrain’es defenders and evacuues

Student Achievement Awards

Recently, COBIS invited British International schools to nominate up to three students for a Student Achievement Award this academic year.

Black Sea Schools Programming Competition

As a Black Sea School Group member school, our BISU students were rivalling each other at the Programming Competition, School Round.

CENTURY Spring Challenge 2022

CENTURY is a learning platform that uses Artificial Intelligence to select the best lessons for students to do next and helps inform teachers to make intelligent interventions.

World Maths Day 2022

23rd March 2022 is the date of this year’s World Maths Day. It runs for 48 hours to cover all global time zones.

BISU Marks its 25th Anniversary

Established in 1997, The British International School Ukraine (BISU) was the first to bring a British style of education to Ukraine and is widely accepted as one of the country’s most prestigious international schools.

Poem ‘Pray For Ukraine’

We would like to share this very moving poem for Ukraine written by Dmytro Kiva in Year 8.

School in Essex Sends Their Love to BISU

We received another letter of support from our international friends -- John Bunyan Primary School (Essex, the UK) shows their solidarity with BISU. 

BISU Virtual School

Despite today’s extraordinary challenges, BISU works hard to ensure uninterrupted support and quality education to our students. Offering the highest standard of learning and teaching has always been and remains our priority.

King’s Worcester Community Sends Their Love to BISU

The community at King's Worcester in the UK sends their heartfelt love and prayers to BISU at this time.


Being a British International School, BISU was set up in Ukraine 25 years ago and BISU continues to stand with Ukraine.

Council of British International Schools’ Poetry Competition

Pechersk students showcase their creative and literary talents in the international contest

Do you know how to train a dragon?

On Friday 11th February, Year 4 hosted a Learning Showcase for their peers at Pechersk

Mangahigh COBIS Maths Challenge 2022

Over 29,500 students from 146 schools across the world took part in this year's 2022 COBIS & Mangahigh Maths Challenge

Black Sea Schools Maths Cup

BISU took part in the international maths competition

Makerspace: BISU Launches a New Project

We are launching a new and exciting project at our Nivki school called Makerspace.

IELTS testing centre opens at BISU

Looking for a certified IELTS centre? Look no more: book your test at BISU Dnipro!


Online Education

1 Verkhohliada Andriia (former Drahomyrova) Str., Kyiv

+38 (044) 596 18 28

+38 (050) 412 48 84

Pechersk Kindergarten

1 Verkhohliada Andriia (former Drahomyrova) Street, Kyiv

+38 (044) 596 18 28

+38 (050) 412 48 84

Pechersk Primary and Secondary School

1 Verkhohliada Andriia (former Drahomyrova) Street, Kyiv

+38 (044) 596 18 28

+38 (050) 412 48 84

Nyvky Kindergarten

45 Danylevycha Vasylia Street (former Tolbukhina), Kyiv

+38 (044) 239 21 21

+38 (066) 303 75 78

Nyvky Primary and Secondary School

45 Danylevycha Vasylia (former Tolbukhina) Street, Kyiv

+38 (044) 502 39 09

+38 (050) 410 46 44

Dnipro Kindergarten

39a Antonovychа Str., Dnipro

+38 (056) 767 18 28

+38 (050) 458 80 22

Dnipro Primary and Secondary School

39a Antonovychа Str., Dnipro

+38 (056) 767 18 28

+38 (050) 458 80 22

External Education

1 Verkhohliada Andriia (former Drahomyrova) Street, Kyiv

+38 (044) 596 18 28

+38 (050) 412 48 84

Цей Веб-сайт використовує файли кукі перших і третіх осіб для збереження інформації на вашому комп’ютері. Якщо ви залишаєтесь на сайті - ви підтверджуєте використання кукі.

Детальніше про кукі