My son was using THANK YOU and PLEASE at 16 months and was proficient at 17 months. In fact, when he really wanted something, he’d use PLEASE and when he truly appreciated what he had received out came THANK YOU. In fact, there were times when my son would sign THANK YOU repeatedly and with enthusiasm. It was like second nature. It really makes you wonder why 2-3 year old kids never use these magic words.
You might be tempted to think that they are complicated words, reserved for children over 5, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. By introducing the signs through an early signing program, you can make manners second nature. Introduce signs as part of a routine or ritual and always use manners yourself as a model of how they are used. You can ask your toddler to do things using PLEASE and when they do say THANK YOU. Using manners does not mean that your baby has an option to do the things you ask or not, it just means you’re not being rude about it. If you act demanding to your toddler, I promise they will soak it up and mirror it back to you. Whatever habits you want your toddler to have, model it yourself.
I can’t say I fully expected my son to have such good etiquette, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised. My payoff, of course, is to see how other adults react to him. Most adults will swear up and down that my son is unique and there baby can’t or wont do as mine does, but this isn’t so. I’d like to take some credit in teaching him, but I’m quite confident that any baby can learn proper communication patterns. Yes, it does require a special teacher, but it doesn’t require a special baby. All babies can learn these skills.