Yesterday I got a an e-mail from Baby Center warning me not to force my kid to use manners. OK, maybe it didn't say that in so many words. But "experts" are now saying that you shouldn't say "what's the magic word" to get your kids to say "please" and "thank you," but instead just teach them through modeling. I don't understand why these are mutually exclusive. I model good manners for my kid, but I see absolutely no reason why I should allow him to order me about as though I am his servant. Two phrases in my parenting vocabulary are "I don't listen to orders" and "I don't listen to whining." Three is simply not too young to start teaching your child how to interact in a civilized fashion. Modeling alone may work for some children, buy my son is not so fragile that my insistence on being treated with respect will break his spirit.
The article also mentions that you should not force your child to say "I'm sorry." I know there are differing schools of thought on this, but in our family, we insist on apologies when someone has been hurt. I understand that it is important to teach your child empathy, but again, I don't think these are mutually exclusive. And also, I do think that knowing how to sincerely deliver an insincere apology is important. If my husband walks in the house just in time to hear me telling my friends that his brother is a man-whore of epically douchebaggy proportions,* I need to be able to apologize for that. But what if I'm honestly not sorry for saying that? I might be sorry my husband overheard that and it hurt them, but that's not the apology he's going to want to hear--it's not really going to make him feel better. I think especially in the workplace, being able to apologize for things you don't feel sorry about is an important life skill. Apologies are not supposed to make YOU feel better, they are supposed to make the other person feel better.
Obviously, when Sam does something I think he should apologize for, we also spend a bit of time talking about what he did, how he might feel if someone did that to him, how the other person probably feels, and what could make them feel better. But even if he says he doesn't want to apologize, I tell him that he must do it. To be honest, he hardly EVER balks at apologizing.
Good manners must be taught.
*Not only does my husband not have a brother, but whorishness does not run in his family, so I felt safe to use this example. If he did have a man-whore for a brother, he'd probably join me in the mocking.