Often in the hustle and bustle of modern life, sitting down to a family meal may not be possible and family members end up grabbing a bite whenever and wherever they can. Yet no matter if you are eight or 80, good table manners are still a necessary part of being a polite member of society. So put your napkin in your lap and get your elbows off the table for this quick tour of basic table manners!
Begin at the Very Beginning
If a child has an assigned seat, it is easy for him/her to get into the routine of eating at the table from the moment they sit down. When comfortable and calm, encourage children old enough to eat at the table to:
- Scoot their chair in so that they can easily reach the table without having to rest their elbows on it.
- Put their napkins in their laps, not tucked into their shirts.
- Understand that their plate is in the middle, forks are to the left and knives/spoons are to the right.
- Know that their glass is up to the right of their plate.
When its time to eat, even the most mild mannered of children can turn into ravenous monsters! Ask your children to:
- Politely request the dish they would like to spoon onto their plate (if you have not already served them).
- Serve food onto their plates using the serving utensils provided, not their own utensils.
- Serve only one helping of food at a time. Assure your children there will be seconds if they so desire.
- Give each foodstuff a separate space on the plate. Piling a plate with a mountain of food is a recipe for frustrations!
Chew and Chat
Some table manners have survived for centuries with good reason. Remind your kids:
- Not to chew with their mouths open. No one wants to see what’s in their mouths.
- Not to talk while eating. Again, no one wants to see what’s in their mouths.
- If they need to remove something from their mouth (such as a pit or a bone), remove it the same way they ate it. If they ate fish from a fork and discovered a bone, have them remove it with their fork.
Keep It Clean
Keeping the table clean is an integral part of being a polite diner, particularly if you are dining away from home. Kids should know that:
- When they begin to use their knife and fork, they should always then rest them on their plates when they need to take a break. Never rest a used utensil back on the table.
- Some food, including bread, cookies, strips of bacon, sandwiches, fruit and chips can be eaten with their fingers. Show them how to gently clean their fingers on their napkins when they are finished.
- At the end of the meal, they may lay their napkin next to their plate when they leave the table.
No matter how crazy mealtime can get in your house, a few basic table manners will serve you (and your kids!) well. Find out which rules work for you, and which you are willing to bend every now and then. Also consider occasionally treating the kids to a dinner out so that you can take the night off and track their progress!