Even when kids grow up around people who use good manners, knowing and understanding good behavior does not necessarily translate into practicing it!
But don’t give up. Always use your own best table manners around the family and out of the home, and you’ll achieve a big payoff—your children will develop a strong foundation which will serve them well for the rest of their lives.
To support your everyday good examples, we offer the following tips for encouraging good table manners and discouraging bad ones.
By reinforcing proper etiquette with repetition and gentle corrections, you’ll be on your way to your own Happy Meal!
1. She won’t sit still at the table.
Consider offering an incentive. You want your child to sit for half an hour at the table, but she only makes it through 10 minutes before starting to slide around and off the chair and then touring the dining area. Think about a dining-related reward that encourages your child to sit longer. For instance, sitting quietly for 30 minutes earns a trip to the ice cream shop. It’s easiest to change behavior in small steps. Explain she will need to start by making it through 10 minutes, then 15, and so on, to the magic number of 30.
2. He’s still in pre-school and doesn’t understand.
Ask your children’s librarian for a good book on table manners, geared to your youngster’s age. Then, read the book at bedtime or naptime. During meals, refer to the characters in the book, helping your child understand how he can behave just like them.
3. She won’t take her eyes off the TV and pay attention to the meal or the conversation.
Oh, my. Turn off the television! Eliminate electronic distractions during meals, including phone calls. If a phone rings, either let it go to messaging or designate the person who answers it. It’s a good idea to ban books and toys (and pet cats) also.
4. I have to remind him continually about his table manners.
Here are two helpful actions you can take: First, use one-word shorthand terms when behavior is slipping. For instance, “elbows” can be code for “Take your elbows off the table.” “Napkin” can signal “Remember to put your napkin in your lap.” Second, acknowledge your child’s good manners: “You’re doing a great job passing the food bowls around the table.” “We’re having dessert, and you’re still sitting up straight in your chair without wiggling!”
5. He insists on letting everyone know what foods he doesn’t like.
Start an “I like one thing” ritual. At each meal, everyone (not just the complainer) mentions one good thing about the meal. It might be “I like having chocolate pudding for dessert,” or “I like the pot roast,” or even “I like getting to sit next to Uncle Joey.”
6. She chews with her mouth open and washes down her food with milk.
Try putting a mirror in front of this child at mealtime. It may bring home the point. A word of caution: Be careful not to draw so much attention to this behavior that it takes over the meal.
7. Kids can be pretty amusing with their burping contests and spoon-on-the-nose tricks.
Do your best to avoid laughing at rude behavior that seems funny at the time: burping, slurping, blowing bubbles in milk. Always correct this behavior in a quiet, serious voice.