Children’s Manners: Tips & Techniques

There are ways to make teaching manners easier for you and more fun for kids. Children love mnemonics, little tricks to help them remember their manners.

It can be daunting for youngsters and adults, too, sometimes, to remember how to set a table properly or to know which dishes, glasses, and utensils belong to whom. The following strategies just might save the day!

  • On the left (a word with four letters) of the dinner plate, is the fork (also four letters).
  • On the right (a word with five letters), goes the knife (also five letters), and the spoon (five letters!).
  • Flatware on the table appears in alphabetical order from left to right: fork, knife, spoon.
  • BMW. In this case, it’s not referring to a sporty German car, but rather Bread–Meal–Water. From left to right, that’s your place setting. The Bread plate is on the left, the Meal in the middle, and the Water glass on the right.
  • The OK tip: have your child make an OK sign with each hand–maybe discreetly, under the table.
    • The left hand is making a “b” and the right hand is making a “d.”
    • This means the bread plate is on the left, and the drinking glass on the right.

On the subject of bread plates: they are not just for bread. Show and tell your children this plate can also be considered the meal’s trash bin. That’s where you discreetly put olive pits, edamame pods, chicken bones, and other things you can’t swallow. This plate is used instead of spitting things on the floor, on your dinner plate, or into your napkin.

We all know children have a hard time sitting and waiting–whether it’s at the table when finished with their meal or at the doctor’s office. One way to help them gain patience and learn consideration for others is to try the 15-Minute Game.

  • Challenge your child to remain calm–without any squirms and moans–for 15 minutes, with the promise of a treat when they are successful.
  • As kids gain more patience, the 15-Minute Game can become the 30-Minute Game.
  • Reward them with something like a few stickers, a favorite dessert, or additional playtime.
  • You know your child better than anyone, and you’re the best judge of suitable goals and incentives for the best motivation and effectiveness.

Like all those table-setting mnemonics? Here are some helpful sites to visit for more information and examples:

“How to Set a Pretty Table,” from CNN:

“Table Place Setting Instructions,” from



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