How to teach children table manners

How to teach children table manners

The most effective teaching tool parents have available to instill desirable behavior in their children is good example. Children are natural mimics and, from the time they are very small, they will attempt to copy what they see and hear. If you want your children to display good table manners, then you must practice that behavior at all times.

There are several other proactive ways to instill the importance of table manners, in order that children retain the message and inculcate good table manners into their behavior wherever they happen to be.

Steps to teaching children good table manners:

* Make eating a special event

Just as children behave better when they are all dressed up in their "Sunday best," so will they have better table manners if you set the scene. Each time you have a family meal, set the table. Use a table cloth, or place mats and napkins. Arrange the flatware properly, use serving dishes and make the meal, no matter how simple, a special occasion. Even when you are ordering take-out, set the table when you eat to illustrate that meals are a special time for the family to unite and interact.

* Give formal lessons

Teach your children the proper way to set a table, because in doing so you are also teaching them the proper use of various dishes and utensils. Explain how the fork goes on the left and the knife and spoon on the right. Demonstrate that the beverage glass is placed above the knife and spoon and the salad plate goes above the fork. As you impart these instructions, your children will naturally ask "Why?" and open the door to discussion of proper table manners. Even toddlers can learn that meal time is special and how to set the table. In fact, when they are toddlers is the best time to begin teaching table manners.

* Keep the lessons consistent and ongoing

During the meal, verbalize proper behavior. Explain the reasoning behind phrases like,

"Please," "Thank you," and "May I." When your children hear you using these phrases they will be anxious to emulate such grown up behavior.

* Reinforce the lessons on special occasions

If you are dining in a restaurant, or having guests for dinner, review the lessons of good table manners with your children beforehand. After the event, be sure to acknowledge your children’s efforts and praise them lavishly for their good manners and for making you feel proud of them.

* Reprimand gently

During their formative years your children might have lapses in their table manners.

Giving a gentle reminder is usually all it takes, once they know the rules. If you are too harsh in reprimand, then using good table manners will seem more like a punishment than a privilege of maturity. The last thing you want to create is rebellion in your children against the proprieties you are attempting to teach.

* Keep the teaching mode positive at all times

Never embarrass your children by correcting them in public. If they are behaving poorly at the table in a restaurant or someone else’s home, take them aside and quietly reiterate the behavior you expect them to demonstrate. If the infraction is slight, let it pass.

Eating together as a family should always be a non-stressful, pleasant event. By teaching your children acceptable behavior from the time they are very young, you will ensure that mealtimes for your family will be occasions of positive interaction.

You will also have peace of mind in knowing that when your children are away from home they are behaving at the table with manners in which both they and you can take well-deserved pride.


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