Teaching kids good table manners can be a challenge if your wait until you’re at a friends house or a restaurant to in engage in dining etiquette lessons. Bad manners are develop at home and can show up at the most inconvenient time.
However, being one who likes to lick her fingers when eating the Colonel’s Chicken… or Goodwood’s ribs… I can’t be too hard on the kids. (Just how can you eat BQ ribs without licking your fingers?) But… there’s a time and place.. right? Come to think of it… I can’t think of a time and place where I wouldn’t lick my fingers if I were eating ribs. Hmmm… perhaps the White House?
Back to table manners… Training children to have table etiquette begins at home a little at a time…and considering the child’s age. Here’s a few table manners they need to know. These are probably the most obvious to others when they’re not kept. Helping your kids in these areas might save you and your child a little embarrassment…. You know… for when the in-laws come… or your dining at the White House.
1. Elbows On The Table: During the Middle ages, trestle tables were use and the diners sat on one side close to the fire… keeping their backsides warm. If they leaned on the table with their elbows, the table would collapse and dinner would be in their laps… So goes the tradition of “No Elbows On The Table.” Today, however, putting elbows on the table doesn’t leave much room for the person sitting next to you. So it’s best if you keep your elbows off the table and be considerate of your neighbor.
2. Don’t Talk With Your Mouth Full: Now just how do you talk during a meal with out food in your mouth? Get real! It would be a pretty quiet dinner conversation if you had to wait until your mouth was empty before you could talk. The secret is… don’t over stuff your mouth with food. Take small bites so you won’t choke and you can talk to someone while you still have a bit of food in your mouth.
3. Chew With Your Mouth Closed: Good idea. Do the best you can.. no one like to see half eaten food. Sometimes we’re not as careful as we should be when we’re in a hurry. Best thing to do is slow down a bit.
4. Don’t Eat With Your Fingers: Unless… it’s ribs, of course…or chicken or food that is meant to be eaten with fingers. If your meal consists of finger foods, provide lots of napkins. Cutting food into small pieces will encourage your child to use utensils. (At last try to keep the finger licking to a minimum if your eating ribs.)
5. Don’t Burb at the Table: If you slip… say, “Excuse me!” However, in some cultures burping is considered a way of showing the host your appreciation for a good meal. (When I was in China… there seemed to be a lot of burping going on… and no one seemed to mind. For me… I kept mine to myself.)
6. Use a Napkin: Wiping your mouth frequently is the trick. If you spill, wipe it up the best you can. Small children sometimes have a hard time with napkins. Help from parents is frequently necessary. (I swear… sometimes I have a hard time keeping food off my abundant Italian chest… so I really sympathize with kids in the spilling area.)
7. Say, Please And Thank You: Get in the habit of saying, “Please” and “Thank You.” These are probably the number one rules of good table manners in any culture. Often… when we’re in a hurry… those words are easily forgotten.
FOR PARENTS ONLY!
8. Set A Good Example: Setting a good example is probably the best teaching tool you have. As you can see by the above suggestions… they apply to us as well as our kids. As you already know… kids watch adults very carefully. Often times kids reflect our own behavior when they’re in public. I know I’ve been caught more than a few times… “Oh my gosh… just who did they learn that from?”
9. Explain The Rules: Often time, correction is made by the parent and the child doesn’t understand the “why.” Explain “why” certain etiquette is appropriate in our culture. “Son, when you put your elbows on the table, it doesn’t leave much room for your sister.”
10. Make Your Meal A Pleasant Time: Lecturing kids will turn them off to good manners, plus make the meal unpleasant. The best teaching method is “making suggestions” rather than nagging or putting a child down. They’ll come along if your patient and kind. They just might surprise you at the restaurant with good dining etiquette.
Good Luck… and I’ll be watching you at the restaurant with your kids… as you’ll be watching me with my grandkids. Let’s be kind to each other.
P.S. Now for the issues of fighting among siblings, spilling milk, falling off the chair, whining about what’s served… you’re on your own. These are areas where I could use a few suggestions.