How you act at the dinner table at home can be far different from what’s acceptable in public or at someone else’s house. Kids don’t have to be all prim and proper constantly, especially when they’re at home. But when you’re away from home there’s a certain standard that we’re all held to in front of others. If you want your child to know how to act at a table other than your own it’s important to teach him or her basic table manners.
It’s easiest to teach kids proper etiquette when they are young. Forgive mistakes quickly, correct the child, then move on with the meal. Kids will have fun learning table manners if you make it into somewhat of a game. Announce once a week or so that you’ll be having a “proper” dinner. Teach them the rules of the game:
Teach kids where each table setting piece goes. Teach them that, while playing the game, the items must be always placed back in the same spot. So, if they take a drink, the glass must be returned to its original place. Whatever silverware they use, these too, must be returned to their destined place. Before ever setting the table or eating each person absolutely must wash his hands!
No one at the table should ever reach in front of someone else for anything. Instead, ask if that person will “Please pass the whatever”. Always say “Thank-you” when anything is passed to you. Never take a huge portion of anything; go back for seconds if you want but start with a normal portion.
Place your napkin on your lap and never wad it up – even when using it. If you need a clean area on the napkin simply and discreetly fold it to another side. Do not place your napkin on the table. No one wants to see smears of assorted-colored foods on a wadded napkin!
No sounds at the table other than normal conversation sounds! No belching, gas-passing, singing, humming, shouting – and of course, no scratching! No elbows on the table, of course. Absolutely never fix your ponytail, remove a hair tie or otherwise play with your hair. No swinging your foot or leg, wriggling, or getting in and out of your chair. And never, ever, go under the table! Kids love to crawl under tables but this is reprehensible behavior when out in pubic or at someone’s house for dinner.
Even if you don’t like a particular food that is being served do not say anything about it. It’s okay to make comments about how good something looks or smells but never say “I don’t like green beans” or “Ew, what’s that?” If you can’t think of anything to say that’s nice just say nothing at all. Pass the dish along to the next person without taking any.
Stay at the table until the meal is over, but if you must leave the table for a few minutes, excuse yourself to everyone by simply saying “Please excuse me”. Otherwise, stay, eat, and participate in the conversation at the table. Never just shovel food into your mouth without having conversation with the others.
Insisting that your child learn good manners, even if you don’t enforce some of them at home, is a must. Good table manners are needed with any type of social life, in a business setting as well as to maintain friends. Without them, kids can grow up to be looked down upon for something they don’t even know they’re doing wrong!