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How to Teach Table Manners to Kids

How to Help Kids Develop Table Manners

Help Kids Develop Table Manners

Recently, we were at a restaurant having a family meal together and the waitress said, “May I take your order?”

Each one of my children started their meal request with, “May I please have…”

I don’t tell you this to brag, but I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t feel a swell of pride when I heard them. My husband and I are sticklers for manners.

We’ve worked hard to help our children learn how to behave and be polite at the table. 

Table manners are learned over time and with practice. What are your favorite table manners to see in kids? #thenourishedchild #mannerly Click To Tweet

[Read Emily Posts’ Top Table Manners for Kids]

Teaching Proper Etiquette at the Table

We have worked on dining etiquette for years.

At times, it seemed like our kids needed constant reminders to say the simplest “please,” “thank you,” or “no, thank you.”

And, then, one day, it started happening on its own, without our prompting or reminding.

Miraculous!

Don’t you just love it when a child or teen says please, or thank you?

Especially without prompting?

How Kids Develop Table Manners

Your child isn’t born with manners. He develops good manners and table etiquette over time and with the guidance and leadership you provide.

Like all manners for kids, your child also learns from the example you set with your own manners.

How Do Kids Learn about Manners?

According to a Culture and Youth Studies survey, 97% of students learn their manners from home. Bad manners were learned from: media, books, and movies (69.3%), school classes (65%), and friends (61.5%).

In a Forbes magazine article, proper etiquette, they say, is a matter of character. An essential if you want your child to succeed in business. And, a disadvantage to those young adults who haven’t mastered it yet.

Yes, an interview luncheon with bad manners can tank your child’s potential for a job position.

Now I know for many of you that is way off in the future, but the preparation for navigating key social situations with good manners begins now.

Basic Table Manners for Kids

According to Emily Post, there are a few good table manners all kids should know and demonstrate:

  1. Come to the table with clean hands and face.
  2. Put your napkin on your lap.
  3. Start eating when everyone else does—or when given the okay to start.
  4. Stay seated and sit up straight.
  5. Keep elbows (and other body parts!) off the table while eating.
  6. Chew with your mouth closed and don’t talk until you’ve swallowed.
  7. Don’t make bad comments about the food.
  8. Say “Please pass the…” instead of reaching.
  9. Chat with everyone at the table.
  10. Don’t make rude noises like burping or slurping.
  11. Ask to be excused when finished.
  12. Thank your host or whoever prepared the meal.
  13. Offer to help clear the table.

More Table Etiquette Advice

I’d like to add a few more table manners to the list: 

  1. Eat at the table with the television off.
  2. Avoid answering the phone during a meal.  I recommend not allowing any cell phones at the table.
  3. Ask your children to help set the table.  Kids can learn where utensils, bread plates and glasses should be placed while learning to value the time and effort it takes to prepare for a meal. Check out this simple way to teach your child where the bread plate and glass should be positioned around the plate. Make sure the bread is left of the plate and drinks are to the right.How to teach your child table manners: Here's where the bread and glass go around the plate.
  4. Consider starting the meal by saying a blessing or prayer.  This reinforces showing appreciation and can set the tone for the meal.
  5. Expect your children to say “please”, “please pass” and “thank you.”
  6. Practice how to refuse foods politely.  Tell your kids it is ok to refuse certain items, but there is no need to cause a scene or be insulting.  A simple, “I’m fine, thank you,” or “I’d rather not, thanks” work well.

Mealtimes should be pleasant, supportive, and engaging.  Keeping a positive attitude and reasonable expectations around table manners, conversation, and interactions among your family members will go a long way toward creating a mealtime environment in which your child wants to be a part.

The Benefits of Table Manners for Kids

Observing good manners prepares your child to be a patient, confident, capable adult who is able to function in a variety of social situations. Being polite is never offensive and nearly everyone appreciates being treated with respect. 

My mother always said one purpose of manners is to keep those around you from feeling uncomfortable. I think this is so true! 

How your child behaves at the table is a reflection of his age, maturity, and parenting. While age and maturity come with time and practice, teaching table manners is something you can do every time you sit together for meals. 

Manners need not be saved for special occasions at fancy restaurants, formal dinners, or holiday meals. If they are practiced often they are perfected. 

What better place to rehearse table manners than in your own home? And if you’re already on your way, you can always find ways to improve upon good manners.

How to Help Kids Develop Table Manners An Easy Way to Teach and Practice Good Manners

When you sit together regularly for meals, it’s so much easier to teach your child table manners. Alternatively, when your child doesn’t have an opportunity to observe adults eat, converse and navigate the meal, he fails to see table manners and etiquette in action.

My advice to all families: Have family meals at home as often as possible.  The more your child is exposed to eating with others at the dinner table, the more opportunity to learn and polish good manners. 

Do what you can: Try to hit 3-5 family meals each week, but if that’s not possible, one family meal per week is better than none!

Remember, your child is watching you and they model your behavior.  If you place importance on practicing good table manners, chances are your child will too. 

How do you teach your child table manners?

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