When you teach table manners to your children, start with the basics: wait until everyone else is seated before you begin eating, chew with your mouth closed and don’t talk with food in your mouth. After those concepts become second nature, gently remind your tot to keep his elbows off of the table during mealtime and to lay his napkin in his lap. When little Sammy wants a second helping, teach him to ask politely, “May I please have some more?” and “Thank you.” At the end of the meal, encourage him to clear his dishes off the table. And above all else, no burping!
Please and Thank You
“Please” and “thank you” are common themes in children’s educational programming, so at least you know that the big, purple dinosaur is backing you up when you constantly remind your toddler to use these words. Praise your child each time she remembers to say “please” or “thank you” without prompting, and demonstrate how to use the words frequently throughout each day. Remind your preschooler to thank her friend’s parents after a playdate at their house, and show her how to write a thank-you note for birthday and holiday gifts.
Kindness and Respect
Good manners mean showing kindness and respect to others, whether playing with friends or spending time with adults. Teach your preschooler to approach an injured child on the playground and ask, “Are you OK? Can I help you?” Instead of assuming he can join an ongoing game, encourage him to say, “Excuse me, can I play with you?” Simply looking another person in the eye while speaking and saying “I’m sorry” when he has done something wrong can endear him to others as a well-mannered child. Never allow your child to call other kids insulting names or to tease anyone.
A lot of little behaviors add up to having good manners. Blowing your nose, sneezing into your elbow and saying “excuse me” after passing gas are small actions that carry a lot of weight in the politeness realm. Other manners that many take some time for your child to remember are speaking quietly indoors, holding the door open for others as they approach and not picking her nose. Although she may feel strongly about something, teach her to keep negative opinions to herself in polite company.
Eat meals as a family so you see what type of manners your child is using. Use these daily meals as a way to model dinner manners yourself. Keep your mouth closed while you chew, use your silverware, compliment the meal and remember to say "please" and "thank you." By using table manners yourself, you become a living reminder of how your child should act.
Make your own place mats that show table manners. Take pictures of your child or yourself observing manners, such as sitting with a napkin in your lap or chewing with your mouth closed. Glue the pictures to a piece of paper. Laminate the paper to protect it. Each time she looks at her place mat, she is reminded of her manners.
Point out poor table behavior when it happens. Verbally remind your child to wait to talk until she finishes chewing. Ask her to sit still with her feet under the table if she's wiggling in her seat. When she complains about the food, tell her she should never say negative things about the meal. Remind her to thank the cook even if the food isn't her favorite.
Notice when she uses proper table manners. Tell her, "I like the way you put that napkin in your lap when you sat down. And look at the way you're using your fork instead of your fingers." This reinforces how you want her to act at the dinner table instead of only pointing out what she's doing wrong.
Practice table manners outside of meal times. Pretend play is an easy way to remind your child about table behaviors. Have a tea party that focuses on proper table manners, even for the stuffed animals.
Things You Will Need
- Laminating material
Require the use of polite requests and words at the table when family members are asking for things or conversing with others. Expressions such as “Thank you,” “Please” and “Excuse me” form the foundation of social graces and polite manners. For example, all requests for food should sound like, “May I please have more bread?” or “Please pass the salt.” Insist that your child say “Thank you” and “Excuse me” when warranted, also.
Talk about actions you want your children to perform during meals. Possible points to discuss include sitting quietly at the table, and not beginning to eat until everyone sits; placing a napkin onto your lap, and using it to wipe fingers and mouth during a meal; chewing with your mouth closed; not talking with food in your mouth; and not voicing strong negative reactions to food. You might also expect your kids not to slurp food, pick teeth, put too much food in their mouths at one time, slouch or reach in front of others for items, according to the Emily Post website.
Teach the behaviors you desire by example, advises the Center for Parenting Education. Eat as a family often and use polite words, eat neatly, chew with your mouth closed, pass food helpfully, carry on polite conversation with dinner-mates and use your napkin. With consistency, your youngsters will catch on and follow your example.
Watch for mistakes or lapses in manners so you can provide gentle and ongoing correction, as necessary. Without undue harshness, simply call a child’s attention to a mistake in manners and teach the preferred action instead. You might say, “Jonas, please don’t reach for the carrots. Ask me to pass them to you instead.” Positive correction that teaches the desired action is usually an effective teaching method.
Expect your kids to strengthen table manners with consistency and practice, especially when you start training them during toddlerhood. For example, while you will likely need to coach your children to say “Please” and “Thank you” at first, gradually, they will internalize the manners and reminders will no longer be necessary.
Set a good example. It might seem odd to say "please" and "thank you" to a pre-verbal child, but little ones understand language before they speak it. Besides, it is good practice for you to get in the habit of using polite words before your child is old enough to imitate you. As he grows older, he will imitate the way you deal with relatives, his siblings, your spouse or significant other, shop keepers and his teachers.
Teach your child to say "please," "thank you" and "excuse me" at appropriate times. Peggy Post, author of "Emily Post's Guide to Good Manners for Kids," says that these three expressions are the most basic parts of politeness. Even very small children can learn when to use these words, even if they don't quite understand why they should. Have at least one meal each week where you and your children sit down at a table to eat together. Model the correct way to use utensils, use a napkin, pass food and hold a conversation. Take time to explain things such as how to correctly hold utensils.
Encourage your child to write thank you notes to relatives and friends. Acknowledging a gift or action rewards people who have given tangible gifts or spent time with your child. Set up rules for use of devices such as the telephone, computer or other devices in your home. Using good electronic etiquette includes answering the phone politely, sharing bandwidth, and observing safety rules such as your child never telling a caller or person on the Internet that he is home alone, or giving out his personal identification information.
Model polite language. Avoid using derogatory expressions, degrading slang or profanity around your child. Small children learn language from people around them. The words they hear are the ones they will use to express themselves. Watching and listening to you, they will also learn how to answer a telephone, how to introduce someone and how to deal with family members. If you use socially accepted words and phrases, your child is likely to also use polite words when talking with others.
Read some good books about manners with your child, and discuss the way the characters behave.
Teens might seem to abandon good manners for a year or two, as a gesture of rebellion.
Wait to Start Eating
According to etiquette expert Lisa Mirza Grotts, , you should never begin eating before everyone is seated at the table and has been served their food. The exception to this is if your guest or companion is more than 20 minutes late. At this point, it is okay to begin your meal without them.
Take Small Bites and Chew With Your Mouth Closed
Cut off one piece of your food at a time. Put it in your mouth and close your lips before you begin chewing. Take care not to slurp, smack or make other noises with your mouth while you chew. And just like your mother always said, never talk with your mouth full.
What to Do With Your Napkin
Your napkin should be placed on your lap the moment you sit down. Between bites, dab your mouth carefully to ensure that you haven't gotten any food on your lips, then put the napkin back in your lap. If you must excuse yourself briefly during the meal, place your napkin on your seat while you are gone. When the meal is finished, place the napkin on the table to the left of your plate.
Never Reach Across the Table
If you would like a dish or condiment to be passed to you, never stand up and reach for it yourself. Rather, ask the person it is nearest to to pass it to you. If someone asks you to pass something, it should always be passed around the table to the right. The exception is if the requester is immediately to your left. In that case, you can pass the item directly to them.
Remember the Basics
Do not slouch or lean at the table. Never pick or floss your teeth at the table. Do not blow your nose at the table. Don't place your elbows on the table unless the meal is finished. Never use your phone at the table and keep items such as purses, phones, keys and wallets off of the table at all times. These basics are some of the top table manners to remember according to etiquette guru Emily Post.
Keep the Conversation Light
Unless you are joining a group for dinner specifically to discuss serious issues, keep the dinner conversation polite and inoffensive. Keep your voice at a volume appropriate to the setting; never shout at the table. Do your best to engage everyone at the table in conversation at least briefly to engender a feeling of friendliness.