Thursday, February 10, 2011

Dinner Table Etiquette DOS and DON'TS

Teaching good table etiquette to children can be a challenge, to say the least.  Especially young children.  Young children tend to want to play with food, be demanding, use loud voices and bang their forks.  This can progress to burping and other bodily noises to putting elbows on the table and interrupting conversations.

Social Moms (formerly Twittermoms) and Kraft have teamed up to ask bloggers to share their expertise with their readers about family dinner table etiquette "Dos and Don'ts."   Since we like to eat out at nice restaurants with our children, it has been especially important for us to make sure our children have proper dining manners.

The first suggestion I have is DO start early.  In my opinion, it is not too early to begin teaching your toddler basic manners at the table.  Teach your child to say please when they want something and thank you.  Many parents have successfully used, “What’s the magic word” to teach this lesson.  Don’t let things slide, reinforce these basic manners every time so it becomes habit.

DO teach your children to use indoor voices.  My children, as I am sure most, tend to want to get loud and cut up at the table.  We constantly remind them to use inside voices.  If they can’t behave, we simply remove them from the dining area for a couple minute time out.  They absolutely do not like to be removed from the action, and after a couple times, they quickly learn to behave.  

DO practice with your children on how to ask for more pizza or more milk.  They will tend to demand, “I want more pizza.”  Just like you encourage them to use the “magic words” every time, encourage them to make statements such as, “Could I please have more pizza?”

Another part of table manners is teaching your children not to burp at the table.  If they do burp, you need to teach them to immediately excuse themselves.

Another problem with children and dining etiquette is learning what to do if they don’t like something.  It is one thing if they are dining with you and declare that something is “awful” but another thing if you are at Aunt Betty’s house and they declare in a loud voice, “This is awful” and proceed to spit it out on the plate.  Teach your children to quietly swallow what they are eating, followed by something to drink and to no longer eat it.  Sometimes, children just can’t stomach swallowing something they think is gross.  Teach them to quietly dispose of it in their napkin instead of spitting it out on the plate.

DO teach your child basic manners, such as proper placement and usage of utensils.  You can make this a fun game for little ones outside the dinner hour, awarding them points for each answer they get right.  I even printed off and laminated pictures of plates, forks, spoons, etc. to play this game with my kids, but you can always use toy dishes or even real ones.  For a reward for getting the answer right, I would add play food to the plate. 

The biggest DO on my list is DO set a good example for your children.  Your children watch you and you can lead by example.

Now for the DON'TS.  Don’t tolerate interruptions, even from young children.  Teach your child to patiently wait.  If they interrupt, stop the conversation, remind them that they can speak next but must wait their turn.  Then, make a point of going back to them and asking them what they want to say after the conversation has ended.

My other DON’T is to not allow toys, video games, TV, or phones be a distraction for dinner.  Make dinner a special time when family can talk to each other without other distractions.  In this crazy, busy world, dinner can be a haven for your family.

The earlier you start teaching your children proper manners and etiquette, the sooner everyone will enjoy dinner hour!

Disclosure:  I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Kraft Homestyle Macaroni and Cheese blogging program, for a gift card worth $50. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

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