Teaching table manners
Sit up straight at the table! It's a command many of us can remember getting from our mothers and grandmothers as children, along with the 'elbows off' and 'quit chewing with your mouth open' rules.
Teaching table manners can't happen soon enough, and it's a task you should take on as soon as your child gets a hang of dexterity, because a child spitting bad tasting food back onto a plate or hurling chicken nuggets through the air in a restaurant isn't cute.
Good table manners not only makes a good impression on others, it gives props to you as a parent too. No one is saying that your child should be mastering correct utensil placement by age three, but there are some basics that are necessary, especially if you plan a lot of eating out.
So tell the little ones to:
1. Keep hands off the table
Teach your kids that when they are not eating, their hands should be on the lap or resting on the table (with wrists on the edge of the table).
2. Never chew with your mouth open
This. And don't make loud noises when you eat. Also, although it is possible to talk with a small piece of food in your mouth, do not talk with your mouth full.
3. Do not slurp soup from a spoon
Teach them to spoon the soup away when they take it out of the bowl and sip it from the side of the spoon. If the soup is too hot to eat, let it sit until it cools; do not blow on it.
4. Don't pick your teeth (or nose)
If food gets caught between the teeth and you can't remove it with your tongue, leave the table and go to a mirror where you can remove the food from your teeth in private.
5. Don't be an animal
For some reason, some little kids like to lick their plates after eating, or use their fingers to scoop up the last bit of yumminess. Teach them early that this is never acceptable. While it may be cute at home, you don't want the embarrassment of your little one acting like a puppy at a restaurant.
6. Sit still
By the time a child reaches five they should be able to sit still for up to half-hour without unnecessary fidgeting. Engage them in conversation and teach them the proper use of the knife and fork, as it's possible to absorb at this age.
7. Ask to be excused
Teach them that they don't get up and bolt at the end of their meal, nor do they get up to catch that riveting episode of Austin and Ally during dinner. They should always ask to be excused.
8. Eat only small bits
Teach them to insert only bite-sized pieces in their mouths. No stuffing, no matter how yummy the food.
9. No eews
Children can be brutally honest, but you must teach them to be diplomatic. If they don't like something it's not polite to yell "eew" or to make gagging sounds to emphasise how horrible the dish is.
You can jump-start the table manners process by play acting at home, and not making the whole process seem stiff and boring. An excellent time to start is when your daughter invites you to play tea party. Instead of brushing her off, do an actual set-up with teapots and real food, and correct her mistakes during the party. Note that table manners are taught and emphasised when you eat together as a family at the table with your children. Allowing them to set the table, allowing them to see you eat with the proper utensils and use things like napkins properly, will make the transition seamless.