Teaching Children's Proper Table Manners and Etiquette

When your kids demonstrate proper table manners, it can be a matter of pride for you as a parent. It also gives them an advantage in many situations, such as earning the admiration of relatives, establishing good etiquette habits for later years and setting a standard in your home for respect and control. However, children don't just learn table manners on their own-they need to be taught and reminded of how to properly use table etiquette. It may take several months to get your children to develop new and nicer table manners, but it can be done.

Magic words
The first thing to instill in children about home etiquette is to say "excuse me," "please" and "thank you." From asking for a drink to wanting to get down after a meal, these words should be used liberally throughout dinner. Set the example by using the words yourself to everyone at the table, and when a child forgets, pause expectantly until the child offers the right words, then praise the effort as you complete the task.

Using utensils correctly
As children get older, they use utensils however they can-gripped in the fist or used like a shovel. Demonstrate the table etiquette way to use utensils during a time when there's little distraction and no stress. Make a game of it at first-try correctly using a spoon with breakfast cereal or cutting up a soft jelly sandwich with a knife and fork. Once children are taught the proper way to hold utensils, develop a code word that reminds them of what they learned, such as "shovel" or "hold it right." This way, when you notice incorrect use, you can say the word the child can immediately switch to proper table etiquette. When children see that you are monitoring them, they often try extra hard to do things right.

How to eat
Children are naturally messy eaters who like to talk, wiggle and grab. Show them how to chew with their mouth closed and never to talk with food in their mouth. Teach good manners for kids on how to pass food around to others and that putting their napkin in their lap is the right thing to do. Again, teach and demonstrate appropriate table manners, then monitor children closely and point out when they are doing it right or wrong.

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