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Smarter Mom: Teaching Table Manners

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It's the holiday season, and for many of us that means at least one fairly formal family meal. And you'd probably rather not have to see Great-Aunt Prunella develop a look of horror when your child exhibits a total lack of "company manners."

But what are realistic expectations for kids in terms of table manners? And how can you teach them? First of all, know what is really important to you. I thought I was totally lackadaisical, but in researching this, apparently people need to be told that allowing their kids to burp the alphabet or stick their feet in their brother's face at the table is funny to no one else? Ours are:

Sit at the table for the whole meal;

Bottom on the seat bottom on the seat BOTTOM on the SEAT! And knees under the table!

No potty talk;

Ask to have things passed, don't "boardinghouse reach" across the table for them;

Don't talk with your mouth full;

Ask to be excused when you're done;


Ahem...where was I? Anyway, you and your spouse need to figure out what is important and what isn't...this may seem like a no-brainer, but if you were raised with differing expectations you need to make sure you're on the same page.

Then, enforce them like crazy. Maybe expecting a five-year-old to sit still for 30 minutes straight is a bit much, but you can make them sit politely while they eat their own meal and then require them to ask to be excused. Maybe a fork is too hard to manage, so offer a spoon. But don't throw up your hands and give up because it seems like they'll never get it.You can start as early as highchair days, but it's never too late to begin.

And remember to use your own: No TV, phones or Facebook while eating!

One mom suggested making it a game: Put a small pile of wrapped candies at each place, and if anyone is caught using poor manners, the catcher gets to take candy from the catch-ee...and arguing results in both people losing two candies.This works for mom and dad too...we all have lapses and our kids would get great joy in pointing them out! At the end of the meal, whoever has the most candies wins.

How do you teach your children table manners?

by on Dec. 20, 2012 at 12:00 AM
Replies (41-45):
by on Dec. 27, 2012 at 8:13 PM

We lead by example. It's a lot of work though. 

by on Dec. 28, 2012 at 6:20 AM

 Catch them doing the right thing, and then praise them. That always works better for me than scolding.

by on Dec. 28, 2012 at 8:04 AM
Constantly reminding. My 9 yo still wants to stick his fingers in everything and lick them. My 13 yo has trouble not shoveling stuff in his mouth like he was starving.

Our motto is eat every dinner like you were in a fancy place . It makes for good practice.
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by on Jan. 27, 2013 at 2:01 PM

Best practice is to role model behaviors then keep expectations consistent

by on Jan. 27, 2013 at 2:38 PM

We have using this idea with dd to teach her table manners and it has really worked 

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