The Manners Game is very simple. Each family member gets three Popsicle sticks, or other reward, to put on their place mat. Before the game commences, go around the table and have everyone recite a few "Table Manner Rules." After that, you are ready to begin. If one family member sees someone breaking a "Table Manner Rule" he gets to take one of their Popsicle sticks. Whoever has the most Popsicle sticks at the end of the dinner wins. My kids love this game. It is the only time they are "authorized" to correct Mom and Dad. You can make the game more fun by intentionally making a few "manner mistakes" and then pretending to be shocked and outraged when your children correct you. They will love it!
Of course, there are a few drawbacks. For starters, playing games at the table is poor table etiquette. So, you will want to explain that normally games are not allowed at the table during dinner time. The Manners Game is a special exception and can only be initiated by a parent. Also, remind them that ordinarily they are not allowed to correct adults. They may only due so during the Manners Game. When we first started playing the Manners Game we did not make a clear enough distinction. So, at a big family get together, my three year old assumed it was OK to go around spot-checking her aunts and uncles' table manners.
That said, overall this has been a wildly successful game. The game not only taught my girls table etiquette, but also gave them incentive to self-correct. Starting this game early, before bad habits are formed, will greatly increase your chances of being successful with the game. For this reason, I can honestly say that the two people with the worst table manners in our family are now my husband and I. Our bad habits have persisted for decades, making them much tougher to break and establish new ones. However, our girls seemed to master table etiquette the first time we played the game! We continued to play for several months and then slowly phased the game out. Now that our daughters have formed good habits at the table, I believe that they would have to work hard even if they wanted to revert to their old ways.
on Jan. 26, 2013 at 12:01 PM