Ever notice the utter absence of manners these days? Evenings gathered around the dinner table are slowly being eliminated in many homes, and with it the art of etiquette is dying a slow, painful death. Families are eating in the car on the way home from the soccer field, making it difficult to assess and correct manners. Here's how to give your child a healthy dose of etiquette at mealtime.
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Now that children have been encouraged to speak only between bites, teach them the art of conversation. If adults are speaking, teach kids to wait their turn. It is acceptable for children to join in, and the easiest way for them to do this is to ask someone a question about themselves. What we're looking for here is not, "Sooo, how much do you make annually?" but something along the lines of, "What do you like most about your job?"
Bring the food to your mouth, not the other way around
If you pay attention, you'll notice that a hungry youngster's mouth will get closer and closer to the plate during a meal, so it looks like they are eating with a steam shovel, not silverware. Children should be encouraged to sit up straight, and bring the food to their mouth. Be warned, kids hate this. Almost as much as they hate being reminded to take their elbows off the table.
If your kids really want to impress, teach them the proper way to eat food. These rules might be seen as a bit over the top (insert excessive eye-rolling from kids here), but if your little darling gets invited to eat at the White House someday, she'll be glad she knows these things. When eating soup, spoon it away from you. Tear a piece of bread or biscuit off, butter the piece and eat that instead of shoving the whole biscuit in your mouth. When eating things that require a knife, rest the knife on the side of the plate between bites. Proper etiquette encourages the resting of silverware on the plate from time to time, so you appear like a well-mannered member of society, rather than a rabid animal devouring its last meal.
Ask to be excused
What separates well-mannered children from baby cave dwellers is asking to be excused from the table. This is a polite way for your kids to say, "I'm bored to death with the adult conversation at this table, I've eaten and I can't get in front of facebook fast enough." A "may I be excused" makes you look like mother of the year, and casts your children in a very positive light.
Clear the table
This is a must if you ever want your offspring to marry. Nothing impresses future in-laws like a well-mannered girlfriend or boyfriend who helps clean up the dinner dishes without being asked. Kids get so much praise for this one, they actually don't show as much resistance to it as you may think.
In all honesty, teaching kids etiquette is a pain. They don't relish being barked at all the time and it requires an exhaustive amount of repetition from parents. Parents may feel like their efforts are a complete exercise in futility, but don't despair! Your kids will call it up when it matters. Everyone wins in the long haul -- your children will be embraced as welcome and polite members of society and you'll look like parents of the year for raising mannered children in an increasingly uncivilized world!
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