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10 Mealtime etiquette tips

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.

Boy helping serve dinner

Like it or lump it, manners are what separate us from the animals. If it has become difficult to distinguish dinnertime at your house from feeding time at the zoo, it may be time for a manners overhaul. Be strong. This will be difficult and your efforts will be met with much resistance. Dig deep. When it counts, Junior’s manners will shine through.


Basic manners

Let’s start here. Starting at a young age, teach kids to say please, thank you and excuse me. This one is easy because 2 year olds are motivated to say thank you when they want something. Starting young with all these tips is key, because toddlers are too young to question the importance of manners.


For whatever reason, people young and old get spooked by which fork and which spoon to use at what time. This fear may be remedied with a quick math lesson. The number of pieces of silverware corresponds with each course. If there are three forks, this likely means a salad, entrée and dessert will be served. Start from the outside and move in.


Encourage kids to place napkins in their laps. This simple gesture seems to denote an air of sophistication. What it really tells others is that your children were not raised by wolves. Equally important is napkin usage. The sides of your mouth are to be dabbed, not smeared. Remind children that if they blow their nose at the table, all other diners will have a sudden loss of appetite.


It’s important kids know the difference between a plate and a trough. When pig food is slopped down, all the piggies come running for a feeding frenzy. Waiting until everyone is served and until the hostess (typically Mom) is seated, is one of the fundamental niceties that distinguish our dinner table from a barnyard.

5Closed mouth

This is not the “children are to be seen and not heard” rule that many of us were raised with. (Ah, for the good old days.) This common courtesy means not talking with a mouthful, not playing “see” (whereby all others can “see” what is in your mouth) and, most importantly, not making smacking noises. Making noise when you eat is quite possibly the most offensive breach of table manners. Spare your child the shame and humiliation of “being one of those people.”

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