By Donna de Levante Raphael
Pride Parenting Columnist
Anyone who has ever seen A Christmas Story certainly understands the value of teaching your child good table manners. In one of scene of this holiday classic, the mother, in an attempt to get her child to eat his mashed potatoes, asks her son to show her “how the piggies eat.” The child proceeds to snort and dives face first into his dinner repeatedly, all the while snorting and laughing, along with his mother, as his brother and father look on in pure disgust. Good table manners are important and parents everywhere likely cringed at this scene in the movie. To avoid having your child mimic such a rude display at your (and anyone else’s) kitchen table, follow these tips on reaching your child’s good table manners:
Lead by example: If you chew with your mouth open or laugh loudly while food flies out everywhere and on everyone, expect your child to do the same. Your children watch everything you do and in most instances, mimic it. So chew quietly and with your mouth closed, be polite, do not eat with your hands, etc. and you can expect your children to follow suit and do the same.
Encourage your children to take their time: All too often, bad table manners are caused by children attempting to rush through the dining process. Eating food too quickly is not only unhealthy, but it leads to sloppy behavior. Teach them to take their time, savour their food and to chew slowly and thoroughly. Encourage them to keep pace with the other people dining with them.
Chew correctly: Teach your children to chew with their mouths closed and do not gulp beverages. Also, teach them not to loudly burp (which means you cannot either) at the table and do not speak with food in their mouth.
Consistency is key: This is a good opportunity to intertwine being polite with good table manners. Teach them to say “please” and “thank you” when they are passing things around the dinner table. No one, including adults, should be talking on the phone, watching television or reading the newspaper during family dining time. Encourage everyone to develop a friendly conversation in between concentrating on eating his or her food properly. This might seem overly traditional to some parents, but the good table habits your children will learn will carry them throughout their lives.
Develop age-appropriate rules: For example, you realistically cannot expect your two-year-old to sit quietly through a meal. Plan ahead, depending on the child’s age. For example, some experts recommend allowing a small child to make a mess on their highchair, but not anywhere else on the table. Or give your child two small, plastic utensils for each hand to keep them occupied while you feed her with another utensil. If you come up with plans ahead of time to encourage good eating habits, you can be prepared and avoid chaos at your dinner table.
As with just about any other form of child rearing, it is important to be consistent with your child. Developing good table manners is an ongoing process – one that will take time for them to learn and require constant reinforcement from you. Focus on the positive things they do and correct them when their manners are not up to par. As long as your child does not snort and bury their face in their dinner plate, you are on the right track!
Donna de Levante Raphael is a former writer and publisher of the parenting magazine I-Parent, and women’s magazine Cayman Woman. She’s currently working on editing a new parenting media site and releasing a parenting book. To contact Donna de Levante Raphael: firstname.lastname@example.org. For more parenting information visit Village Parent Facebook page. “Like” us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/VillageParent.