This post is submitted by Emily Patterson (@epatt1062) on behalf of Primrose Schools: daycare with credentials you can trust.
Teaching children table manners from a very young age will ingrain good habits and polite behavior for years to come. Children who learn good table manners learn about more than just putting a napkin in their lap and passing to the left; rather, valuable lessons will be instilled about treating others with respect and being aware of your surroundings that will help children be confident and socially adept for the rest of their lives.
Practicing polite behavior regularly during family dinners makes learning table manners a natural and positive experience. Developing this kind of social awareness will help your child relate well to others and feel comfortable in building relationships later in life.
1. Be a good role model. From the earliest meals you sit down to share with your children, demonstrate positive behavior such as saying “please” and “thank you”. As they grow older, show by your example how to set the table, place a napkin in your lap and wait for others to be served before eating. Children love to watch and mimic adults, and will certainly “catch” you if you don’t display the manners you teach.
2. As you practice good manners, tell children why polite manners are important. For example, say, “I’m going to wait for everyone else to fill their plate before I start to eat; that way nobody feels like they’re stuck at the end of the line.” Knowing the reasons why table manners matter and how they affect other people will help children better absorb the principles behind the practices.
3. Try to be as consistent as possible in the dinnertime routine. Children learn best when they have a routine that repeatedly reinforces the lesson at hand, such as a series of “steps”. For instance, step one might be to sit and wait for everyone else to sit down. Step two is to place their napkin in their lap. Simple, consistent steps helps children remember how to behave politely, even as they grow older and begin to dine at friend’s houses and restaurants.
4. It’s never too early start teaching children polite behavior. They should be able to include “please” and “thank you” in their dinnertime routine around two years old. Once they’re physically able to do so, show them the proper way to hold a fork and knife and how to politely cut soft foods, even with child-safe plastic silverware. Teach them to speak softly at the dinner table, and wait their turn to speak, even if they have an “urgent” want a refill of juice or a second helping of food.
5. Establish the practice of dinner table conversation. Don’t allow video games, television or books at the table; rather, take turns asking questions about each family member’s day and listening to their responses. Explain that the dinner table is a special place for the family to share conversation and show respect to each other, and they will take that lesson out into the rest of the world as they grow up.