How I Got My Kids to Use Better Table Manners

table setting
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I thought I taught my children good manners are an integral part of good character; you should have both. I started out when my kids were young, teaching them to say, “please” and “thank you”. I taught them how to hold a spoon, to chew with their mouth closed, to ask for something nicely, and, perhaps most important, to be gracious.

After child #3, I began to see that I had gone wrong somewhere. The dinner table was a battle of stabbing food with forks like cavemen and, wait for it… farting!

First, I had to get rid of the gas problem at the dinner table. I created a new household rule that every time someone passed gas at the dinner table, bedtime would be moved up 15 minutes. As children do, they tested me to see if I was serious. When one of my boys was forced to go to bed at 7pm, he knew I was not kidding. The kids complained, but after a few days of the sun-is-still-up bedtimes, the new rule actually sunk in and worked.

Now for eating like cavemen, I set the dinner table for a proper meal with salad fork, dinner fork and knife in their proper positions. And let’s not forget the all-important napkin. With a properly set dinner table, the mood was more respectful.

They were ready for Mommy’s course in table manners. The boys were expected to pull a chair out for their sister. Once seated, they were expected to put their napkins on their laps, and elbows off the table. They were expected to use their knife and fork properly, as in, not as weapons but as instruments in which to bring bitesize pieces of food to their mouths. This took a while, but they are works in progress.

I was lucky, in a sense, in that I did not have to battle my kids over cell phones and IPads at the table. My advice to young moms, stay strong and do NOT let cell phones or IPads at the table!

My kids are grown now. We enjoy holiday dinners together and it’s even more enjoyable when I see them use their manners. The battles of yesterday have become the holiday dinner jokes of today: “Who farted?”, “Do you have a clue how to hold your fork?”

Like I said and no matter what their age, they are “works in progress”.

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