Anyone who knows me well, knows that dinner time at home with my family is the BEST part of my day! We love to have FUN around the dinner table with wacky theme dinners and games, but we also try to make it a point to TEACH things to our kiddos while we are together at the table.
A recent dinner with neighbors (who have no children of their own, and virtually NO sense of humor) became a particularly embarrassing and humbling experience as my two sweet, beautiful little girls morphed into wild, ravenous animals the minute they sat down at the table.
If your kids are anything like mine, learning table manners and etiquette does not exactly rank high on their list of things to do- in fact, sometimes I wonder if they have ANY manners at all!?
Recently, my husband and I decided to focus our efforts in this area and came up with ten simple table manners that we wanted our girls to know.
Top 10 Table Manners every Kid should Know:
(Caution: I realize these are VERY basic, but we had to start somewhere with our little wild animals!!!)
1. Never complain about the food you are served.
2. Never talk with food in your mouth.
3. Never interrupt others while they are talking.
4. Always put your napkin in your lap.
5. Always wait until everyone is seated and the prayer is said before beginning the meal.
6. Always say please and thank you.
7. Always pass the salt and pepper together.
8. Always ask to be excused if you need to leave the table during the meal.
9. Always stay seated until excused at the end of the meal.
10. Always say thank you to the cook or host.
So we typed up our top ten list, printed it out and introduced it to our little wild animals the other night at dinner. After a few (very un-polite) moans and groans, we then announced our corresponding “Top Ten Table Manners Incentive Program” which states that anyone who displays ALL TEN table manners during dinner would get a sweet treat at the end of the meal (again, I don’t like to think of this as bribery, but rather a highly effective “incentive program”). The mention of rewards and sweet treats was met with loud, obnoxious cheering (also very un-polite, but I admired their enthusiasm).
I am happy to report that our little wild animals are well on their way to becoming more self-controlled little ladies- though I have a feeling our list will have to resurface many times over the years to really impress it in their minds.
I encourage you to take time this week to come up with your own “Top Ten Table Manners List”, or click HERE to download a printable copy of ours… good luck taming your little (and not-so-little) wild animals at the dinner table!
What others would you add to the list? I’d love to hear.
If you want more encouragement from a mom of five, browse the Mentor Mom section. We are all in this together and NO days are perfect.
***Once you’ve mastered the Table Manners, you may head onto 7 Highly Effective Ways to Raise Lazy and Entitled Children . 😉 That is a much easier parenting feat, don’t you think? 😉
Kristy Seibert is an award-winning interior designer, event planner, blogger and “real-life mom”. To find out more about Kristy and her family dinner resources, check out her blog, At Home with Kristy Seibert, www.kristyseibert.com.
Passing salt/pepper together is one of my pet peeves, too! I tell the kids they are married and they must stay together!! 🙂
@ohAmanda, This is hilarious because if I ask for the salt, I don’t want the pepper. If I want both, I’ll ask for both.
I’m slightly ashamed to admit I didn’t know how serious of an infraction this was 😉
(Although growing up I did hear from my friends, “If you don’t pass them together, you won’t get married!”)
I’m surprised about that too… but I finally got married!!
I wrote a post years ago about the importance of teaching table manners to children. It remains one of the most commented upon posts on my blog even today. The thing I’d put in the #1 spot? Chew with your mouth closed. It’s appalling even the number of adults who don’t do this.
Thank you! THAT is probably the most common offense I see at any table, kids and adults alike. And it is my pet peeve….
Teach their children to eat with their mouths closed, not to slurp their soup from their spoon or bowl. Eat what is on your own plates and not others!
The salt and pepper became such an issue when 7-10 of us dine (with 5 children under 8 years), that I bought a second set of shakers. Our next issue is teaching the 7 year olds to “pass” the serving dishes or condiments.
By the time your children are adults, these things will be second nature, and they will thank you later when they don’t embarrass themselves in front of their bosses or in-laws.
I’ve got teens, so “no electronics at the table” is an obvious rule, which I think is just an extension of “pay attention to the person in front of you” that I’ve also taught them (i.e. when you reach the front of the line at the store, don’t stay on the phone and ignore the checker). Also, this is probably idiosyncratic to our family, but “no singing during dinner” is also on the list, though once everyone is finished eating and the plates are cleared, all bets are off. I guess this is a corollary to no talking with your mouth full.
Nice! We are working on our table manners, too! Your list looks a lot like what we focus on. We also :
don’t want to see your food
don’t hear you chew it
No elbows on the table
Honestly, waiting for everyone to be at the table, AND have food on their plate has been challenging for my youngest, AND for some of our elders who visit. Nothing like having a child correct the adult on that one!
I don’t think this can be touched upon too often.
Can I just say, why even start the idea of putting salt/pepper on the table. It’s not good to get into that habit as it is. My daughter is 3 and I can only think of maybe 2 times where she asked for salt and pepper. We just don’t have it on the table.
@Bobbie, We keep the salt/pepper on the table as an example of going to a restaurant. Though we use many seasonings in our cooking, we encourage the kids to taste their food first, as to be courteous to the cook, and use pepper (maybe even salt sometimes) with help from an adult (9yo & 7yo kids). Since we use very (very!) little salt in our diets, it’s okay to use it in moderation, even for kids. We could get into the types of salt and the benefits of it, but overall we lead by example in cooking, and manners and that’s what it all comes down to.
I enjoyed reading this! Thanks for sharing:)
The rule about passing the salt and pepper together makes no sense to me. What if one diner wants the salt only and another diner, at the other end of the table, wants the pepper only? Now oil and vinegar – they’re married.
Rather than that rule, here are two that should have been considered:
Don’t reach across another person’s plate.
Don’t talk about “gross” things, including disease and its treatment.
As for interrupting others, I admit I’ve been guilty of it – mostly when I don’t know that someone hasn’t finished speaking. If you inadvertently interrupt someone, I suggest, immediately apologize and urge the speaker to finish.
Perhaps the S&P Rule exists to keep the salt and pepper shakers together on the table?
OMG This is a huge pet peeve of mine. Taste your food before seasoning it w/ s&p. My husband doesn’t do this and I’m constantly nagging him about how rude it is to the cook. (ME!)
I like this list and my just turned 6yr old daughter is learning slowly but doing well. Asking to be excused from the table, chewing with her mouth closed, complementing the cook, etc she’s got covered. The one she stills needs reminders of is to not spit her food out onto her plate if it doesn’t taste good. Take your napkin and discreetly remove it from your mouth.
I think having dinner together at the dinner table is just good form in general. I see parents not do this and wonder if they’ll learn the importance of good table manners.
I’m big on manners in general and especially at the dinner table. Nothing turns my stomach more than lousy table manners.
I am with you on the taste before seasoning. Sometimes I say, trust me, it’s super salty already, but nope, salt goes on anyhow. 🙂
Not interrupting and saying please and thank you have nothing to do with table manners. They should be taught outside of dinner as part of common courtesy.
Farting and burping is not allowed at the table. You would think this is a no brainier, but getting laughs often trumps decorum. Also do not touch your food with anything but utensils unless adults are using their hands (like for fried chicken). I raised a daughter to dine with CEOs (and we did frequently ) and then became stepmom to a 10 year old wild animal. We have come a very long way in 2 years. One home teaches he can talk with his mouth full if he covers it, but I strictly forbid talking with a mouth full of food. The reason for good manners is for it to be second nature to be graceful at the table in any situation. This allows one to never have to think to adjust behavior up to a standard other than your nature. So when the school dean or a girlfriends father invites him to dinner he can converse undistracted by worrying about his manners. Teaching good manners is a very good investment in your child’s employment future.
Great list! I would like to add a few to your list . . .
11. Children should learn how to set a table properly, I know adults who still do not know how.
12. I love your comment #7. I would add – Please do not reach across the table. I am so sick of seeing adults do this.
13. Use utensils properly.
Thank you for sharing, table manners were taught to me so early I do not remember learning them, but they are etched in my mind. It is such a shame to see so many adults who have no clue.
Don’t touch other people’s food!
I like all these comments so far. My grandpa said that out of courtesy you should offer to help with the dishes, and that he would never let grandma do the dishes because “the cook shouldn’t have to clean”. Apparently my grandmother lived on Rainbow Lane and parked her Unicorn in the backyard, but since I don’t live there and never will, I would at least ONCE IN MY LIFE like to see SOMEONE take their dishes to the sink and rinse off their plates! Now as kids, my other two siblings and I always had to do the dishes after dinner anyway, but when we were caught with bad table manners we had to do them by ourselves. I personally think a negative response for a negative action works better than rewarding a kid (with a sweet treat after dinner, for example) for something he’s supposed to do already. In life you don’t get rewarded for doing what you’re supposed to do, and they may as well learn that while they’re young. I don’t know if that seems harsh, but kids get WAYYY too much sugar and refined table salt in their diets as it is. It’s in EVERYTHING, even in things that don’t taste sweet or salty. It’s addictive, bad for them, and dessert at night only makes it harder for kids to go willingly to bed with a sugar high. My 2 cents =0P