More than the kids, it’s the absence of dinner table etiquette in elders that worries me. If only their parents had taught them table manners, is what I often wonder. Though I didn’t have a say in their upbringing, I can at least take care to teach the right table manners to my child.
Learning manners has no age criteria; in fact the sooner the better. If your child eats on his own, then he is old enough to learn and exhibit the right table manners as well.
Here are some basic table manners that every parent should teach their child regardless of the age:
Come alone to the table: This means, no toys and no books. And keep away those ‘i’-devices as well. Dinner table is for eating; anything else can take a backseat for a while.
No talking while eating: Nobody likes to see the chewed up ball of food in your mouth. And Heavens only save if a food particle flies right out of the mouth and lands itself on someone. Gross? Just imagine this happening to you. So don’t encourage your child to talk while he is eating.
Right posture is a must: Slouching on the chair doesn’t look attractive. You may not realize it but your child stooping to eat her food is not a pleasant sight. And that foot on the chair! Ooh la la, it must absolutely go down.
Keep mouth closed while chewing: Tell you a secret, I sometimes have this habit of chewing my food loudly and I know how it annoys those eating with me. Eating is supposed to fill your stomach and satiate your soul. Hence, it is advisable to eat in silence. Just imagine the dinner table filled with noises from chewing of different kinds of foods. Absolutely not done!
Keep your dirty hand to yourself: Nothing is more disgusting than seeing food hand prints on serving spoons and ladles. It instantly puts others off from taking seconds. Personally, I feel like vomiting. Tell your child that he must serve himself/others with the hand with which he doesn’t eat.
No eating off others’ plates: You have your own plate, so eat from it. If you want more, just say so instead of picking food from others’ plates. As parents, it’s upon you to not encourage your child to pick food from your plates out of love. Remember, love is in the food and not on your plate.
Use napkins: I have seen many kids wiping their soiled hands on their shorts or skirts and wiping their mouths on the sleeves. Firstly, the food patches on clothes are very off putting, and secondly, sometimes the food stains never go. Sit with a napkin and wipe your hands on it if you must. But it’s better to wash your hands first and then wipe them on the napkin.
Say ‘Please’, ‘Thank you’, ‘Sorry’: These are magical words that save many a situations. In case of accidental food spilling, requesting second helping, passing food/cutlery etc., using these words can make an unpleasant situation a little more acceptable.
No picking at the dinner table: Some kids, well adults too, have this habit of picking their teeth. It’s gross and hence not to be done. And no, not even with a tooth pick at the dinner table. Either wait for the meal to get over or excuse yourself to go to the bathroom to pick.
Know the right cutlery: I am not much worried that my preschooler is not able to cut properly with her knife. That will come later. As long as she eats her soup with a spoon and eats her legumes with a fork, I know she is sorted. But to an older child, point out the use of different types of forks (the one for eating fruits and food) and spoons (the one for the soup, meal and desserts).
With these tips in place, not only you and your child will be saved from many episodes of public embarrassment while dining out but your child will also learn to conduct himself confidently in the public. Remember the old adage, “Start them young, grow them smart.”