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Table Manners


Cusina
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I know there have been similar threads, but I think this is worth re-visiting. I'm raising two children, four and six, and am wondering what you think are appropriate table manners for kids.

Common courtesy is obvious: no blowing bubbles in your milk, flinging peas, talking with your mouth full, or shoving your sister into the sweet potatoes. (not that that would EVER happen, of course :rolleyes: )

At our table I try hard to enforce the don't eat till everyone is served rule, the sit reasonably still and engage in the conversation rule, to say please and thank you when necessary, and a polite "may I be excused" when they are finished. They also take their dishes to the kitchen. The excused rule in our house extends a bit beyond the normal. Once you are excused there is no coming back and absolutely no interrupting the folks who are left at the table. The dining room is off limits until the meal is cleared.

The other rule that I'm very firm with is NO WHINING. Drives me right up a tree when I have spent an hour on dinner to get the "oh MOM this has green stuff in it, yuck" treatment. A polite no thank you is all that is tolerated.

Now, I definitely also let some rules slide. Elbows on the table are permitted (though not feet, thankyouverymuch), as is reaching a bit or even getting up for seconds. The napkins are in a basket on the table instead of at the place settings because there is often need for more than one per person. If you don't like it, you might be encouraged into taking one bite, just in case, but you won't be forced to eat it. And occasionally, eating with your fingers is o.k. like for those last few peas that roll around the plate and just won't sit on the fork like they should. When the kids get older and more coordinated, we'll enforce that one more.

What happens at your house or did while you were growing up? How strict is too strict? I really want all of us to enjoy the family meals. It's no fun feeling like the food police every night, but I want them to know how to behave well too.

What's wrong with peanut butter and mustard? What else is a guy supposed to do when we are out of jelly?

-Dad

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Sounds like you're well on the way to civilized eating. My kids are a bit older, but we've been using the "napkin in your lap" rule since they were at least six, maybe a bit younger.

We include no slouching or sliding or whatever in your seat (more of an issue in restaurants, where one orders and waits), the rule phrased as "bottom against the very back of the seat where it meets the back.

We started teaching fork/left and knife/right use of cutlery and positioning of hands/elbows at this age.

One thing that I do let them do (in restaurants) even now is read a book if they're not interested in the conversation.

It's no fun feeling like the food police every night, but I want them to know how to behave well too.

Heh heh. Like maybe we thought parenting was just going to be fun all the time...

The effort's well worth it in the end.

Can you pee in the ocean?

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Bravo to you both. Keep it up and along about 10 years old it will start to pay off. I raised my two with just about the same rules. The result was two delightful young folks that were a joy to dine with, in or out, and a good time is had by all. Some of their friends were not so lucky and were really uncomfortable in a lot of social situations.

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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I don't have kids, but kudos to those who are raising theirs with good manners. It's so awful to be tormented by other people's kids when I'm out, as they run around, throw food, etc. I'm also appalled by some adults, and their lack of manners (eating with their hands, chewing with their mouths open, burping loudly, etc.). Obviously, their parents didn't care enough...

My brother and I were raised with good manners, and as such were welcomed wherever we went - restaurants, museums, concerts, ballet, etc. You really do open doors for your kids when you give them the social skills that they need to operate in in the world.

Of course, what I do in my own home, with the shades closed may be a different story! :wink:

“"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"

"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"

"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully.

"It's the same thing," he said.”

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Cusina, those are more or less the rules we follow in my house. Ryan's used his napkin on his lap since about age 6, although we still have to remind him sometimes.

And he can be excused if he's done before the rest of us, and then come back for dessert if we're having one. Quite often we adults take longer over our main meals.

We also let him read a book or play his gameboy at restaurants (when he was young we always brought crayons and colouring books for him), which he can use until the appetizer comes. He can go back to the book etc after he's finished until dessert, if we aren't.

Ryan is a delight to take to restaurants and I've had other mom's tell me they wish their kids had manners as nice as he does.

The please and thank you rule in our house is inviolate. He doesn't get anything without saying please, and he doesn't get to keep it if he doesn't say thank you - which includes notes or phone calls to relatives etc for presents. Because he's been slow to develop some fine motor skills, we usually let him phone. As long as he says thanks!

Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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My boys are 6 and 3, and those sound just like the rules at our house.

We don't make them taste everything, but it is strongly encouraged. When the lovely Mrs C was a kid, her folks had the "you have to eat everything on your plate" rule. If you didn't eat it all, you had to sit at the table until either: a) you ate it, or b) it was bedtime. So, she is a little softer on the food police rules than am I.

No toys at the table, ever, but books are allowed out.

How's that no whining thing working for you?

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I grew up more or less eating three meals a day every day at the table with the entire family in attendance. Mrs. Manners sat at one end and my Dad sat at the other. I don't really remember what she did, but at some point when we were pretty young we knew how to eat without bothering everyone else at the table and we could all (two brothers) hold a conversation and answer questions in a civil, pleasant manner.

With my own family we eat together most nights (various sporting activities and school stuff are the only interruptions to this routine. My oldest is 14 and the youngst boy is 11. They both have (now anyway) what would pass in most society as decent table manners.

Everybody waits until the last person is served. One of them says grace at every meal (we are in no way even remotely observant religiously, but it is something I like and grew up with so we keep it up)-they are both in Catholic School-(we are not Catholic either) so it is no big deal to them. Plates are generally served (as opposed to passing the food) and everyone gets their own seconds if they want them (after asking to be excused). Everyone stays at the table until everybody else is finished. I am not too strict on the "elbows on the table thing" at home but when we dine out (rarely unless we are traveling) they better buck up and fly right.

We actually use salad forks, dinner forks, soup spoons, etc and they know which one to pick up (I know that the silver use is overkill, but we have a couple of very nice sets of sterling and I like to use it-I know so many people who just keep it in the sideboard and it never comes out-seems silly to me). THey both eat just about everything (although one of them, to my neverending embarrassment and frustration, fails to like okra :laugh: )

They eat pretty well now and it is a pleasure to have them at my table. It was not always that way. Years of gentle correcting (interspersed with the occasional not so gentle correction) seems to have done the trick. They are now polite and I don't have to worry about what they do when we are not around. One of them is on the way to Destin, FL (about 4 hours from here-lots of people have weekend homes) and I know that they will not embarass themselves or anybody else and that is extremely comforting to me.

My mother would be proud. :wink:

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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Mayhaw, that brought a tear to my eye, I'm telling you. Glad you all seem to think I'm on the right track. Sometimes I wonder if I might be hounding my kids too much and that it isn't worth the effort, but I see from the stories of those who are a few years ahead of me in the parent game that it is.

The no whining thing stems from my years as a girl scout resident camp counselor. Some of the things served there were, uh, less than appealing, especially visually. But after a full day of rustic camping with a dozen 10 year olds, damn you were hungry and would eat just about anything. I was a good counselor, enjoyed the job and the girls liked me, but if you wanted to sit with me at a meal, you had better keep your negative views about what I was eating to yourself. I was very strict about that (I have a seriously hairy eyeball when necessary, runs down my Dad's side of the family) and, honestly, I think that the kids liked that I insisted the conversation be positive. Much more fun that way.

What's wrong with peanut butter and mustard? What else is a guy supposed to do when we are out of jelly?

-Dad

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Sometimes I wonder if I might be hounding my kids too much and that it isn't worth the effort, but I see from the stories of those who are a few years ahead of me in the parent game that it is.

Of course, you're on the right track.

I think what a lot of parent fail to grasp is that they're just not minding and feeding the kids until they turn 18 and then (if you're lucky) it's out the door they go. Parents have to realize that when they are raising their kids they are, in effect, "training" their kids on how to be adults. Teaching good manners is a small but important part of that.

Giving kids chores not only teaches them responsibility but, again, teaches them skills they will need when they are adults. Teaching them how to make their beds, how to clean their rooms, teaching them to cook or how to do their own laundry, etc, all will give them skills they will need when they are eventually living on their own as adults.

When they do leave the nest, you can have peace of mind knowing they are fully capable and well mannered young adults.

 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

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Easy - have respect for who your eating with - be gracious - it's all about the giving (even if it's passing the peas) - be thankful for what's in front of you to eat - thankful for those who have chosen to be with you - mind your p's and q's cause you'll look like a dumb fuck if you are rude (which will lead to no more invites and you couldn't pull such a dinner off by yourself) - even if your 17 and you don't really care still inquire and ask your old Uncle Frank what his takes are on things - you might learn something - cause it's round tables where the best things that make sense of this life are learned.

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No way is it overkill. It can wreck your career if you don't know how to behave at dinner.

I haven't seen mention of my number one rule - maybe it is just so obvious! No chewing with the mouth open. And although it doesn't usually come up at the dinner table, no gum popping! I grew up in the south and as my Mom taught me, "Cows chew their cuds, not you!"

Anyway, you can "pick your battles", but the table manners are certainly worth insisting they get right. My gorgeous daughter goes off to college next year and it is nice to know she can handle herself beautifully "at table". There are plenty of other things to worry about after all.

Well, butter my b--- and call me a biscuit!

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Pretty good set of guidelines going on here, my boy was definitely raised on these and now is comfortable in any eating establishment. He was also brought up to show his appreciation to the host/ess if dining with friends or to the staff if dining out. A couple of occasions stand out, once at age around 4 we took him for the first time to our local, upmarket silver service restaurant where he behaved well and after an enjoyable meal when the maitre d' (also the joint owner) came to enquire if we had enjoyed it he replied, "I like this cafe, it's better than McDonalds", all adults fell about laughing and he was treated like royalty thereafter. Other time aged about 8 we took him to a decent Italian restaurant and when asked if he had enjoyed the meal he replied, "The food was wonderful, please send my compliments to the chef", the waiter duly conveyed his comments to the kitchen and the chef sent out a panetone for him to take home! Mind you the Italians were always good with kids in restaurants!

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It is times like those that make you think it is all worth it, britcook. Here is one of mine.

When son and daughter were about 11 and 14, I had a business trip to Honolulu. (Hey... Somebody had to do it.) When I told the kids, they immediately said that we were scrapping the New England trip and they were coming along. Fine... But company policy required that I fly first class and I couldn't afford to fly them first class. No problem. The said they didn't care if they went in a doggy crate. My son was really into traveling and food and my daughter suggested that I switch seats with him for dinner service. No problem. When I asked the flight attendant about this arrangement, she said, that was fine but looked pretty dubious. A little while later the attendant came back to where I was sitting in coach and was just dumbfounded. She complimented me on his manners and couldn't get over a kid that age that said please, thank you, yes m'am, no m'am AND knew what the food was all about, asking interesting questions. They were so charmed that they told the captain about this amazing kid and he got to go into the cockpit and sit for a while in the co-pilot seat! He was in heaven. (And he admitted to me later that he was now a believer in the power of good manners and thanked me for nagging him when he was "little".)

Well... This proud mama didn't need that 747 to fly the rest of the way to Honolulu.

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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These are all the same basic rules we had as kids, and that I enforced with my own.

About the "no whining" rule.... when my daughter was about 3 we had a practice of going to our local college town diner every Friday night as a treat. One night she was cranky about something, I can't remember what, but when she started whining, I reminded her about the "no whining" rule once. She didn't stop, so I picked her up and we left, and I made sure she understood that her behavior had caused her to miss her favorite dinner. She never did it again, and she's now almost 18!

Make sure you always follow through!

"Portion control" implies you are actually going to have portions! ~ Susan G
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Dinner in the Arey house is at 6:00 PM. This rule is very rigidly enforced although I've been trying to break it for years, with a noticeable lack of success, which is surprising when you consider that it's just me and the cat, and he eats when he damm well pleases. I envy his freedom from rules and regulations. In my childhood, we ate at 6:00 PM. It was just mother, father, my older brother and me, and if Dad wasn't home by 6:00 PM we ate without him. His shop was about a mile from the house, and closed at 5:30, so we ate at 6:00 PM whether or not he was home. When he was home our sins of commission and ommission were reviewed, our manifold faults were brought up, and he and mother sat at opposite ends of the table looking glaciers at each other. My brother and I were not above starting arguments at the tables in hopes that we would be sent away from the table as punishment. We always said grace, and mother , my brother and I always said please and thank you, and we didn't talk with our mouths full. On better nights we didn't talk with them empty either. My father always expected me to do something clumsy. I could feel him watching me, waiting for me to knock something over, or drop something or spill something. Father never said please. He always said "I'll have more potatoes" or "I'll have the ham". One night I didn't pass him what he wanted, so he said it louder. I still didn't pass him what he wanted, and mother said "Arey's waiting for you to say please". His response was "It's my dinner table, and I don't have to beg at it!"

Sunday dinners were the worse. We had to sit at the dinnertable until he was done, and he was a very slow eater. First the ham, then the potatoes , then the peas, then the ham again, (he ate consecutively, not concurrently), then the potatoes again then the peas again. On weeknights having a lot of homework was a valid excuse for leaving the table before he was done, but on Sundays there was no escape. Mother once said to me that she felt sorry for my brother and me having to sit at the dinner table, so long on Sundays. Not, mind you, that she was blameless when it came to the atmosphere at the dinner table. Frequently she would begin a conversation at the table with "You may not like hearing what I'm going to say but........."

When my brother was grown, and married with children, instead of a dictatorship at the dinner table, anarchy ruled. His children were free to come and go as they pleased, were allowed to offer their blunt opinions on what was being served, and weren't required to sit down to eat. The only thing that really bothered me was that they weren't required to allow the people who weren't done eating yet,to finish their meal in peace. This is especially annoying when you consider that unlike my mother, my sister-in-law is an excellent cook. In my mother's defense, I must say that cooking for my father was a thankless chore.

An example: My father had just been discharged from the hospital following minor surgery. Mother, who was always a patsy for Dad, when he wasn't well, asked what he'd like for dinner, going through a list of his favorites.

"Would you like macaroni and cheese?"

"I don't care"

"Do you want chipped beef on toast?"

"I don't care,"

"Would you like bacon and eggs?"

"I don't care,"

So she made him Welsh rarebit, and when he sat down at the table he looked at it and said, "If I wanted to eat shit like this, I would've stayed in the hospital"

All these years later, I still feel that if dinner isn't on the table at 6:00 PM my well-ordered existence is threatened, and chaos will reign, while my cat, lucky little bugger, eats his Science Diet Adult Cat Food, original flavor, whenever he damm well pleases.

Arey

"A fool", he said, "would have swallowed it". Samuel Johnson

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My own kids were taught perfect table manners. Of course they were taught by someone who had been taught perfect table manners by her own Mother! LOL! (A woman with an 8th grade education, BTW)

I agree on all your points and would include that talking with your mouth full of food is a no-no. Slouching is out, also.

As a kid, I was always heard about the 'starving children in China/Europe or where ever. With my own kids I wanted them to at least give something a try --- not to deny themselves the chance to experience something new. It worked, except for an onion incident and a battle of wills that exists --- but is laughed at --- to this day.

The thing that always jumps out at me when I see kids eat now, is the position in which they hold their forks or spoons. My kids learned by my example, I guess, because I don't recall it being a problem when they were learning how to hold them.. When I see kids grab their forks or spoons with their fists, I groan. Toddlers use their fists, of course, but when a kid is finally in a chair and big enough to eat off a dinner plate, he is big enough to hold the utensil correctly.

I've even seen adults eat this way, and it amazes me. I'm not Emily Post or Miss Manners, but I wonder why they can't see for themselves that it just looks gross. IMMHO.

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I've even seen adults eat this way, and it amazes me. I'm not Emily Post or Miss Manners, but I wonder why they can't see for themselves that it just looks gross. IMMHO.

Given the problems my son has had with fine motor skills, I'm pleased he can hold a fork. :smile: And he does know which fork to chose for which course.

Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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No way is it overkill. It can wreck your career if you don't know how to behave at dinner.

I haven't seen mention of my number one rule - maybe it is just so obvious! No chewing with the mouth open.

Oh...oh...oh!!! I said this!!! And I thank you for confirming it...so disgusting! I'm apalled at the lack of basic manners in too many adults. A few years ago, it was all the rage to give basic training in manners classes to young adults in corporations - I wonder if those still go on? Sometimes at lunch with collegues, it's all I can do to stay at the table, they're so gross.

I remember to this day having brunch in SF with a friend, about 12 years ago. There was a group of 6 men at the next table, including a very famous, award winning actor. His table manners were so appalling, it's been hard for me to watch his acting performances since. I just see him hunched over his plate, shovelling eggs into his gaping maw with the fork in one had, fingers of the other hand at the ready to poke back in any bits that fell out. bllleeeccchhh!!!

“"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"

"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"

"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully.

"It's the same thing," he said.”

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The first lesson is to learn to observe how people react to you. It's ironic how many foreigners in France never learn to begin and end conversations with strangers in the proper fashion; i.e. Bonjour/Au revoir Monsieur/Madame. Those magic words inspire forgiveness for subsequent inadvertent gaucheries.

John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

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In my house, we had the "no thank-you helping" when you didn't want to eat something. It was a very small bit of food that you had to try.

We had to try every time too, even if we'd rejected a dish in the past. We weren't obligated to eat it if we couldn't stomach it, but we had to take one bite to confirm.

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Keep up the good work.

My sister and I were hellions when we wanted to be, but somehow our parents' message came through.

When we we barely teenagers, mom had a stroke.

Dad had to work, go see mom during a time when it was touch and go, and then deal with two kids at home .

Without being asked, we decided to take charge of the home front.

We cooked, cleaned, did the laundry, all that stuff.

What we did not know how to do, we learned quickly.

And took the subway to visit mom in the hospital.

It seemed like the natural thing to do; it certainly was not a burden.

The credit belonged to our parents who tried to raise children to become responsible adults, and yet they let us have a wonderful childhood.

Fortunately, thanks to a very wise neurosurgeon, mom recovered and lived for another twenty years, with her facilities intact.

Know too many people who farm the raising of their kids out to people whose credentials they don't even check.

You reap what you sow.

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For a couple of years, dinner time was spmething of a battle at our house, with an endlessly slouchy, ill-mannered, back-talking 6-to-8 year old boy. We kept at it (it wasn't really that awful, but here were nights....), though, and if he's not ready to marry into the Emily Post family he is better-mannered than some of my adult friends and dinners are now a delight. We just got back from France where he and his hister, now 15 and 11, were perfectly well behaved and their good manners and my bad french seemed to bring out the best in servers in Paris and Courchevel.

To the already excellent points I will add:

I'm a strong believer in "elbows off the table" perhaps the result of an upbringing in which anyone else at the table was allowed to "fork" your elbow if it somehow got to the table-top before dinner was cleared. In a family of three boys, catching your brother in violation was something of a gleeful dinner-time sport. I've also seen too many adults who wrap one arm around the plate and hunch over, while shoveling food in with the other -- it makes it look like they were raised in an orphanage and had to protect their gruel from poaching by the other kids.

No criticizing others' manners, even if they're dining in a way that would be considered intolerable by our family.

Cut your damn food! Never put a piece of _____ that big into your mouth again!

Parallel lesson: unless we're in Japan, you may not slurp your noodles like that.

If the restaurant has a cloth tablecoth, French Fries are to be eaten with a fork.

Kids have to stay at the table until the adults' finish their main course. ("Why?" "Because, believe it or not, we actually like your company.")

When it's your turn, "set the table with love," as Lala (grandmom) would say.

Let your sister get a word in every now and again.

Disfiguring diseases, flatulence and gross behavior are not appropriate subjects for dinner conversation.

A nice dinner, well-behaved kids, a lively conversation...it doesn't get any better.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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