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I don’t know about you, but when it comes to meal times I like to see some manners at the dining table.  While raising great kids I think it’s important table manners are discussed and taught from an early age.

Some ‘trying’ table manners

A couple of months ago we took part in a school fund raiser and had a 14 year old Japanese student stay at our house.  He was a delightful young man but some of his table manners sucked!  Eating terribly fast with his mouth open and making a lot of noise in the process.

I realised this may be Japanese custom, so I checked with other parents who had students staying, but it turned out their students weren’t necessarily doing this.  Of course, we didn’t say anything to him.  He was only with us for 10 days, so we figured we could put up with it for that long – and he did have other lovely qualities.

Table Manners - still learning

What table manners do you insist upon while raising great kids?

Here are a few that spring to my mind:-

  • Nobody wants to see what you’re eating – so no talking with food in your mouth
  • Nobody wants to hear you chewing, so chew quietly if the meal permits – crackling pork springs to mind as an exception
  • Eating is not a race
  • Chewing food is important as it helps with digestion
  • Use the knife and fork properly – the fork is not a shovel
  • Don’t use your knife and fork to point at people and things while talking
  • Don’t ‘play’ with your food
  • When you’ve finished your meal, put your knife and fork together on the plate
  • Sit up straight
  • Elbows off the table
  • Keep your elbows to yourself so you don’t poke your neighbour in the ribs
  • Know what’s acceptable to eat with your fingers, and what’s not
  • Don’t have eyes bigger than your belly (we’ve all heard that one)
  • Take part in conversation but don’t dominate it
  • When you leave the table, tuck your chair in

My goodness, the list was longer than I thought – and I’m sure to have missed a few!

Table Manners - getting better

Table Manners take time to learn

While raising great kids, don’t expect your children to learn all this stuff in their infant or even primary years.  My boys are well into their teens and they still need the occasional reminder – and so do I for that matter. But, like most things, after years and years of practicing, table manners will eventually become automatic – well almost!

Your children will pass on what they’ve learned

Your children will likely pass on what they’ve learned to their own kids.  So teaching table manners will lead to generation after generation of acceptable behaviour at the dining table, whereas the opposite could be true if table manners are not taught.

So come on parents, we owe it to our kids to pass on this important habit.

“Elbows off the table please… don’t chew with your mouth open…  stop playing with your food… and I do hope your hands are clean”.  Oh, the joys of being a parent :)

Thanks for reading another raising great kids blog.

You might also enjoy:

Raising Great Kids – Sharing

Raising Great Kids – Healthy Eating Habits

What are your thoughts on table manners and raising great kids?  You can leave comments below.

Jan Littlehales

13 Responses to “Raising Great Kids – Table Manners”

  1. I am so glad that you have written this Jan! At the moment we are reinforcing table manners with my two children and it can be a hard road, especially when they complain that “such and such does this at school”. The biggest challenge we have with my 5 year old daughter is keeping her mouth shut whilst eating, and my son is testing us at the moment with his eating habits with “stuffing” as much as he possibly can into his mouth at one time and then trying to talk! He is also mastering the loud burp much to my displeasure. As parents we just need to keep on reinforcing the correct manners and keep on persevering!

  2. Carolyn says:

    You’ve got a great list here. Children, as they grow up, also learn by example as well as word… ouch, that’s a harder challenge, but well worth the results.

    My grandson would put a whole piece of toast in his mouth (well as much as would fit) so now I cut the toast into 8 pieces. It’s working well.
    Excellent post. Thanks Jan.

  3. Thanks for your comments Carolyn and Jayne. Oh, I remember those times well. Cramming as much food as possible into their little mouths, making it impossible to chew and even more difficult to swallow. I too used to cut things into small squares or triangles and it definitely helped. Yes, boys do love to burp Jayne! But there is light at the end of the tunnel. Just keep doing what you’re doing and eventually the penny drops and good table manners become the norm. :)

  4. Dino says:

    So true Jan, I’m strict on this in my house. It’s always amusing when we have other children over for a meal… :)

  5. Great list. Even as adults we sometimes forget and need to be reminded! What was the rule again for eating with your fingers?

  6. Lina Nguyen says:

    My view on table manners is try to find out what’s acceptable to the host, especially if you’re eating at their house. I spent 2 months on a farm in Japan, with a Japanese family and farm workers. There was a young fellow, who by this list, would have terrible table manners. But no one cared, so it didn’t matter. I do think table manners is a very cultural thing, and can be very personal. It’s about being respectful, when in someone’s home or event, and acknowledging your surroundings. Great blog topic!

  7. Hi Jan,

    Yes, you do have to be careful with table manners in other cultures. I believe it’s polite to slurp your soup in Japan for instance. And I do remember something about not taking the last piece of food from a communal plate. Another table manner that was drilled into me was ‘you use the spoon in a forwards motion for all meals except soup’. I’ve never really seen people follow it though, so not sure it really caught on. I’m guilty of putting my elbows on the table. I do it even though I know it’s wrong. It’s just easier.

  8. Thanks Dino, Matt, Lina and David for great comments. It’s interesting to read the differing takes on teaching our kids table manners. I’m going skiing in Japan in January, so I’ll be paying particular attention to what’s the norm over there and, as Lina pointed out, being respectful and fitting in with what’s acceptable. David – I too can remember being told to always move the spoon away from me when eating soup. I don’t always do it today, and I chose not to impress that one on my boys. What the hell – just enjoy the soup! :)

  9. Belinda says:

    Hi Jan,

    Very interesting topic, great one for the dinner table : ) I believe table manners are very important, and definitely start at home. You would like to think that if your child was invited to a friends place for dinner, that they would take their table manners. Another bad table manner that I have witnessed is feeding the dog the scraps under the table. Ahhh not cool.



  10. ben says:

    But Jan, as you said in your last comment: ‘What the hell – just enjoy the soup!’

    How much of this is stuff that we are mindlessly putting onto our kids just becasue it was put onto us? And how much is it stuff that actually has any point to it? e.g. digestion.

    My mom has always said that good manners (be they table mammers or whatever) roughly equate with behaving in a way that doesnt make those around you feel uncomfortable. On the surface that seems reasonable and wise. But so many things make certain kinds of people ‘uncomfortable’ becasue they have been socially conditioned to bristle at things like elbows on the table!

    Its a tough one – I’ve got young kids and I just dont want to be passing on my (inherited) pointless hang-ups and neuroses to my kids where I can avoid it :o )

  11. Some good points here Ben. Thanks for your comments. Elbows on the table is an interesting one. When I was a kid my sister had very long hair and if she put her elbows on the table her long hair used to end up in the food, so sometimes there are practical reasons for not doing things as well. I guess the same could happen with a man’s tie or a lady’s scarf. Your Mum was right when she said it’s all about not making others feel uncomfortable. I like that :)

  12. Paula says:

    Very good article. Table manners are a foundation of good manners and etiquette.

  13. Good blog very well laid out indeed. I wish mine were as good as yours. Keep up the good work! If I could have your 10% creativity I would be very proud.

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