“Mind your manners” is a traditional phrase most parents and grandparents remember. But nowadays, children need a bit more direction, especially when it comes to table manners.
So how can parents encourage good table manners in young children? How can these be reinforced at home and while dining out?
It all starts with consistency and intentionality. And with a bit of creativity, you’ll find that teaching table manners to your school-aged children can be fun and beneficial to the whole family.
Here are a few tried-and-true tips to consider:
- Lead By Example
Children are very perceptive and easily pick up on cues. Therefore, it’s important to lead by example when teaching your child table manners. Consider implementing these healthy mealtime habits:
- Keep phones and tablets away from the table.
- Show your child how to use a fork, spoon, and knife properly.
- Place your napkin on your lap and encourage your children to do the same.
- Say “please” and “thank you.”
- Sip beverages instead of slurping or guzzling them.
- Ask family members to pass items instead of reaching across the table.
- Speak in a calm, comfortable tone.
Some days, it might not seem like your child is learning from your example, but when you remain consistent and intentional, they’ll pick up on your cues and start “minding their manners.”
- Practice By Pretending
Children love to play pretend games and pretending is a creative way to practice table manners. Consider having a hot-cocoa party with a few pieces of fine china and elegant glassware. Your kids will feel extra special and actually want to learn good manners while they play. Here are a few fun role-playing ideas:
- Pretend to be kings and queens in a castle.
- Pretend you are having lunch with the president.
- Pretend you are visiting your child’s hero or famous icon.
Not only is pretending healthy for children, it’s a creative way to teach fundamental table manners in a way that is likely to be remembered for a long time to come.
- Keep It Simple
Sometimes, parents can overdo it with manners and forget that kids are kids. Keep it simple by focusing on a few key table manners that are non-negotiable:
- Chewing with your mouth closed.
- Leaving electronics in another room.
- Speaking kindly and being thankful.
- Cleaning up after yourself.
Decide which table manners are most important to your family and enforce them regularly. You can even get your children involved and let them decide which manners they should practice. Who knows, they might come up with even more than you anticipate!
- Make It Fun and Rewarding
Most children excel when positive reinforcement is involved. Whether it be utilizing a sticker chart, staying up a few extra minutes at bedtime, or earning a special treat, making things fun and rewarding can be a great way to teach children manners that stick.
Consider these creative ideas:
- Have a special plate or cup that is rewarded to the most mannerly child of the day.
- Fill a jar with coins every time you notice good table manners. When it’s full, take a trip to the dollar store.
- Make a gold crown or special necklace your child can wear to remind them to practice their manners.
It is possible to encourage good table manners in young children and reinforce them both at home and while dining out. With consistency, intentionality, and a little creativity, your children will be table-manner pros before you know it!