Whether witnessing a toddler screaming in a restaurant or sitting through a holiday dinner near the children’s table, we’ve all seen kids acting out while food is on the table.
Of course, life happens. Children get tired, and they have bad days. But there are ways not only to prevent bad behavior at dinnertime, but to teach your kids to have some pretty excellent table manners.
Here are a few tips:
1 Be on your best behavior
Remember, children are always watching. “As parents, we all need to lead by example,” said Kathleen Cover, etiquette consultant for The Resort at Pelican Hill in Newport Coast, Calif. “Whether we are dining casually in a fast-food restaurant or at a formal dinner table, we always bring our good manners, fine dining skills and charming personality.”
2 Prep kids ahead of time
At restaurants and formal dinner tables, make sure children know which silverware, china and glassware belongs to them at a rectangular place setting, Cover suggests. They should also know how to hold and use their utensils.
3 Practice makes perfect
Don’t let your children’s first fine dining experience be in public. “Have pretend restaurant nights at home,” said Heather Krstich, a kindergarten and first-grade teacher in Orange, Calif. “When you pull out the fine china and Champagne glasses, kids will rise to the occasion.” Krstich also suggests parents make dining at a restaurant an incentive for kids; they will want to learn and use their well-mannered behavior in public. “But have silly dinner nights at home, too,” Krstich says.
4 Remember your everyday manners
By age 2 or 3, most kids know how to use the magic words, so just make sure they remember them when they’re sitting down to eat. “Always extend courtesies at the dinner table by making eye contact and saying, ‘Please,’ ‘Thank you’ and ‘May I be excused, please?’” Cover said. The Emily Post Institute, a longtime source for etiquette, also adds that you should politely ask for something to be passed to you instead of reaching across the table.
5 Don’t be gross
Besides knowing how to use utensils and remembering to be polite, the Emily Post Institute also suggests these basic good manners at the table: Chew with your mouth closed and avoid slurping, blowing your nose and making other icky noises; don’t pick your teeth; use your napkin, and avoid slouching.