Table etiquette and kids – three golden rules

Most young children do not understand that particular rules of etiquette should be followed when they are eating with their family and/or guests. One of the main rules that many parents will encourage their children to follow is to not rest their elbows on the dining table but there are certainly worse crimes that can be committed at meals times.

You should teach your children these three golden rules to save embarrassment – and disciplinary action – from occurring during dinner:

Toilet humour is not suitable at the dining table

It is a fact that most children find anything relating to bottom bodily functions absolutely hilarious. Similarly, bogies and naughty words make kids laugh.

Although you may not like your kids discussing such topics whether they are at the dinner table or not, kids will always raise such subjects while the family is tucking into their pie and mash or spaghetti bolognaise. It’s important to lay down the law regarding what is, and isn’t, an acceptable subject matter at meal times.

Parents should also point out that the actions of passing wind and burping are unacceptable when eating also. Teach them that while they’re young and keep reinforcing the message. Remember positive enforcement, such as a reward for ongoing good behaviour, is a good way of encouraging them to continue. Give them some occasional extra telly time, maybe, and tell them it’s a reward.

Chewing with your mouth open is uncouth

The majority of people are grossed out when they have to look at another person’s insides for the entire process of their meal being digested – the stomach and intestines are not the nicest of things to look at. Similarly, no one wants to see the start of the digestion process and as such, teaching you kids to chew with their mouth closed is imperative.

Many of those children that chew with their mouth open do so because they have literally bitten off more than they can chew. You should remind your kids then, to take easily chewable mouthfuls.

The key lesson here is that it’s not just about what happens at home. when they dine in public, no one will want to see them chewing and spitting their food. Sons and daughters should be encouraged to talk only when their mouth is empty. Again, reward their behaviour if you go out and do it right. Remark on their good behaviour to reinforce it. Maybe buy them a dessert treat or promise to take them to the cinema.

Children should remain seated through the entire meal

Often, once a child is done chomping down their peas and fish fingers they will attempt to leave the table in order to play videogames or frolic in their garden climbing frames or go out on their bike, but this is very disrespectful to the other diners who are still eating.

Family meal times are supposed to bring families closer together and anyone who leaves early is implying that getting their fill is all that matters to them. Ensure you tell young diners to respect others by not leaving the table early before every meal, until they sub-consciously adhere to the rule without being asked.

Another reason that children should leave the table at the same time as the other diners is that cleaning up is everyone’s responsibility – once everyone is full the fair delegation of tidying tasks can be completed.

By Katie Cole, who originally wrote this article for
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