Table manners and dining etiquette can go a long way towards building a child’s confidence in social situations. Catch them young and watch them blossom into independent individuals.
Teaching good table manners to kids will help your child’s social skills to navigate through school, friends and empower them with the confidence to grasp the art of talking, listening and observing.
Social etiquette and table manners begin at home and these are ways to express empathy and respect while teaching responsibility, self control, engagement and cooperation.
Sit down with your child at a time other than dinner and gently explain what you expect. Write it down or draw pictures to make it more interesting, so that they translate the same manners while dining out or at home.
Reward them with positive reinforcement when they remember the lessons you’ve taught. When they use proper manners, thank them and extend your appreciation with a hug. However, when they slip up, cue them with, ‘I think you meant to say please.’
As in any aspect of parenting, it is important for us to mirror behaviour with children on dining etiquette, because they look, absorb and imbibe. Parents need to be role models and walk the talk.
Here are some handy tips to help you bring out the best in your child:
Table manners at a home or a restaurant
- The cutlery for a fine dining meal is laid out with precision. (For example, a dining fork is four pronged and a fruit fork has two prongs and a fish fork has three prongs.)
- Use the cutlery placed on both the extremities and work your way inwards.
- Scoop your soup away from you. But don’t spill it on the person sitting across you.
- Bring the food to your mouth; don’t lean forward towards the food to eat it.
- Cut one piece at a time on your plate and eat it before cutting the next one.
- Always pass salt and pepper together, even if somebody asks only for salt.
- Food should be passed around in a counter-clockwise manner (to your right).
- While at a restaurant, never shout out to the waiter. Make eye contact. And in case your eyes don’t meet, raise your right hand with the index finger slightly raised.
- Do not lick your knife or put it in your mouth. You don’t want to end up with a slashed tongue.
- Eat with your mouth closed. Food looks good on your plate and not in your mouth.
- Butter bread on your plate, never in midair.
- Do not pick the meat stuck to your canines with your fingernails. Use a toothpick. If there’s none at the table, go to the bathroom and do the honours.
- And lastly, always thank the host before leaving.
Table manners at a school
- Come to the table with clean hands and face.
- Carry two napkins – one for your lap and one for the table
- Put your napkin on your lap.
- Start eating when everyone else does – or when given the OK to start.
- Stay seated and sit up straight.
- Keep elbows (and other body parts!) off the table while eating.
- Don’t make bad comments about the food.
- Don’t go cutting all your food open at once. Easy, tiger! Cut one bite at a time.
- Say “Please pass the —” instead of reaching out across the table.
- Chat with everyone at the table.
- Don’t make rude noises like burping or slurping.
- Ask to be excused when finished.
- Offer to help clear the table.
- Don’t overfill your spoon; smaller bites mean better digestion and no spillage.
- Share your meal but hand over the box instead of balancing food on a spoon across the table – again, no spillage.
- Respect your school property; if you spill something clean it up.
- Don’t leave marks on the table; carry a tissue and take pride in the school’s cleanliness.
- Carry a sipper bottle so that no water is spilled accidentally.
- Wash your hands and face properly after a meal. The smell of unwashed hands can stink up a class room.
Note to parents: As much as you would like your kids to learn good table manners do remember that it may take time for them to remember all their manners. You can help them by repeating them often or come up with a signal to help them remember. It is also likely that you may not have a neat eater; after all, they are just kids.