Which do you value more for DC table manners or what they eat?

(48 Posts)
sesamej Fri 01-Aug-14 12:17:26

My DC are very small so not something to be too worried about yet but am interested to know. My DC are very unfussy but we often read at the table, do colouring and I don't mind them eating with their hands (within reason, not soup etc). At the moment I am mostly just so thrilled they'll eat a lot of different stuff as I can't bear it when children turn their noses up at everything (don't want to get into fussiness debate, not judging parents on this etc). But I think my upbringing didn't have much focus on table manners and I do wish I had them a bit more naturally. Don't get me wrong am not disgusting but for example, while I would never talk with food in my mouth it is something I have to remind myself not to do rather than something that comes naturally IYSWIM. I also remember once being absolutely mortified as I used my fingers to take salt out of the salt thing and not a spoon and was told off thoroughly by the parents. And I don't want my children growing up with lots of other parents thinking they are vile.

Obviously I intend to teach them basic table manners but for me I would rather they are eating their spinach with their fingers whilst doing colouring in at the table than sit nicely with knife and fork eating plain pasta and am interested to see how other people view it.

SarcyMare Fri 01-Aug-14 12:26:18

i do both at once, in one breath "use your fork as a poker not a shovel, and poke up some brocolli"

We are onto eating so you don't leave the table a complete mess.

I don't think eating good food and having table manners are mutually exclusive. As you say, they are still tiny. Introduce table manners that are age appropriate (ie, remain seated at the table until every one has finished and not talking with your mouth full to start with, correct use of cutlery as they become dexterous enough etc). Just talk about things like how you would do x,y,z at a restaurant or something like that. Set a good example yourself.

I don't think the 2 things (good food + lack of manners vs. Plain food + table manners) really correlate.

Thurlow Fri 01-Aug-14 12:30:11

Interesting question. I was wondering when to make a push on this too. DD is 2.5 and a pretty good eater, but she still eats a lot with her hands. Even soup and porridge, given half a chance grin

We remind her to use her fork or spoon but don't push it at all if it looks like she might play up, as we know just eating reasonably well at this age is lucky and so we don't want to force any battles that might mess that up.

Though actually playing with her food or banging cutlery on the table are things we'll probably tell her to stop doing and we've occasionally removed her from the table for it (as in, if you keep playing with your food you're clearly full)

But I'm sure there's an age where you need to start pressing table manners a bit more, I'm just not sure when it is!

TheFairyCaravan Fri 01-Aug-14 12:33:19

Table manners are important imo. They are never too young to learn. Some foods can be eaten with fingers, others not. We've never had toys at the table and have always eaten together.

We were like SarcyMare when they were little.

ikeaismylocal Fri 01-Aug-14 12:35:07

I don't think it is an either or situation. My ds is still only little (18 months) so the main focus at the moment is him discovering new foods and eating a healthy diet, me and dp behave as we expect him to behave at the table so no phones, no reading, nice "what did you do today" type conversation. We always give ds a fork or spoon and encourage him to use it but he does sometimes eat with his hands.

We don't allow him to just throw food around, when he was smaller we would let him smear/throw food but now he is old enough to understand that food is for eating not throwing on the floor. We give him an open cup so he learns to be careful, it does get spilt but less and less often.

As ds gets older we will slowly introduce rules, no getting down from the table until everyone is finished, no eating with your mouth open, no saying the food is disgusting (if you don't like it you can say you don't like it but not I'm not eating that it's disgusting), no doing other things whilst eating such as reading/watching tv.

When I was little we had a sticker chart and when we did an entire week where we didn't break any rules we went out for dinner somewhere smart.

I think that helping children to love food needs to be done from when you start weaning them and then table manners need to be introduced over time. I wouldn't allow my children to have bad table manners or to eat plain pasta.

ElephantsNeverForgive Fri 01-Aug-14 12:36:48

The only way of not killing DD2 was to stick her in front of the TV and leave the room.

She is very fussy and found food even the food she would eat really boring. I genuinely think, as a small child she really didn't get hungry. She could live on fresh air with a dressing of yoghurt.

Consequently food was where she was able to let her naturally control freak nature run riot. Nothing you tried to get her to eat a sensible amount of food in a sensible time frame worked.

BlackDaisies Fri 01-Aug-14 12:39:22

I don't think what you're describing sounds like poor table manners. Having distractions like colouring at the table is good sense for small children! As others have said, using cutlery becomes more of a focus as the children learn to use it properly. Drip all the table manners in over time.

I also don't think sitting at the table until everyone has finished is always appropriate for small children either. I focus on them waiting for their small friends, but I wouldn't expect them to wait while the adults chatted over their puddings or coffees for example.

ElephantsNeverForgive Fri 01-Aug-14 12:39:57

Plain pasta angry DD2 didn't know such a thing existed until they had it at school angry angryangry

DD2 is now 13, and somewhat better than she was, but we still have grief over sauce on pasta. (Everyone except her had cream last night).

Catsize Fri 01-Aug-14 12:40:39

Table manners are important. I am afraid I get all judgeypants when I see children eating with their mouths open, usually after shovelling in a huge mouthful of something. We did 'lips together' from approx 8mths and it has worked. However, not all is brilliant - it is hard to get DS to sit at the table for longer than it takes to eat his food and I wish he ate more - both in quantity and variety.

Thenapoleonofcrime Fri 01-Aug-14 12:41:35

I wasn't so fussed about table manners except for talking with your mouth full/eating with mouth open which is just awful for others and not a matter of preference (e.g. like holding knife and fork in correct hand).

Now mine are older (8 and 10), I've explained to them what good manners would be like (so elbows off table, elbows in, bring cutlery up to your mouth not the other way around etc) but I don't insist they eat like this at home. At home it's more basic- use cutlery (sounds obvious but lots of eating chips/finger food don't make this obvious) and eat with your mouth closed. We save practicing really nice manners for eating out, eating with people round the house or eating at other people's houses.

I want them to know how to eat correctly but don't want to be enforcing strict manners every dinner time as I want to relax and have fun and not nag endlessly like my parents did, as it's tedious.

TarkaTheOtter Fri 01-Aug-14 12:47:13

My dd went through a fussy phase and I made her eating something a priority. Now she's coming out the other side and getting a more varied diet we are working on cutlery/general manners. She's only 2 though so it's not something I particularly worry about. We just model good manners and occasionally remind about cutlery.

TarkaTheOtter Fri 01-Aug-14 12:49:52

I agree with napoleon though. I want them to know how to eat nicely when we are out and about but an much less bothered when it's just us at home. I got quite anxious eating out as a young adult because I felt like I didn't know the rules so I want to avoid that, but deep down I don't care personally about table manners so long as people are enjoying the food and company.

cornflakegirl Fri 01-Aug-14 12:50:37

I think sometimes it is either / or. DS1 has always liked his food and was happy to be sat at the table from the start, so table manners just evolved naturally as he became old enough to use cutlery instead of fingers etc.

DS2 is really not fussed about food, so things like staying at the table until everyone had finished were introduced much later. He's nearly 5, and occasionally I will still end a meal with him sat on my lap and me feeding him, because he's decided that the meal looks a bit funny and hasn't eaten a single bite.

Bluebelljumpsoverthemoon Fri 01-Aug-14 13:52:20

I think manners are more important. A child who refuses to sit, jumps on the table, runs around the room, yells, eats open mouthed dropping half the contents out and makes a disgusting mess is going to be very unpleasant and stressful to eat with. A child who refuses certain foods is only stressful if you allow it to annoy you.

In saying that, it's not a choice of one or the other. A child will only have manners if they learn them at home regardless of whether they love their food or hate everything.

Hakluyt Fri 01-Aug-14 13:56:19

"Obviously I intend to teach them basic table manners but for me I would rather they are eating their spinach with their fingers whilst doing colouring in at the table than sit nicely with knife and fork eating plain pasta and am interested to see how other people view it."

Why on earth does it have to be one or the other?

BackforGood Fri 01-Aug-14 13:57:23

I don't think they are mutually exclusive either.
I wouldn't have books/toys/colouring at the table as mealtimes is a sociable time - a time to chat about your day. Mainly because they'd get destroyed with food and spills all over them.
I don't in anyway relate manners and fussiness over food.

however Fri 01-Aug-14 13:58:19

It's a work in progress. TV is always off, though.

sesamej Fri 01-Aug-14 14:22:23

Sorry I didn't mean at all that it has to be one or the other. What I'm saying is that I personally prioritise then eating varied foods which means sometimes getting familiar with foods with fingers and I find colouring at the table (which I know is not ideal manners) means they are spending less time thinking about whether he wants to be picky with the foods and just is eating and enjoying. I find they often have been a bit fussy about having something but once actually tasted they enjoy it.

In any case there are lots of philosophies that people have surrounding how they get their children eating and that doesn't always involve the best manners. I know for example I could get my DCs eating a lot more if we ate in front of the telly or I followed them round the room popping mouthfuls in when they were playing. Maybe that isn't true of everyone's kids but that has been my experience and friends' experience.

Like these guys : www.greenkitchenstories.com/a-healthy-start/

I think I remember them saying somewhere else that they sometimes let their daughter eat under the table or wherever she chose.

Ultimately I'm saying that for some people (of course not all), being lax about table manners is a tactic to get them to try different foods and eat a really varied diet. I didn't mean to cause offence with the 'eating spinach or plain pasta' comment. I meant it as extremes to highlight the question. Apologies.

pukkabo Fri 01-Aug-14 14:33:00

Both. Why does it have to be one or the other?

As it goes I've never taught DC table manners, they're just very polite eaters naturally wink. I've had a few people comment on how nicely they eat- keeping their mouths closed, not talking when eating, not making much mess etc. I've never actively taught them or told them to do it, it's just kind of happened. Maybe they've just learnt from us? I wouldn't do the whole 'NO ELBOWS ON TABLE' thing because quite frankly that rule was clearly made up by draconian's and makes zero sense to me.

It's very important to me that they eat healthily, I'd put that up there with my top parenting priorities personally.

TarkaTheOtter Fri 01-Aug-14 15:19:22

Of course it's not either/or. The OP is talking about which you would prioritise in cases where they are in some conflict. If it makes it easier to understand, what about this scenario...
"Would you let table manners slide if your dc ate a limited diet and relaxing a certain aspect of table manners (such as using cutlery/tv on during meals) increased the variety they would eat?"

scaevola Fri 01-Aug-14 15:28:00

I don't see it as 'either/or', and I don't think 'relaxing' certain aspects of normal mealtime conduct is likely to produce more willingness to try new foods. Because I don't see normal manners as difficult or stress inducing.

beccajoh Fri 01-Aug-14 15:36:29

We do let things slide a bit sometimes, mainly watching TV whilst eating, in order to get DD (just turned two) to eat anything at all let alone something healthy. We only resort to this once in a while. Since she was very small we've taught her to tidy up around her plate once she's finished (basically pick up all the bits and put them back on her plate). We're working on cutlery at the moment. She's pretty good with a spoon and she's getting the hang of sticking a fork in certain foods. We practice sitting and waiting for other people to finish but she's quite a slow eater so this isn't such an issue!

But yes, sometimes we have to let things slide and stick the TV on so she'll eat.

Ber2291 Fri 01-Aug-14 15:43:33

Why are people taking such offence to this? Clearly some people do let manners slide in the interest of trying to get their child eating things as evidenced by some responses on this thread. It doesn't mean the OP is saying 'Categorically the only way you can get a child to eat a vegetable is to allow them to burp the alphabet at the table and use their feet to pick up their food'. People just love being righteous on here sometimes!

TarkaTheOtter Fri 01-Aug-14 15:46:25

I agree Ber, good table manners are seen as VERY IMPORTANT (by some posters) on mumsnet.

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