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Table manners

(20 Posts)
EscapeFrom Mon 06-Aug-07 12:06:45

How do you deal with a child who prefers to use his fingers? He is 4.5, I REALLY don't want him to be using his fingers to eat with at school, it reflects badly on me and makes it seem like we never eat together, or I have poor manners myself, or I just haven't bothered.

But EVERY MEALTIME for about 2 years, I have ended up saying

"Pick up your spoon" or "Use your fork" or "Please don't put your fingers in your food like that"

And it's not making any difference! His 15 month old brother is neck and neck with him on fork use! He is going to be overtaken very very soon - what am I doing wrong? I DO praise him WHEN he uses the spoon or fork - I haven't even TRIED with a knife yet, if he won't use one then he certainly won't use two!

totaleclipse Mon 06-Aug-07 12:08:36

Try him with a knifer (butter knife obviously) it might make all the difference.

totaleclipse Mon 06-Aug-07 12:09:02

knife even.

WigWamBam Mon 06-Aug-07 12:10:54

Is he competitive with his little brother? Or could he be manipulated to be so?

Perhaps the idea that a baby might be better at something would make him more keen to use his knife and fork?

EscapeFrom Mon 06-Aug-07 12:11:35

When I say 'tried with a knife' I mean I have tried getting him to use it - I do give him one, he just never uses it.

He sees me eat EVERY DAY with a knife and fork, he must know what basic manners look like.

EscapeFrom Mon 06-Aug-07 12:13:19

Well, WWB, I have made a massive deal of how clever ds2 is to be using a fork so nicely, but ds1 just says "YES I have a very clever brother", and is proud rather than competative. Annoyingly!

ruddynorah Mon 06-Aug-07 12:13:39

some kids, and some people in other parts of the world, prefer the taste of food without utensils. think of chinese food for example, you use chopsticks so there is less utensil in your mouth, tastes nicer than with a fork or spoon. if you're worried about when he gets to school, there is always the packed lunch option.

HectorsHouse Mon 06-Aug-07 12:13:59

small children can find it difficult to control fork and knife .. have you taught him to put his index finger down the top of the knife and fork to get more control?

my 2 are sitting here stabbing peas with chopsticks ...maybe give him chopsticks .. its more of a challenge and maybe more fun?

EscapeFrom Mon 06-Aug-07 12:18:54

HH I have shown him how to hold a fork as you describe - he handles it quite well, puts it straight back down after one bite and uses his fingers again.

All I ask is that he tries - and I just don't think it's socially acceptable to stick your hand in a bowl of lasagne and shovel it in with your fingers if you are capable of using a spoon!

EscapeFrom Mon 06-Aug-07 12:20:36

yes I am swinging towards packed lunches at school, but he is entitled to free school dinners so I would like him to have at least one a week so I can have an easy tea time!

witchandchips Mon 06-Aug-07 12:21:04

could it be that its just become a battle? He knows you want him not to use hands and wants to show you that he is boss.

you could just accept the way he eats but put cutlery out likely as not he may start using them if you stop noticing whether he does or not. When he starts at school social pressure may force him to try and eat like everybody else

ruddynorah Mon 06-Aug-07 12:24:24

another poster a few weeks ago had this problem. her ds was i think 8 or 9 ish. she eventually asked him why he didn't use cutlery and he said it was because the food tastes nicer if he eats with his hands. you have to get round that with him if that's the reason. otherwise, only give him food you are happy for him to eat with his hands.

HectorsHouse Mon 06-Aug-07 12:25:50

take his dinner away if he uses his fingers ... for a few minutes then give them back .. and repeat .. and repeat .. its just a habit, he'll get it

I still have to remind 6 and 7 year olds sometimes

I'd also have certain foods he can eat with fingers .. like chicken drumsticks ... and serve as a treat

HectorsHouse Mon 06-Aug-07 12:28:26

I know an 8 year old who had to have packed lunches because people made fun of him when he ate school dinners .. his mum told me this .. she conveniently forgot the conversation where she told me how wrong it was to enforce table manners on a child and she remembered her parents forcing her to eat in certain ways

the child still eats like a savage, its disgusting and its his parents fault ... but not at my house because I don't let him!

EscapeFrom Mon 06-Aug-07 12:50:15

But HH I have been trying to enforce this at every meal for TWO YEARS, why isn't it working?

EVERY TIME he sticks his hands in something he shouldn't, I say "Pick up your fork/use your fork/use your spoon". And he will pick it up, use it once, put it down again, and dive in with ihs fingers.

and i agree, it's horrible to see. I don't ALLOW it, but I am reluctant to actively PUNISH non use. However, nagging doesn't work.

I won't allow this to go to school with him, so he will have a pack up if necessary.

witchandchips Mon 06-Aug-07 13:24:07

hasn't it just become a battle though?
I think you either have to decide to win it or decide to lose it. This stalemate is benefiting nobody.

either be tough and make him leave the table if he does not eat properly.
ignore it, i honestly think when it is no longer an issue he will start eating properly

fiddlemama Mon 06-Aug-07 14:01:08

Don't underestimate the power of peer pressure. I don't know why the mother of the 8 year old gave in and provided packed lunches when the child was mad fun of (HH), a missed oppertunity there I think. When your ds goes to school the other kids probably will make fun of him and, if you can stick it out, he will probably eventually capitulate and follow the herd. Kids will always tease others who appear to be out of step and as long as it is not teasing for something a child cannot help, ie disability etc, try to be relaxed about it. If he gets upset, point out to him that it is within his power to stop the teasing by using his cutlery. It might even empower him to realise that he can affect the behaviour of others around him by modifying his own behaviour. (A usful life lesson that can never be learned too early).
Don't worry about what people think about you, it's the child who is important and there are worse behavioural problems than eating with his fingers!!
In the meantime, you could try turning the argument re your ds2 around. Instead of holding him up as an example to ds1 ask ds1 to help you teach ds2 to hold and use his fork and spoon properly.

Smithagain Mon 06-Aug-07 14:15:04

DD1 has just turned five and has finished her first year at school. She loves to use her fingers, will use knife and fork under duress when I insist, but soon reverts to fingers. But she uses a knife and fork at school - they don't allow fingers - and she appears to be eating her lunch just fine.

DD2 on the other hand loves to eat with a fork and is getting the hang of cutting with a knife. She will be two later this week. It's all personality - I have done nothing different as far as I know.

How about backing off for the summer holidays, to give him (and you) a rest from the nagging. See if things change when he sees others using cutlery at school. Maybe peer pressure and a more relaxed atmosphere at home will help. You could always decide to resume the battle if there's been no improvement by the end of his first term.

And don't panic. He will NOT be the only one that wants to eat with his fingers at school. Not if DD1's friends are anything to go by.

gess Mon 06-Aug-07 14:15:23

ds2 (5) has always struggled with cutlery- he also doesn't seem to care that ds3 (2) is much better than him! Part of the problem is that ds1 (8) is severely autistic and has only just started to use his fork (needs food cut up for him), so a) ds2 has never had a role model and b) he gets stroppy with the one rule for him and one rule for ds1 thing- so mealtimes can be a battleground.

He has improved a little over the last year at school (I won't let him have packed lunches); slowly its getting there.

Another thought- ds2 is left handed- and a little cack handed so I think that's added extra difficulty.

WanderingTrolley Mon 06-Aug-07 14:20:38

Would it help to provide as many sloppy meals as you can - eg sloppy pasta sauces, soup, stew (wrong weather, I know!) so that he might be less inclined to use his fingers? Or does that make no difference? Once he is out of the habit of eating with his fingers, he might be more inclined to use cutlery for drier food.

Agree about tons of praise for fork useage. If you can afford it, take him out to buy him his own special, new cutlery, and get him to set the table. Involve him as much as possible. Teach him to cut his food, pointing out his brother can't yet do this.

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