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How exactly do you teach table manners??

(8 Posts)
scrappydappydoo Sun 21-Aug-11 18:20:25

Just had another disastrous meal with dds aged 5 and 3 - most of the time is spent actually getting them to eat something so table manners have fallen by the wayside - so eating with fingers, chewing with mouth open, playing with food, getting down before finished etc are regular occurances.

I hate it. We spend all the time reminding table manners and encouraging them to eat that there is no time for any family conversation.
We only have family meals at the weekends as dh leaves at 6am and returns at 8pm on weekdays. (I eat with them though). So seriously how do you teach basic manners ?? Its driving me crazy!

pozzled Sun 21-Aug-11 18:29:40

Same way you teach most things- by example, lots of praise/reinforcement when they get it right and only a little bit of telling off.

Try to take the focus away from what/ how much they're eating - they really won't starve. Give them really small portions so that you can praise them when they eat 'all' their food. And make sure you DO talk to them and your DH- start a conversation, carry it on, and if it is interrupted go straight back to it as soon as you've dealt with the interruption. Oh and only focus on one 'bad' behaviour at a time e.g. if they eat with their fingers, let that go as long as they stay seated the whole time. Then after a few days, hopefully they will be staying in their seats and you can target another behaviour.

Disclaimer: my eldest is 3 so I'm mostly describing what I would do rather than a tried and tested method IYKWIM.

BlueArmyGirl Sun 21-Aug-11 18:36:03

Hi Scrappy

If the priority is getting them to eat then just pick one thing at a time to work on - otherwise it will be too stressful and you'll achieve very little.

What would you like them to be able to do the most? That's you're starting point and when you've got that then move on to the next thing.

Some ideas; Find some books to read with them - stories about food/eating/family meals and talk about the pictures, add your personal slant about your priority area!!! Point out nice table manners when you're watching tv together (if you see any, they're not always that apparent!!!). You could point out before the meal what you're looking fot in terms of table manners with a sticker for the person that can do it? Model what you want to see and tell them what you're doing and why. You could also find or take some pictures of them doing what you want to see at the table and have them around to talk about - could even have them on display at mealtimes as a reminder.


scrappydappydoo Sun 21-Aug-11 20:10:45

Thanks - all good ideas - we do give them small portions and try not to make big deal about food but its difficult! I like the sticker idea and the pointing out good table manners on tv etc.
I will say that other manners are fine - always say please and thank you etc its just sitting at the table brings out the worst in them!

Pkam Sun 21-Aug-11 21:18:36

We've just agreed 'mealtime rules' with our DDs (also 5 & 3). Only wrote down 5 rules and the four of us discussed which ones should go on the list. The list is now displayed near the table and often referred to. Surprisingly this has really worked - they're not perfect but sooooo much better. The ones we agreed on were:

Bottoms on chairs
Don't speak with your mouth full
Don't play with your food
Don't start until everyone has sat down
Don't leave the table without asking

Pavlovthecat Sun 21-Aug-11 21:22:19

scrappy mine still do this (well DS is only 21m so I will let him off but DD is 5 now).

We just keep repeating/reminding, and eating how we want her to ie we don't talk with mouthfuls, we use our forks and knives (unless it is pizza/chicken wings etc). We have even had little games about 'what can we eat with fingers/hands and what needs a fork' grin.

I get through it now when DD picks her up food/brushes her hair back with spaghetti laden fingers that as long as we just stay calm and persevere she will not be eating like this when she is 18 <hopeful>

2kidsintow Sun 21-Aug-11 22:45:22

My two were doing really well....til they hit school and school dinners and now they seem to have gone backwards, particularly in the 'don't talk with food in your mouth' and 'don't chew with your mouth open'.
My OH is also a pain in that he uses his knife and fork the opposite way to most e.g. fork in writing hand instead of knife. As a result, the kids copy him just to annoy me and that means they end up trying to hold the food still with the knife, then dragging away with the fork to pull off pieces of food. And to top that off, he will also spear a far too large piece of meat and hold it up on his knife to take bites out of. I've been reminding my kids not to do this, not realising that they are getting it from him!

Mind you, it took me months when we got married to stop him making sandwiches out of every meal (inc roast dinner etc) as that was the quickest way he could eat it. kids haven't got a chance!

Personally I find that eating together and lots of gentle reminders (nagging) is working best.

Oblomov Sun 21-Aug-11 23:21:57

You need to realise that this is an ongoing 'battle'.
i.e.TRY TO CALM DOWN., THIS IS MINOR, WIL GO ON FOR MANY YEART, I have 7 and 3 year old, some times they eat beautifuly. sometimes, its so awfulk it makes my heart weep.
I think this is normal.
You, in time will alsl realise this.

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