There are lots of things that can make people lose their appetite. A fly in your soup, someone chewing with their mouth open, or a dinner companion that insists on talking about health issues during the entire meal may all be reasons you would prefer to be excused before the dessert course. Everyone has their pet peeves when it comes to mealtimes, but one of the most common is dining with someone who displays a decided lack of table manners. To help your child avoid this fate, why not try establishing some new table rules that make your table a better place to be? The following are our suggestions, but feel free to suggest others!
Be On Time
When a meal is ready to be served, everyone should be seated at the table who plans on eating. Strolling down half-way through dinner is disrespectful, and disrupts the flow of everyone else’s meal.
Try It, You’ll Like It
To demonstrate respect for the cook, all food should at least be sampled, barring food allergies or other dietary restrictions. This enforces not only being a polite and considerate person, but also the fact that stepping outside your comfort zone and trying something new is something to be valued and encouraged. While some families institute a three-bites rule or something similar, you’ll have to find what works for your family. Maybe forcing a child to take more than one bite is inviting a total meltdown in your home, but that doesn’t mean you should shy away from insisting that everything on the plate should be tasted and given a fair shot.
Please Turn Off All Electronic Equipment
A recent phenomenon I’ve noticed in restaurants is an entire table sitting in silence, each person engrossed in their cell phone. Not only is this being extremely rude to anyone else at the table, but it also makes eating a less special or meaningful time. It’s hard to enjoy a good meal and excellent company when you’re busy sending off your twenty-fifth text message of the morning. Institute an electronics-free policy at your table, and get rid of the background noise TVs, iPods, and cellphones provide. This will allow your family to engage with each other, not electronics. Make sure this rule is followed by everyone at the table, though, or else it won’t be nearly as potent!
The Magic Words
While the magic words (aka “please” and “thank you”) should be used in daily conversation, their use should be especially enforced at the table. This demonstrates respect for others and keeps your child from sounding like a brat.
Keep it Appropriate
Conversation should be lively, but also appropriate and respectful. Not everyone wants to hear about the pig dissection taking place in your daughter’s biology class, so establish boundaries of civility that work for your family and clearly communicate them to everyone. Tell your kids that when in doubt, they should err on the side of caution and not bring up any potentially inappropriate material.
May I Please Be Excused?
Getting up and leaving the table without a word is extremely rude. While this phrase is usually just a social nicety rather than an actual question, for younger children who want to shovel two bites into their mouth and bolt it may be a realistic question. While you may not want to try and fight with a toddler about staying at the table for an entire meal, they should at least have some practice at not eating and running.
Helping out and being part of the meal ritual is very important. Whether it’s setting the table, clearing your own dishes, or helping to make the food, everyone should be involved somehow in the process of making food. That way, everyone has ownership and noone feels overly put-upon.