Our guidelines for good manners around the table

“Mom, can we ask Ethan why he was late?”

My eldest piped up with this question around our Sunday dinner table, while sitting across from the named guest. I remember trying to silence him with a look, and then muttering something along the lines of “we’ll talk about it later.”

Ah, kids. They certainly aren’t born with manners. It’s up to us, the parents, to teach them until they grow up and begin to grasp the meaning of tact and diplomacy. A most interesting discussion on the Simple Bites Facebook page a while ago encouraged me to write down and share our guidelines for good manners.

We strive to teach good behaviour around our table, but, boy, is it a work in progress. I’ve learned to heap on encouragement, striving to give 5 times the praise for each reprimand or instruction. Some nights it feels impossible to find anything good to say, but the children perk up with the praise and noticeably try harder.

Our guidelines for good manners around the family table are easy enough to teach, learn and practice regularly. They apply for ALL of our meals: at home, in restaurants, as guests. The rules around your table may differ and of course that is perfectly okay! Harkening back to that group discussion on Facebook, I found it interesting that so many parents forbade elbows on the table. Personally, I have no problem with elbows, but that is just one example of how was all pick our battles. Okay. Here goes!

1. No electronics (for us grownups), no toys (for the kids).

This is the first step toward connecting with each other over mealtime. Our kids are too young to have their own electronics, but if we lead by example now, hopefully we’ll have fewer battles when they are teens.

2. Remain seated during mealtimes.

Our boys are jumpy, and they can bounce to their heart’s content before and after meals, but when we are eating, that’s it: we SIT. We have to keep it black and white for them otherwise they would be popping off to go look out the window, pet the cats, or some other distraction every two seconds.

Staying seated certainly gets easier as they get older, and yes, of course they may use the bathroom if needed!

Manners and the family table | Simple Bites

3. Use utensils.

Amazingly, I find myself saying, “Keep your fingers out of your food!” less and less as the boys get older and we progress with our work on manners. Clara is the exception, as she was our Baby-Led Feeder, and still likes to occasionally use her hands. She’s pretty great with utensils, though!

4. Choose real life topics of conversation.

Children fuel the best conversation, full of hilarious quibbles, and eye-opening statements about themselves. Dinner is a key time to hear from them (even Sunday dinner) but it helps to have a few guidelines about topics. No bathroom talk is permitted, and our family adds one more: no discussion of TV shows, video games, or any other digital entertainment (or there would be no end to it.)

5. Speak respectfully.

‘Please’, ‘thank you’ and ‘excuse me’ are compulsory, but they come second nature as we have been working on these responses for a long time. Also, opinions must be expressed in a kind manner. No loud groans, or exclamations of “Ewwwwwwww” when a dish is presented.

“It’s not my favourite” is the preferred way to express dislike.

6. Chew with mouths closed.

And no talking while chewing. We’re not making much progress in this area, unfortunately. We have a ‘code’ signal for when guests are over and that helps remind them to clamp their lips together mid-sentence –but then a minute later they are caught up in the excitement of another story and, whoops….

If you have a good teaching tip to help with this, please leave a comment. So many adults were never trained to finish chewing before speaking and it is a huge pet peeve of both Danny and I.

7. Try everything once.

Are my kids picky? Not as bad as they used to be, but they are particular about a few things. They must taste new dishes before giving an opinion. Each season they re-taste their least favourite fruits and vegetables. You’d be surprised at how their palates change from year to year.

8. Be appreciative.

Our kids are old enough to grasp that there are hungry children in the world, yet once in a while they still need to be reminded of how blessed they are to have three square meals a day. We don’t tolerate much grumbling over a plate of food.

Mums Table

9. Ask to be excused from the table. And we have them clear their plate, cup and utensils as well. Recently, Clara has been doing the same (she’s 2 and 2 months) because she watches her brother clear the table every night.

A few final thoughts…

As in all parenting ways, it helps to lead by example. It really is that simple. And by the way, if you think your own manners are flawless, just ask your spouse or an honest friend for his/her opinion!

Don’t expect perfection, but do hold your children to at least try to do their best. Progress doesn’t happen overnight, but setting a standard and sticking to it is key to improving table manners.

Lastly, remember that we are not teaching our children manners to make us look good as parents, but to instil a foundation of respect and politeness that will help them better navigate life, both personally and professionally.

Now, who’s ready for dinner?

I’d love to hear your thought on table manners. Feel free to share them below and please keep the conversation respectful! Thanks.

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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  1. We tell our kids to ‘Sam I am’ their food, taking the lead from the book Green Eggs and Ham. My picky 3 year old is always thrilled when he does try and like the food I put in front of him and usually says, ‘I like Green Eggs and Ham!’. It keeps it fun and light and reminds them that I only want them to try, I don’t want to control.

    • That reminds me of a quote from Yo Gabba Gabba that has stuck with Clara: “I tried it! And I liked it!” It’s proven to come in handy. 😉

      • Aimee, my husband and I are always singing “try it, you’ll like it, try it you’ll like it.” Glad we aren’t the only ones using crazy children’s shows to help out at home!

  2. Christina says

    We have a picky eater here as well and I won’t tolerate rude comments about what is served. I have adopted what my parents did with me when I didn’t want something that was served. We say that he has to have a ‘thank you bite’. It means he has to try one bite and encorporates gratitude for what is served.

  3. So wonderful Aimee. I’m surprised you had reservations about posting this. I especially love the no electronics. So important in our plugged in world.

    You bet I’ll be takin this to heart when I hopefully start a family someday.

    • Kathy, it seems so strict, and no one wants to be a control freak, I think that is why I had reservations….but my husband and I are united on this front! And it seems my readers agree too. 😉 Thanks for reading!

  4. Such a great topic! We also ask our kids to take a “thank you portion” of something they don’t like, especially when they’re at someone else’s home. I’ve tried hard to teach them the importance of being thankful to the cook who has made their meal – even if they don’t like what’s being served.

    But here’s something interesting: our best years at the table were between 8-12. We were over the picky eating phase and table manners had been pretty well established. As we’ve entered the teen years, the boys have almost reverted back to being toddlers at the table – forgetting to say “please” and “thank you”, eating with their hands, etc. I attribute it to the fact that they come to the table SO hungry they can’t think about how to behave because they are too busy scarfing down the food. We remind them and make light of it by insisting that we won’t allow them to go out on dates if they can’t dine properly. That usually gets their attention, and we have fun practicing “how to eat when you’re sitting at a table with a cute girl across from you.”

    • That is so interesting Jan! I’m actually around very few teens, but I can totally see how this would be representative of that age. Well, I like your strategy. Let me know how it works out! I’ll probably need it one day. 😉

  5. Kimberley Allan Mulla says

    Love it! I would say that our lists are completely the same. I am okay with elbows too, because yes, I need to pick my battles. Manners start at an early age and we have gone through age-appropriate phases with our 6 and 4 year old daughters. Thanks for sharing!

    • Interesting! I’m glad my list doesn’t seem outrageous. 😉 Thanks for commenting, Kimberly.

      • I love your list! I think it’s very appropriate – we do all of these things as well but just add no elbows at the table and hold your utensil properly. We feel that chewing with mouths open or gripping the utensil with the entire hand is an affront to the other diners at the table – nobody enjoys seeing that!

  6. I love teaching children to be civil at the table because it’s such a delight to share a meal with children who have great manners. We have a few other rules that we stick to in our house: no leaving the table until everyone has finished eating. It’s a reminder that a meal is not to be rushed. Of course “no elbows on the table!” and no holding cutlery closed fisted like an ogre. My kids aren’t perfect at the table but they’re very polite and comfortable, even at lovely restaurants. We never stop working on manners though….

  7. Thank you for writing this, Aimee. I was raised in a household where table manners were of utmost importance and I will forever appreciate this. I was taught how to hold and use my utensils correctly, sip and not gulp my beverage, chew with my mouth closed (and no talking with food in my mouth), ask to be excused and sit without fidgeting throughout the meal. I also learned how to have appropriate conversation at the table. As as result, I remember being complimented by other adults at dinner parties and social functions where I was allowed to attend with my family members. Proper table manners are an essential life skill. I am stunned to see how many adults do not possess this basic skill and it makes for a very unpleasant dining experience with people who do not have proper table manners. I think etiquette should be a mandatory subject in schools! Great post!

  8. I love this Aimee! I always tell my kids that our manners at the table are a way of blessing those around us by allowing them to enjoy their own meal. Your guidelines are nearly identical to the ones we use with our five boys. I was resolved not to be an animal house with five young men being horrid at the table.

    Of all of the guidelines, though, the one that I spend the most energy on enforcing is the smaller bites/chew thoroughly rule. Even if you don’t consider the fact that stuffing the mouth too full creates a choking hazard, there are few things more off-putting than watching someone cram food into their mouth to the point where they must chew with their mouth open or where food necessarily falls out back onto the plate while they chew.

    • Good for you, Rebecca. Someday, your future daughters-in-law will thank you for your faithfulness to those boys. Thanks for stopping by and for sharing the post.

  9. I really enjoyed this post, Aimee. We teach our children the same things. It makes our everyday meals so much more pleasant, not to mention the difference it makes when we have guests or are dining out.

    It still cracks me up that my children get so excited over meals like nachos and sandwiches. They cheer over the fact that I made food that they are supposed to eat with their hands. (The first time I saw one of my boys, at 3 years old, trying to eat nachos with his fork, we all cracked up laughing.)

    I agree that there are far too many adults with appallingly poor table manners. I don’t want that for my children now or in the future. Such a great post!

  10. The other benefit to instilling manners at home is that it is a lot easier to expect this behaviour at a restaurant. How can we expect them to behave when they are out if we don’t enforce it at home?

    • Cheryl, I said this to my husband when we were starting out. I know folks who avoid restaurant altogether, but where is the fun in that? We love to bring the kids out occasionally, and the guidelines for home have helped when we’re in a public place.

  11. My pet peeve, plates for everyone. How come parents just dump food for their kids on the table or high chair tray?
    I am ok with touching food, until a certain age. Also, teaching them how to use fork AND knife. Seems in North America the knife is optional.

    • Andrea, good point. I still cut a lot of my children’s food but am trying to remember to let them practice with a knife. It shouldn’t be optional!

  12. I like this. Manners are important and in order to have them you have to practice them!

  13. Hey Aimee, I agree with all of these. Ultimately the last thing you said, “lead by example” seems to be the catch-all to help cover any rules that might have been left out. I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately with regards to cell phones–we’ve made a big point of this at the table, but are considering expanding it to all day, meaning electronics only when truly necessary, not just casual all day use. I’ve also been thinking about leading by example with regards to alcohol at dinner. I enjoy a beer (homebrew!) at dinner and always model moderation, but sometimes feel like daily moderation seems to be modelling the habit of alcohol as a daily need and a part of every dinner. I don’t like giving myself too many rules but I’m considering trying to figure out how much moderation is moderate. I usually only have one beer, which doesn’t seem like a problem, but I’m wondering about cutting back so as not to set the example of beer/wine as being part of every dinner. This is a rambly comment, but I’m just curious if y’all have any rules regarding drinking?

    • Hi Jon,

      You raise an excellent point. And now I am noticing how two out of three photos in this post have wine glasses on the table. 😉

      So, here’s what I think. If there is a suspicious niggle in your mind about that nightly beer and what kind of example it might be setting to your children, chances are it is there for a reason and you should pay attention to it. Personally, one drink a day seems very moderate to me (we average 2-3 a week) but maybe you could enjoy it when they are in bed?

      Does your spouse have an opinion on the subject? I’m going to ask my husband and see what he thinks.

      My eldest is starting to notice when we pour a glass of something and will occasionally comment along the lines of “You guys like wine a lot, eh?”. Which definitely gets one thinking! We’ll probably be having a chat about responsible drinking pretty soon. 😉

      Thanks for commenting and reading!

  14. La Torontoise says

    Aimee, I feel so much appreciation for putting this post together. My biggest challenge was to remain seated. Even today, with a 10 years old, this still reveales as a challenge.

    I love the thank-you-bite idea. Will do it tonight:-)
    We, too, teach our child that in order to have an informed opinion about food, he first needs to try it himself.
    In our home, another ‘forbidden topic’ at the table is errands management. I feel it a kind of stressful as the dinner transforms itself into a business meeting in front of my eyes and:-) my plate…
    So, any detailed planning of when I have to bring what to school, to piano lesson, to friend’s houses, etc, is postponed for after dinner.

    My 2 cents, in addition to these tips: make paper napkins/serviettes readily available and encourage their use.

    To avoid traces of little dirty fingers in the spaces outside the dinner table (for example on doors and windows), I always put serviettes around. In fact, I never leave utensils without serviettes on the table). I have internalized this habit in my parents’ house, so in a way, can not imagine a table without any serviettes: -)
    If no paper napkins are in my stock, then simple kitchen towel could be enough.
    As with all things *manners*, using the serviette was a learning process for our little boy. Just before he would jump to leave the table, I used to say “You could use your serviettes” or “Please use your serviette – it waits for you”.
    I also add a serviette in his lunch box. Even the simplest white serviettes works. And I feel very happy when I hear from other mothers that while receiving a treat in their houses, our son asked for a serviette:-)

    Have a great evening!

    • Errand management: valid point. It’s tempting to use that face time with one’s spouse as a chance to review the calendar. But you are right, where is the valuable family time in all of it?

  15. Love this, Aimee! The hardest one for us, by far, is staying in your seats—with Reed in particular, our kiddo with SPD. One thing that’s helped is him sitting on this. Somehow, it seems to calm his wiggly body… at least for a few minutes.

    Just wanted to toss out this idea for anyone else who has a kid with the serious case of the wiggles. Basically, the theory is that when you give their body something to do, it actually calms down their mind and their ability to focus (and with our SPD-er, we use it all the time—schoolwork, etc.!).

    Great post.

    • Thanks for sharing this tip, Tsh. We start homeschool in 2015 with a little wiggle worm too and as staying seated is already a challenge for meals, I’m sure it will be for school as well. Actually, giving him plenty of time to run and wiggle is one of our big motivators for homeschooling 🙂

      Loved your whole list Aimee. We’re definitely on the same wavelength with table manners. Although, it did make me realize I should excuse myself before I get up, which I often forget to do.

    • GREAT tip, Tsh!! I could see this being very use full for my middle child. Thanks for sharing!

  16. Our rules sound exactly the same, but I’m not surprised by that at all. We have tried to teach Clara that she has to stay at the table until everyone finishes eating, even if she is frustrated and wants to get out of her seat.

    I’m curious – what do you do when you make a meal you aren’t sure the kiddos will like? I made an asparagus pizza recently, and, after one bite, Clara pulled all the asparagus off her slice and ate the pizza bare. I felt kind of bad, but I have a “we all eat the same meal” mentality and am not keen on the idea of kids having different meals than the parents.

    • I usually let my son (4) pick off food he doesn’t like as long as he’s taken a bite, but in his case, he truly only picks off food that really offends his palate and gladly devours a wide range of things, so I think it makes it easier for me to respect his preferences.

    • Courtney, did you ever read this post? Two Picky Eaters, One Dinner Strategy:

      It has some good tips.

      My kids eat all mains and starches; it is often the vegetable that is the issue and I frequently prepare two varieties: our and theirs.

  17. Christina Wilson says

    Hi Aimee,
    Thanks for this great post! I love all the different tips and am going to incorporate the thankfulness aspect more at our table. I also like the comment about reducing electronics throughout the day.

    I stumbled across a funny method that seems to work with our daughter (2.5 yrs old) to help her remember not to talk with her mouth full. I can remember one of the first times she was so excited to say something but all that came out was mumblings around the toast she had in her mouth. It was actually quite funny and I started to laugh and then said “Oh, Caelynn! All I can hear is Mr. Toast speaking. Finish chewing and then I can hear you.” She laughed, closed her mouth, finished chewing and then said her piece. Now whenever she forgets and starts to talk with a full mouth, we just say “Oh! Mr/Mrs. Food is talking…we want to hear you!”. I don’t know why, but it seems to work! 🙂

    • That is REALLY adorable, Christina. Thanks for sharing!

      • Talking with a full mouth is a huge pet peeve of mine. It blows my mind how many people do it routinely.
        That is a great idea, Christine! Thank you for sharing it! I think I am going to use that one as well.
        Now, think I can use it for the adults that have that horrible habit as well? 🙂

  18. I love this brief and meaningful list. No need to have a book full of rules – let’s see if we can focus on the basics!

    My kids have really taken to the idea that their taste buds will grow up as they get older, so they need to keep trying the foods that they didn’t like when they were little. In our house, liking new foods means that you’re growing up. My tiny, picky 4-year old was thrilled to find out that he now likes mushrooms, tofu, and garbanzo beans… “Mom! I must be getting bigger!”

    (I have even added a new food to my own “like” list this spring.)

    I have a friend that does the Manners Candle – they pick a specific behavior that they want to work on. The candle gets lit at the start of dinner and stays lit as long as everyone remembers to finish chewing before talking (or whatever). When someone slips up, the candle gets blown out. The idea is to keep that candle burning, and share a family reward when the candle has been all used up. We haven’t tried it, but it sounds like a good way to have a visual reminder of the manners and some incentive for practicing.

  19. Such a wonderful list Aimee. I find the hardest challenge for us is our wiggly 3 year old who’s least favorite meal of the day is dinner. I have realized that kids go through phases of eating so I’m not trying to force him to eat all of his dinner. Now I just offer a smaller assortment for him and try to make sure he is getting enough veggies and protein throughout the day.

    • You know, I can relate. Most days, my kids are so tired by dinner that eating is a bother. It’s also the smallest meal of the day for them and I am fine with that. They have a big breakfast and a large lunch. My 6 year-old will clean out his lunch box no matter how full I stuff it. We also incorporate a healthy after school snack, so yeah, I’m not too worried about a mini-dinner and it sounds like you shouldn’t either!

  20. Great post, Aimee! I appreciated how you pick your own battles and ended with leading by example.

    No phones at the table is our rule as well and it draws us to talk and connect with each other. As our girls get older, we try to draw them into the conversation rather then just ‘adult’ conversation.

    We stress no talking with food in the mouth and require them to sit until everyone has finished.
    I love the idea of a thank-you bite and saying ‘its not my favourite’. We’ll be introducing those!

    We’re travelling right now and our rule tends to be focusing on good behaviour rather then eating everything/trying new stuff. There’s a lot of new with all the travel and I know they eat well when at home.

    Sorry for the ramble! Glad you wrote this post.

    • Conversation certainly has picked up in the last year or two around our table, Breanne. You’re still in a challenging stage (at least it was for me). We can take on sensitive topics (like the missing African school girls) or dream about a round the world trip. It’s fun!

      Safe travels!

  21. THAN YOUA FOR WRITING THIS! I’ve read the comments here, but I have a few new things to offer….I, too, find chewing noises and chewing with an open mouth to be one of the most off-putting behaviors out there. It actually makes me queasy to eat at a table with someone chewing like a cow. I have relatives who aren’t “manners police” and their children’s behavior at the table is appalling.
    I’m old fashioned, I guess, but manners are important. I don’t believe that kids get a free pass, but I do believe that we should be gently encouraging; a middle ground. Our current dilemma is that my 3 yo is at a difficult age (sitting still is hard and pickiness is at a high point), and my 6yo will occasionally regress. We encourage setting a good example .
    One last item we try to encourage: don’t begin eating until everyone is seated, and don’t rush anyone to the table. It makes me crazy (as he usual cook) when I’m getting all the last things together, then I sit down only to find the kids halfway through their meal. We wait to begin, and we try to encourage them to linger and not ask to be excised until everyone is done.

    It’s a slow process, but an important one. :). It’s good to know I’m not alone. 🙂

    • Thanks for commenting, Kym! Why does it seem old fashioned to expect good manners ? I often wonder this, and from your comment, you feel similarly.

      Waiting until everyone is seated before we start is a GOOD guideline. I forgot that one!

  22. Great tips! For me there is one I add. I am trying to teach my kids to properly use a knife and fork. No fingers allowed to push your food onto your fork. They are 9 and 11 so quite capable of this but don’t want to do it. They try so hard to get all there food picked up with just the fork and no using there fingers. They are so proud when they do this. Frustrates me to no end. I was taught how to properly hold a knife and fork and to use them. So why not teach the kids. My husband does not agree. He does not want them using there fingers but who cares if they use a knife. He doesn’t want to have to so why should they.

  23. This is so timely for my family. I’ve been brainstorming about how to improve our whole mealtime experience. I wish I had some wisdom about chewing with the mouths open, but I haven’t noticed this at my house…probably because I’m still reminding my EIGHT year old to eat with his utensils. Ack!!

  24. Shawntae says

    Initiating and continuing the conversation: We’ve always started our table conversations with the simple “How was your day today?” but keep it going by “What was your favorite part and why?”. It’s simple, but with an age gap between a 6 year old and 20 year old kids, it’s worked out the best idea we’ve implemented and probably the only time we’ve all been able to bond at one place.

  25. We have just about everything on your list as a rule in our family. Although with the eldest just hitting 5 the ‘no potty jokes’ is probably top of the list at the moment!

    I find the biggest difference is made if we obey the no electronics/toys rule. As soon as either of us as parents touches a phone or something everything goes downhill. But, like you said, teach from example. We also have to let the no eating with your hands go by the wayside quite regularly as we live in a culture where that is the done thing. But we’re working hard on trying to help them pick up the cues themselves as to when that is and isn’t appropriate.

    • So interesting, Andrea! And yes, of course culture must play into how we teach and learn. Sounds like you’re flexible and that is great.

  26. Get Kara Lareau’s NO SLURPING, NO BURPING– a wonderful
    guide to manners!

  27. Wonderful post, Aimee! I’m looking forward to establishing good family table manners as Kaiya (16 month old) gets a little older. I especially like the no electronics rule. Mike and I are guilty of that now and we will have to lead by example 🙂

    I also agree with Kym in adding the rule of waiting until everyone is seated before eating. This was a big rule in my family and Mike’s family as well.

  28. Love this, Aimee! We are just starting to work on manners with Madison. She’s still pretty young (not quite 20 months yet), but we’re already trying to teach her manners at the table. I’m bookmarking it to come back to again.

    Now, do you have any great suggestions on how to keep her from dumping her oatmeal over her head in the morning? 🙂

  29. Viktorija says

    It is a wonderful post! We do most of the things the same, but we are struggling with consequences. What kind of consequences do you use when they don’t behave or don’t want to follow the table rules? If they start playing with their food or getting of the table we take the plate away and they can come to eat only if they apologize. But I don’t know how effective it is. Our kids are 4 and almost 2.. (Sorry for grammar mistakes, English is not my native language)

    • It depends on the child, Viktorija. One of mine is in a little dream world and forgets half the time. He gets ‘three strikes and your out’, so plenty of chances to try harder. The other child knows full well when he is being difficult. A consequence for both is usually loss of screen time, depending on the level of rudeness. No desert is another consequence. We haven’t taken a plate of food away, because they wouldn’t care that much! Not sure if this help.

      I think being consistent has helped the most. For years now we have said no toys at the table, so they don’t even try to get away with it anymore.

      Not sure if this helps….but thanks for commenting!

  30. So many good ideas here, I can’t wait to try the candle someone mentioned in the comments. But my question is…how exactly do you implement the whole “you have to take one bite” thing? My oldest is extremely picky and it has trickled down to the others. She is polite but just only eats what she knows/likes (very short list) and has no problem going hungry. Above all we want the dinner table to be a positive family time so just wondering how this works. My sweet girl would say “no thank you” every time!

    • Thanks Mandy.
      Well, it depends on the child. One of mine is very incentive driven, so he’ll try a bite (and often like it) if dessert is an option. The other….well, he’s stubborn.
      If I have to (and this is rare) I’ll vow to serve up the bite for breakfast and that always works. But that’s just me!

  31. These are really good guidelines. The try one bite is really important to having a broad mind about all foods. And the real topics conversation is the best. I think it makes mealtime more important.

  32. I love this whole piece, but especially this last line, “Lastly, remember that we are not teaching our children manners to make us look good as parents, but to instill a foundation of respect and politeness that will help them better navigate life, both personally and professionally.”

  33. Great rules. They have been successful at our house for the past 20 years. always thank those who have contributed such as cooking or supplying the meal

  34. Wow. Your rules are exactly my rules! But you have them written out and Im printing them!!! Sitting down and not getting up is my MAJOR one bc I have two boys and you described it just perfectly what happens if this is not instilled absolutely. After years (they are now 3 and 6) it has pretty much stuck. The main issue I’m dealing with lately is very messy eating with corn all over the floor and food everywhere. Another big issue is SUPER SLOW EATING that truly drives me crazy. An hour? Really?! UGH. I really hate to pull the plates away and send to bed hungry, but I am sure that is the advice I will get. I know I have a problem with eating too quickly! So together we need to work on this as a family for sure! Also my oldest always forgets to use his napkin and STILL wipes his mouth on his shoulder except when he catches my eyes as he is doing it and then he stops…Still so much work to do!!! Anyway..thanks for writing about manners. I feel like people look at me like I’m so strict or old fashioned when I bring them up but, like you, I feel it is about respect and politeness….
    oh and now that i’ve written this I’ve read everyone else’s great comments! Yes I love “its not my favorite”…I was hugely helped by the great book: French Kids Eat Everything and have adopted, “You don’t have to like it, you just have to try it” and that has worked really well for us!

  35. A delightful post to catch on a Sunday morning. Thank you. We have a two bite rule at our table. It seems to work with our eldest boy (5). I think I will start the, “It’s not my favorite”, phrase. We have run into issues at my sister-in-law’s home where my niece (8) will express she does not like something, and then my son follows suit. He will do this even when it is something I know he loves to eat. Our biggest challenges are sitting on knees, waiting until everyone has their plate (I serve everyone, we have a small table), and asking to get down from the table. My 18 mo. does better than my 5 yo, and he signs it to us. My biggest challenge for myself is not having the phone at the table. With my husband gone most of the time, I tend to take a lot of pictures and send to him. I am very blessed that both of my boys do well with chewing with their mouths closed. Even with stuffy noses they fair well, but when they are having a particularly difficult time I have at least taught the 5 yo. to cover his mouth with his hand.

  36. I like your rules. Ours are similar, but less clearly formulated in our heads, I think. Our son is four and still struggles with the utensils, putting his plate away, and talking with his mouth full, but he is getting better about please, thank you, asking to be excused, and trying everything. We have a rule that no seconds are allowed until you finish what is on your plate, but I give him tiny portions of new foods and I don’t serve him things I know he won’t eat (rice, eggs). Every so often I ask him to try a bite of one of those and he complies, knowing I won’t force more if he still doesn’t like it.

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