The truth is, as adults, we all know how to eat, but few of us do it completely correctly. There are certain basic rules of table manners that always apply, and the following tips are, well, the tip of the iceberg, bare bones basics that you should know and your child should learn.
By Diane Gottsman
I often receive phone calls from frantic parents who have just received an invitation to dinner and, to their utter horror, their children have been included. Try as we might at our own dinner table, manners inflicted by Mom seldom stick as long or well as the same direction given by a perfect stranger. This is where I come in.
The truth is, as adults, we all know how to eat, but few of us do it completely correctly. There are certain basic rules that always apply, and the following tips are, well, the tip of the iceberg, bare bones basics that your child should learn.
|Salt and pepper are married. If passing one, the other must go with it|
- Don't use your fingers (or toes) unless you are eating "finger food." Children up to the age of 5 have special compensation, but starting at 6, forks and spoons are mandatory table equipment.
- Napkins go on your lap. Again, until the age of 5 they can be tucked into any space available - neck, waist, pocket, etc. However, napkin-training wheels come off at 6 years old. This also applies to dads.
- Don't be tied up. Little boys wearing their dress-up clothes must keep their neckties down when eating.
- Don't lick your fingers. If the food is that good, politely ask for seconds.
- Salt and pepper are married. If passing one, the other must go with it.
- Go counterclockwise. Food, bread, salt and pepper and other food and dishes items are passed counterclockwise.
- Don't attack the roll like a hungry dog. When eating rolls, d. Break off a small piece, one piece at a time. Butter it and eat it.
- Wait for Mom or the host of the table to start to eat. That is your cue to start eating. If the host says to "Please start," then you may begin without her.
- Do not use your napkin as a hankie. Always have a tissue available for unexpected sniffles.
- Thanks, Mom! At the end of the meal, thank your mom or the host for the delicious meal. It's a sweet and respectful gesture that should never be forgotten and cannot be overused.
Finally, the most important thing parents can do to promote good table manners is to model the behavior themselves. It is difficult to enjoy family conversation or model table manners while eating on the floor in front of the TV.
Diane Gottsman is a nationally recognized etiquette and protocol expert who leads age-appropriate etiquette programs for children as well as adults striving to fine-tune their skills. She has a master's degree in sociology/education. For more information, check out www.protocolschooloftexas.com, or read previous Parenthood.com Everyday Etiquette columns at here.
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