It is never too early, nor too late to begin instilling within your precious little ones the value and importance of learning proper table manners. From fast food etiquette to the family dining table, table manners are one of the most important skills we as parents can introduce to our children. We are seeing the need for students to enroll in hands-on training on proper tools of the table even at the graduate level in colleges across the land. Just knowing these simple skills can influence one’s success in many social situations.
The four pillars in structuring your training include:
Keep It Simple! Incorporate just one or two new skills at a time allowing the child up to two weeks to practice. For example, teaching children the proper way to hold a fork and knife can truly be a challenge, however, just placing a small book under their arms will help train them in keeping their elbows down. By doing this they will realize that the secret to holding a fork and knife is all in the wrists similar to a conductor who uses his wrists to conduct an orchestra.
Modeling Behavior – Yes, that means YOU. Children love to emulate their parent’s behavior so if you need a little refresher course on your table and dining manners (and don’t be bashful for many of us never received such training), simply dust off that etiquette book and do a little bit of research.
Hold the Expectations! There are just some things our children are unable to refine based upon their age. As with any motor skill, regardless of age, our children mature differently so be patient and always be positive in giving instruction. Never discipline in a negative way in front of others. You may always exit the table and in a quiet moment share your instruction.
Always Celebrate! Take the time to celebrate each success no matter how small. Construct fun projects such as a designing your own personalized place mats or encouraging your children to help choose the décor for the table. For those of us that rarely have a chance for a family meal gathering, don’t beat yourself up! Instead, try to provide at least once a week where you sit down for a meal even if it is just for the two of you.
One cannot say enough about the value of the table dining experience. In addition to the warmth and comfort it provides for the family, it allows an opportunity for us to feed our bodies with a well-balanced meal, to share in the ritual of conversation, and to practice self-control. With the table dining experience everything slows down, including eating, which is so important to stress to today’s youth who are suffering from record numbers of childhood obesity. A little bit of dedication applied to this arena can go a long way to transforming the future of our families health and vitality.