The Beauty of a Well-Mannered Child at the Table

The Beauty of a Well-Mannered Child at the Table

Do you ever cringe when dining out with your child in a social setting?

Does your toddler, youth or teen exhibit proper table manners?

Can your toddler sit through a meal at a restaurant?

Do you often wish you had enrolled your teenager into a dining etiquette class?

If dining out with your child causes you stress, you are not alone. Throughout my career, I have had numerous parents share their discontent as a result of their child’s behavior at the table. I personally have “shot” a disapproving eye at my daughter for her lack of dining decorum in social settings.

In our fast-paced lives, we tend to favor a lifestyle that is more casual and less formal. Parents rarely have the time or the energy to teach dining etiquette to their children. In fact, it is more the exception than the norm for a family to sit together and enjoy a daily meal at the table. Furthermore, like the bald eagle, formal Sunday dinners are also becoming extinct.

Being taught proper behaviors and protocol is an important aspect of a child’s development. Ifyou would like for your child to grow up being a poised adult, the essentials of social and dining etiquette must be embedded in their early years. Like me, most parents’ desire is for their daughter to be acclaimed for her social graces and their son refined into a respectable gentleman.

The Process Begins at Home. Establish standards and start teaching your child by example. Effective learning takes place through imitation. How often we have heard the saying “Actions speak louder than words.”

At what age should a child begin exhibiting proper table manners?

Toddlers/children should be able to:

  • Say “please” and “thank you” when asking for and receiving items
  • Wash hands before a meal
  • Use utensils (maybe not properly, but no hands)
  • Remain seated throughout a meal
  • Taste at least one bite of all foods placed before them

Teenagers should:

  • Be able to set a table properly
  • Use good table manners
  • Know how to cut foods correctly
  • Not bring personal items to the table (especially cellular phones)
  • Dine with proper posture
  • Express gratitude after a meal
  • Tip appropriately
  • Receive compliments from others regarding their dining decorum

As the holidays are approaching, you and your family will most likely attend social gatherings which include food. Whether a school luncheon, dinner with relatives or friends, or dining out at a restaurant, be mindful that training begins in the home. In addition, “practice makes perfect.” Do not be unrealistic and expect a child to be table savvy or exhibit a high degree of dining decorum if he/she has not been previously taught to have standards and expectations have not been established. Having different codes of manners can be confusing. Allow your child’s good manners to take root and become habits.

Remember, children and teens take cues about table manners from their parents and other adults. Fred Astaire once said “The hardest job kids face today is learning good manners …without seeing any.”

Adopt the philosophy that we have incorporated at The School of Etiquette and Decorum: “Make Learning Etiquette not only Rewarding, but Fun.”

Share this article

Tina Hayes is the founder and owner of The School of Etiquette and Decorum in Antioch, CA. As a passionate instructor dedicated to providing quality and professional etiquette training to her clients, Mrs. Tina Hayes promotes the awareness that social presentation and behaviors are important to be successful in today's society for all ages.