My child is a barbarian
When your two-year-old spits carrot at you or gets more food on her face than in her mouth, you tend to forgive and forget. But if the story hasn't changed by the time she is ten, you're not indulgent any more. You're worried. When will she be fit to be part of society, as we know it?
Table manners definitely don't come to children naturally. They either gobble their food or push it around or off their plates. They don't eat with their fingers, they eat with their hands - often both. They put their elbows on the table, chew noisily with their mouths wide open displaying the contents of their mouths for the entire world to see. They speak with their mouths full, often spraying the person next to them with little bits of food when trying to make a point. Some children are anti-social at mealtimes, burying themselves behind a book or silently staring at the television, ignoring all attempts at conversation. Some go to the other extreme, choosing mealtimes as a battleground for wars with their siblings so that nobody else can get a word in edgeways. Boys especially think a good loud burp at the end of a meal signals their satisfaction and are surprised when you take offence. Parents often despair attempting to convert these barbarians into well-mannered members of society.
What you should be teaching your child
- Don't chew noisily or with your mouth open.
- The idea is to eat with your fingers, not with your hand and definitely not with both hands.
- Put the napkin on your lap so that food doesn't get onto your clothes.
- Don't read or watch television while eating. Mealtimes should be a chance for the family to sit together and catch up on what's happening in each other's lives.
- If you need to leave the table, excuse yourself before going. Do not announce loudly that you have to go to the bathroom.
- Wait till everyone has finished eating before getting up from the table.
- Burping is not considered polite.
- Don't talk with your mouth full.
- Don't gobble your food. Take small bites and chew properly.
- Don't play with your food and finish everything that is on your plate.
- Use the words "please" and "thank you" when passing dishes to each other.