Monday, June 24, 2013

Will Work for Dessert: Managing tables manners with children

Have you ever had a vision or day dream about how your children will look and behave as adults?  Depending on the situation, your vision may be different from time to time.  I like to believe and dream about my children growing up to be successful and productive human beings.  HOWEVER, on this particular night (at the dinner table) I had a very different vision.  Without going into gross details, lets just call it an unfavorable vision.

Due to my husband's work schedule, I endure breakfast, lunch, and dinner (with three children) all by my lonesome.  "Get me this."  "I need that."  "Oh sorry Mommy, did you just sit down?"  "Oops, how did I spill that?"  This is the conversation at our table for every single meal.  For lunch, I have resorted to standing while they eat so I can sit and eat in peace once they leave the table.  Thousands of times I have reminded the kids to "use their manners", say please and thank you, and most importantly, ask for seconds before Mommy sits down.  For the most part, their tables manners are not horrible.  It is not a scene from "Honey Boo Boo" or anything like that,  BUT... we could use some improvement.

So, after feeling exhausted from yet another dinner where I played "short order chef, bus boy, and maid I decided we needed a change.  I had been harping on the kids about their manners and getting really frustrated.  The mood at our table was not great (especially mine).  The more frustrated I got I began to realize that even though I constantly remind them to use their manners I have never really sat them down and demonstrated exactly what "good table manners" include.

After dinner was over, I told the kids not to leave the table.  I announced we were going to have an Etiquette 101 class during dessert.  First, I re-set the table, told the kids to stand up and push in their chairs.  I went over the following rules of good table etiquette:

**These were the rules I felt were most important for the age of my children (8, 5, 3).

  • Before arriving to the table, please wash your hands with SOAP (I have two boys, soap always needs to be reminded).
  • Calmly sit down at your seat and scoot in your chair (if you need help please ask Mommy).
  • Fold your hands, bow your head, and say your prayers.
  • Unfold your napkin and place it in your lap.
  • Leave your left hand (my kids are right handed) in your lap at all times (unless you need to cut something, however, you are not allowed to use a knife - so you don't need to cut anything) :).
  • Chew with your mouth closed, never burp or make other noises that come from your body, cover your mouth with your napkin and turn your head to cough or sneeze, etc. etc.
  • When you are finished, wipe your hands and mouth with your napkin and then ask to be excused from the table.
  • Extra rule:  My five year old son asked what you should do if you need to scratch something.  I told him it would be ok to scratch your itch calmly and without drawing a lot of attention to yourself.  Then I remembered.... with boys you sometimes have to wonder what they may have to scratch.  So I decided even though I really didn't want to "go there"  we needed to "go there".  So I explained what should and should NEVER be scratched at the table.  I think he is crystal clear, now.  (My husband says that anything from your neck down should really not be scratched at the table.)
The kids loved the "etiquette class".  For the most part, they had great questions and were really trying their hardest to use the rules.  I decided to create a little score card for their table manners.  Over the next few weeks, I will score them on their tables manners at dinner.  This may seem a bit over the top but if I am going to turn these manners into habits, we need major reinforcement and motivation.  Their motivation will be good table manners equal dessert (and cleaning your plate, of course).  I unveiled the idea to the kids and they loved it (they love to earn things, especially dessert).  I also told them if they have earned dessert every night (Sunday through Friday) then they will earn a double dessert on Saturday.  SCORE!!!  THEY ARE IN!

Here are the scores sheets.  Feel free to print and use.  I figured if I was going to the trouble to make the cards for my kids I might as well share. :)


* After clicking (click here to print), you will be sent to a Google Doc page.  From there select "file", then select "download".  The image will download to your computer and then you can print from there.



Here's to happy dinners and beautiful manners (or at least dinner without "scratching", belching, or any other noises from the body).

Elizabeth





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