Your child must see you and the rest of the family setting the etiquette and good manners standards, be it at the dinner table, greeting people or answering the phone, how you interact with people and talk to them, in fact, with anything and everything you do.
Remember you are never alone, their little eyes are watching your every move! This is how children learn! They mimic the way you sit at the dinner table, the way you eat, the way you walk, the way you talk, the way you act, in fact they carbon copy everything you do.
They spend their early formative years almost exclusively with you, then they go to pre-school and realize there are other ways of doing things and other people to watch and copy.
Notice how up until then your child rushed to wash his hands before sitting at the table to eat? In fact he loved the idea of splashing in the water and mimicking what dad did.
Perhaps take an opportunity such as this to explain why one washes their hands before a meal. Explain that all the germs from everyday living is clinging to the little fingers and fingernails.
After the meal…
Children are at most times messy eaters, using their little fingers to assist shoveling the food into their mouths, let them go off and wash their hands again after the meal. Nobody wants messy finger prints on their walls and furniture! Even if you don’t mind cleaning up after them, think of the times they are a guest in the home of someone else. The someone else might mind!
Now at school he has noticed his friend Johnny never, washes his hands before eating, and so he argues why should he have to wash his hands?
All of sudden your child’s table manners have gone to pot! He has begun to burp, slurp and try to outdo his older siblings and friends with the most disgusting behavior one could ever imagine. His manners are shocking! Most of his showing off is normally done at the dinner table for maximum effect, since this is where the family gathers.
It is so important to remember, that good table manners for children always start in the family home. Relax Mom, this is quite normal and sometimes even humorous. But unfortunately for your child, now is the time for you to hit him on the head with the imaginary book of ‘Table Manners ‘ – only kidding! It’s now time for you to set boundaries and to reinforce good behavior, ignore the bad behavior and bad manners, and keep setting the good manners example – you have to practice what you preach.
Table manners for children should just be a normal way of life. Always praise and reinforce good behavior. Be specific about what impressed you (so that they can repeat the performance). The fact that your child showed good manners and table etiquette while a guest in someone’s home is something to be proud of. It is a reflection of the type of home your child is being raised in.
Personally, I used dinner time as quality time with my family. A time to share the day’s events and discuss a variety of topics. It was a time to relax, I really looked forward to gathering around the dinner table as a family unit. Good table manners and etiquette were just a normal part of our every day meal.
It was quite normal to say things like, ‘keep your elbows down, you look as if you are about to take off’, ‘ask your sister to pass the salt, don’t stretch in front of her’. There was no need to turn the whole meal into a table manners and etiquette lesson.
Children should be allowed the occasional meal in front of the TV, but it should be a treat and not the norm. How do you teach table manners and etiquette to children while the children are totally mesmerized by the box? They can barely find their mouths!
As I keep stressing – lead by example. If dad sits at the table in a vest or without a shirt on – the children will do the same. They will also do it at their friends’ homes, the shopping mall, even when you are on holiday and staying at that 5 star hotel.
In fact they will keep doing it even as adults. Good manners and social etiquette should be a way of life, the way you as parents live your life in your home. If you and hubby never say please and thank you, you can hardly expect the children to.
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