Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Teaching Children Table Manners

Teaching Children Table MannersEtiquette is becoming a lost art--whether we're honking in traffic, hanging up on telemarketers or forgetting to say a simple "thank you" it seems the busier we get the more we forget to practice good manners and courtesy.

In an effort to help my children learn better manners I came up with a system of "A Manner of Month" that we've implemented off and on as our children have grown. Each month we focus on one manner--one aspect of courtesy--which we practice throughout the month.

It is usually a table manner that can be practiced at the dinner table when we are all together at meal time though sometimes it's telephone etiquette, writing thank you notes, how to greet someone, opening doors for others or saying "excuse me."

For example, we might focus on the following:

January--boys seating girls at the table
February--napkins on laps
March--chewing with closed mouths
April--not interrupting
Map--asking to be excused
June--thanking the preparer or host
July--waiting until all are finished before leaving the table
August--no elbows on the table
September--not complaining about the food
October--saying "please" and "thank you"
November--using the correct utensils
December--not reaching across the table

Or any number of other aspects of proper behavior. While you still might be shocked at what goes on at our dinner table, in my defense I can say that if you could see us now, just think how bad it would be if we hadn't done anything! It could always be worse . . . and they're a work in progress.

The goal is to some day be able to learn that they were seen eating in a public place and be embarrassed--for them to participate in a meal at someone's home without their host wondering if they were raised by wolves. It could happen . . .

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35 comments:

Nikki said...

Great idea! I love that you broke it down by month. I'm saving this page to my favorites to refer back to. :)

Mom of three said...

That is really a wonderful idea! It seems so overwhelming to tackle it all at once every night. I can see that one month of practice per rule would work much better. We shall start tomorrow night!

Joyful Days said...

Great idea. We are aware of some of the basics here--but implementation??? Nahhh...

30 days to make a habit is what I have heard...must try this.

Rae said...

GREAT idea! That's an awesome way to teach children, I'll have to remember this for the future. Thanks for sharing, enjoy the rest of your week! =)

Overwhelmed! said...

I love this idea! I'm bookmarking this post as well. Thanks so much for sharing!

Chris said...

I agree that etiquette and manners are a lost art. I'm very anal about manners and etiquette around here, especially since I have only boys. Their manners are already so ingrained at the ages of 6 and 10 that they're always complimented. I've had people tell me how lucky I am to have such well mannered boys. Sorry, but luck has nothing to do with it. Anyone can teach their kids manners just like I have and just like you are. Good job!

PortraitofPeter said...

How wonderful to see your ideas - detailed for each month.

Manners are so very important - and do agree - perhaps even more so in today's society.

Thank you for sharing.

MC Milker said...

Great idea- would have made a good Thursday Thirteen too - with a bonus month!

Yvonne Russell said...

Hi Michelle

This is a great idea. Etiquette classes for children and teens are also coming back.

I always enjoy reading the old fashioned etiquette books. Much has changed since last century, especially in terms of formality, but the basics remain the same.

All the best

Yvonne

Lei said...

I really like this idea... rather than bombard them every night with a million corrections!

Shalee said...

Michelle - this is brilliant. We work on it at home, but this makes it so much more managable for the kids. And you can always go back to the items learned earlier as reminders that etiquette is requred at all times.

Thanks!

Lisa Milton said...

I love this. When I explain the reasons why this stuff matters, this manners thing, my kids are surprised. Surprised because we live in such a rude society.

I think I say something is rude everyday.

Anyway, thanks for the idea. Brilliant.

Heather said...

I never thought of focusing on one manner at a time. That's a great idea. My 9 year-old was setting the table the other night and he sat at each place to make sure everything was within easy reach for whomever would be sitting there. I told him that was a sign of a good host. I HOPE he keeps those ideals!

la bellina mammina said...

wonderful idea - our good manner lesson is a work in progress too and I'm so glad I started it when they're still young.

janet said...

So many parents don't teach the fundamentals of good table manners and as these children grow up they can become the ridicule of others who have been taught.
My son had a friend that would visit and eat with us on occasion. He had no manners as a child and still doesn't as a young adult. Sad.

Leslie said...

Good manners are so important. This is a great way to cover the bases. Great idea!

Mayberry said...

Love it. I spent some time with a 6-year-old relative recently and never once heard a "please" or "thank you" issue from her lips. It was appalling.

Kathleen Marie said...

Fabulous! I tried to teach my children as well and a great book was Miss Manners by Judith Martin. My daughter took the book with her to college and it was an older addition but she still uses it. Seriously, this is a great book.

Another great book for girls is The Fascinating Girl by Helen B. Andelin ...it is an amazing book.

Wonderful!

Julie Pippert said...

Great idea but...how old are your kids?

We're still working on the "sit at the table to eat and ask to be excused" bit. I have added in the "clear your mess away" for them as well. But I feel like we better get the basics down first.

Michelle A. said...

What a great idea to have something each month. I know we struggle every meal - although, I have to admit - it's getting better.

Congratulations on guessing the laundry contest! How can I get your care package to you? Look for my email on the announcment post!

As always - love your post today!

TeaMouse said...

This is so important, what a great idea.

I am new to reading your blog - thanks for popping by and leaving comments on mine so I could meet up with you and discover your blog.

Today I am tagging you with the Thinking Blogger Award - so stop by and see what all the fuss is about.

Heffalump said...

We have been thinking about doing something like this, but with life skills. A lot of kids these days don't learn basic life skills. So we are choosing one skill per month like cooking a basic meal(or basic kitchen skills for the younger ones), hygiene, phone etiquette, laundry, etc. Also some of the more basic things that little kids have to learn like tying their shoes (those velcro shoes sure make it easy to put that off) and combing their own hair. I will have to add some table manners into the mix. Thanks for the idea!

nutmeg said...

This is brilliant. We're starting tonight. Bugger, does that mean I have to start cooking?

Amy said...

This is such a great idea and one my favorite posts that you have written. I am going to add it to my favorites listed on my blog for tomorrow and we are definitely going to be doing this in our house.

We are working on the basics with our son right now. This month has been him saying the prayer at the dinner table and putting our napkins in our lap.

Coach J said...

I liked your yearly list. Even manners don't come easy for kids living in the South where we always say m'am and sir!! Manners truly are beginning to be a lost art.

Melissa R. Garrett said...

Great idea! We do the same around here ~ focus on one specific thing instead of overwhelming the kids with an impossible list of expectations. Right now we are struggling with: food belongs at the table and nowhere else. They are horrible little sneakers, and we've been finding too many crumbs in corners and under couch cushions. As far as table manners are concerned, I think it's safe to say we won't be invited to the White House anytime soon!

angie said...

What a GREAT idea!!

Momish said...

Oh, I am so there with you, I think manners are really being foresaken in this fast paced and casual world. I have Amy Vanderbuilt's Etiquette book from the 1950's (bought in a thrift store ages ago). I just love reading through it from time to time and learning about the "old ways" and manners. It's great!!!

Your kids will thank you one day for being brought up so well. Good manners go a long way in the real world.

Mamma said...

I completely agree, but I can't help but be the cynic here. Is it working?

I'm big "magic words" and proper table manners, but I think I might get laughed out of the house if I broke it down by months.

Please don't get me wrong. I think it's great, and I love men with good manners. I'm just wondering...

my4kids said...

March--chewing with closed mouths

hmmm that is one I have been working on for years.........
its a daily battle because it grosses me out!

wayabetty said...

What a great idea Michelle! I thought TV was bad for kids, but we found this one recorded show "On Demand" (if you have Comcast)that shows "table manner" and the boys watched it many times and they actually learned something from it.

K T Cat said...

Great idea! What we did was to put 10 pennies in a paper cup in front of each of us. Whenever we did something that wasn't polite, like the things from your list, that person lost a penny. The person with the most pennies at the end of the meal won bragging rights. The kids loved it. They still ask to play the "Penny Game" at dinner.

dgm said...

oh man, i'd jump "not complaining about the food" to the top of the list. i say let them eat spaghetti with their fingers for a few extra months--i don't want to hear complaints.

'round here lots of families send their kids to cotillion, but i just can't see myself doing that (but not because my kids have perfect table manners. no sir.) it's just ... not my thing.

Maricar said...

Wonderful idea! Nowadays children need to be taught good table manners. I'll do it with my kids. God bless

mcewen said...

You bring a tear to my eye. Well done you. Perhaps I could offer lessons on the art of spittoon use, in return. Now there's an 'art' that disappeared over a century ago, thank goodness. Or is that just in a different country?
Cheers