I have two of the most animated grandchildren in the world. They are so much fun and are so full of life. Now for those of you who have grandchildren, you are sharing my thoughts! I am often asked about etiquette for children and specifically table manners. My, what a subject: table manners for children.
When I was growing up, table manners were expected everywhere we went, and it started in our home. Mom was just as mischievous as us kids, so Dad had his hands full. At 88 she is still the same. That’s why my grandchildren want to sit with Mimi at the table; they know good times will abound. And that’s what it’s all about: enjoying every moment together around the table.
We had happy times around the table, but we were expected to behave. We were led by example, and that is truly the way most children are taught. There are courses children can attend where the basics are taught, but children typically imitate what they see. Our pastor makes a great statement when he dedicates babies: “Children will seldom listen, but they will always be watching.” Well if that doesn’t hit home, nothing does.
My grandchildren know when they come to our home we always sit down at the table to eat. We have a napkin and flatware that I encourage them to place on the table while I am finishing up the food. Then I ask them questions as we eat, such as “Where is your napkin placed?” or “if you don’t like something, what do you do?” Their answers are always funny, especially when you discuss things you don’t like to eat. But it makes them think.
When we go out to eat, as we are driving, I talk about how wonderful it is to dine out but that we must always think about others that are around us. Not only is it important that we have a wonderful meal but so must other families sitting near us.
I gave them an example of an experience Neal and I had not long ago. We were dining and at a nearby table a young child (old enough to know better) was constantly screaming and running around. You could see heads turn and eyes roll and shoulders rise, but the parents were totally oblivious. In my attempt to solidify this, I ask them to find the most well behaved child in the restaurant. It is amazing that they will observe bad manners and good manners.
Always ask “What is the proper thing to do?” It makes them a part of the teaching experience when they have to tell you what is proper. I believe meals should be enjoyable and that manners should be taught with ease. When you brag on a child, they rise to the occasion!
Our table should be a place of fellowship and sharing life. Conversations and fun moments will always be treasured. Consistency in combining manners with fun will result in enjoyment. As they age, occasions will call for more instruction, but live in the moment with smiles abounding!