Do you find yourself repeatedly saying these things at meal time to your children? Well, I did. At the onset of summer, it became very apparent that my children were in dire need of a refresher on table manners. The casual reminder seemed to be doing no good. They had developed bad habits, and I needed a good way to reinforce positive behavior. After a little thought, I decided to make a game out of it.
I grabbed my smart phone, downloaded a simple free score keeper, and entered each child’s name. (A paper and pen would have worked just as well.) At the next meal, I explained the rules and the reward for the winner. Every time a child was caught using good table manners, that child was awarded one point. If a child was caught using bad table manners, that child lost a point. As the reward, I baked brownies once someone reached 100 points, and that child got to have the extra batter in the bowl. No one was really a loser here because everybody got to eat brownies!
Here are the specific table manners that we focused on:
- Come to the table quietly
- Do not eat before we pray
- Use a napkin to wipe mouth and hands
- Sit square to the table
- No playing
- Elbows off the table and one hand in lap
- Chew with mouth closed
- Don’t talk with food in your mouth
- Ask to be excused from the table
- Clean your place when you’re done (our motto is “Clean your place and kiss the cook’s face!”)
This was a fun way to reinforce desired behavior. No one got in trouble. Parents didn't get upset. The kids learned valuable skills (hopefully). Oh, did I mention? We got to eat brownies!
Have you had success teaching your children table manners? How did you go about teaching them? Maybe you’ve used a similar or a very different tactic to gain desired behavior that you could share. I’d love to hear your experiences.