The good and bad tend to come to light at the dinner table. It can be tough to teach your kids how to sit at the table and use proper manners at mealtimes, but it’s well worth it. If they learn how to sit at the table at home, they will know how to do it correctly when they are at someone else’s house, at school or at a restaurant.
1. Table Manners
Have you ever seen those kids that run around the restaurant while their parents are trying to eat? More than likely those kids don’t practice eating at the table at home. They have to be taught how to sit at the table, use utensils properly, and eat politely. Even in the high chair, they can be pushed up to the dinner table and included in the family meal.
Learning to have a conversation with the people at your table is a life-long skill. In the school setting, we spend a huge amount of our time, trying to get the kids to talk in a normal inside voice to the people around them while eating. Many of them don’t know how to have a conversation with the other kids around them. They can be taught how to ask questions that lead to good table conversation.
3. Help set the table
Teach your kids how to place the plate, fork, knife, spoon, cup, and napkin on the table. Tell them what is for dinner and help them decide what needs to be placed on the table and where to put it. For instance, a soup night will have different utensils than a pizza night. They also need help thinking through what condiments might need to go on the table like ketchup, mustard, salad dressing, salsa, salt, pepper, etc.
4. Help clear the table
Teaching your kids to always clear off their place setting after the meal is a huge help. They can carry their plate, utensils, cup, and napkin to the sink area. Also, teach them to scrape their plate in the trash or scrap bucket and empty their cup. Our youth minister works hard to get his teen students to clear their table when they are finished eating. Most of them just get up and walk away from their plate. He has even chased them to the parking lot to get them to come back in to clear their table. These are kids who were never taught to clean up after themselves. Don’t let your kids be like them.
5. No distractions
Mealtimes at the table should be an electronics free meal. Most family meals do not last a long time. Everyone at the table should focus on the others sitting with them. This is difficult for many parents to do. But you are the example and you need some face to face conversation with your family.
We don’t always sit down to a meal at the table every night. Our schedule just doesn’t let that happen. I have made it my rule that if everyone is home by 8:00, we will have a sit down meal. If it’s going to be that late, we may have to have a snack early in the evening, but the main meal will all be together. When I say “sit down meal” I don’t necessarily mean a totally home cooked 3 course meal. If I get home early and feel up to it, I’ll cook a full meal. Generally, it just means food that we eat together at the table. It could be a frozen pizza and a salad, soup out of the can and crackers, BBQ that I picked up on the way home, or anything quick. The point is that it is eaten together at the table. Sometimes one of us will have eaten earlier and that person can still join us at the table with a drink and maybe eat a little bit.
How do you spend mealtimes together at the table?