Is the behavior of your children a deterrent to happy, joyful entertaining? Practice a nice meal without guests but with all the proper silverware and place settings. Teach everyone how to properly pass food at the table and to offer dishes to others before taking a portion for themselves. Teach your young men to pull out a chair for a lady. Dress up for dinner. Your valuable instruction now, in the safe and caring setting of your home, will save unnecessary embarrassment when children are in public or at someone else’s home for dinner. Additionally, is there any reason your family shouldn’t practice most of these good table manners in your home every day?
It takes your constant instruction on a routine basis to teach children to sit up to the table, not stand up in their chairs, keep their elbows off the table, chew their food well, not talk with their mouths full, and generally be polite. Practice doesn’t make perfect; only perfect practice makes perfect. If you only expect good manners during company situations, children won’t remember how they are to behave at other times. You may feel like a broken record or a scratched CD at times, continually reminding your children about their manners, but this is an important long-term effort. Young adults who reach eighteen and still don’t know or recognize proper etiquette will experience life hindrances. Remember the question: If I don’t teach [a certain skill], will the lack of that knowledge be harmful or a hindrance to them later in life?
Perhaps good etiquette wasn’t part of your early training. If not, buy a good etiquette book and learn with your children. Good manners books specifically for children are available at various online bookstores. The most important rule of good etiquette—more important than which fork to use—is always to think of the other person’s needs. Do what makes someone else comfortable, and you will rarely go wrong.
B&H Books (2007)Homeschooling at the Speed of Life: Balancing Home, School, and Family in the Real World.