Cleaning Up Table Manners

This was cross posted to DC Metro Moms

My husband always says our kids (who are almost 4 and 2 ½) are animals at the table. He’s probably right. But when I look at them eating with other children, they are about middle of the road—not the worst and not the best. So slowly we have been trying to clean up their table manners because well, it's just good to have good table manners.

I know it can be done. I remember the first time I saw it in action at my son’s dagis (aka preschool) in Sweden. I walked in each day to pick him up, but one day I caught the end of lunch. Every child was sitting down to a hot meal (soup, salad and entrée) with a real plate, fork, spoon and knife and a plastic cup. They all sat nicely and were chatting by candlelight! This was when I knew that we Americans are really animals when it comes to eating. Eating on the run, eating standing up, eating while reading a book.

I have declared dinnertime the time of day to be civil—as best as we can. Now, I will be honest, my husband doesn’t make it home in time for dinner most nights. I make dinner, the three of us sit down and eat and he eats later. So it's hard to make this the time to sit as a family. But I feel it’s my role as “mom” to set the general tone of dinnertime where we all stop, turn off the DVDs, put away the toys and books and eat like human beings.

My son started very early knowing this was when we asked “how was your day?” After finally getting Alex and Anna to learn to use utensils at 2 and 1, respectively, we could at least pretend to be human. Alex would ask everyone “how is your day?” We’d respond appropriately and move on to other topics.

The latest issue was waiting until everyone was seated before we all chowed down. This was solved by my in laws visit last summer. Alex decided he loved the ‘saying grace’ aspect of the meal. While I have never been a ‘pray before meal’ kind of girl, I welcomed the opportunity to thank God for the food on our plate if it meant we’d all at least start the meal together. So Alex’s grace goes like this: “Thank you God for the food and thank mom for making it. Let us enjoy this food. Amen.” Hey, I can’t argue with that. The grace changes from time to time, but that is the general idea.

Ok, I can now check 'starting together' off our list. The next issue is the matter of scarfing down food at the speed of light. A girlfriend of mine mentioned setting a timer for 10 minutes. During that time she requires her two kids to sit at the table, eat and engage in some sort of conversation. Once the timer goes off, they are free to exit. I tried this. I was pleasantly surprised that my kids can actually spend more than 10 minutes at the table. Indeed, when the timer went off, my kids were still actually eating. Yay! Cross that off the list.

The next issue is getting up a million times during a meal. I have told them time and time again to sit down and eat. Don’t get up and play with a toy. Don’t get up and do this and that. Don’t get up and stand on your chair. The new rule in our house is if you get up from the table, then you’re done. No coming back for food on your plate later (unless it’s a potty break).

And of course, the most difficult table dispute is the “no thank you” bite. I absolutely insist that everything on the plate must be tried before anyone gets down from the table. While I would love for them to finish it all, if they at least try it, I'm OK with letting it go for now.

So our dinner ritual last night went something like this:

We sat down to eat--minus my husband who works late most nights. Alex initiated grace which was, as usual, “Thank you God for this food it looks very yummy. Thank you mommy for making it. Enjoy the food. Thank you God.”

We ate and enjoyed some conversation about the day. Everyone ate most of their food, including the salmon I made. It was more a “no thank you bite” for Alex, but Anna actually ate the whole thing. Who knew? They both finished up and carried their plates to the kitchen. Mommy sat enjoying her glass of wine with a smile. I wish daddy had been here to see this!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good post!