Dinner Table Manners

Dinner Table Manners November 15, 2011

After Juris Mater’s great post on Body Language, I started thinking about manners at the dinner (or breakfast or lunch) table in our home. I have received the advice that while children are young, we certainly want to instill good manners, but should strive to do so in a way that engages them and makes sense to them on their level. The idea is that we want our children to associate mealtime with pleasant family conversation and delicious food, rather than a stressful experience where their every movement is scrutinized.

To this end, my husband had the great idea of phrasing some of our mealtime rules in the form of catchy rhymes. We sat around the dinner table one night a couple of months ago and came up with a couple of phrases as a family. Here are a few ideas – please share your own!

“Food on the floor becomes your chore” – i.e. if you spill food while you’re eating, you will be cleaning it up after the meal

“Red rover, red rover, be sure to lean over” – pretty self-explanatory, but “red rover, red rover” sounds much less confrontational than “Lean over your plate!”

“Toys at a meal, mom and dad will steal” – i.e. if you bring your Lego creation to the table, it will be quickly pocketed by mom or dad

What other ideas do you have? Do you think that this approach might work for your family? If so, sit around the dinner table and see what your children come up with – you might be surprised at their cleverness!

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  • This is a great idea.u00a0 Here is my contribution: when one of my kids whines that they don’t like the dinner, we tell them “you get what you get and you don’t get upset”.u00a0 We actually use that one for more than just meal times.

  • Anonymous

    Happy Mother – We use a similar phrase too. (And more than just meal times as well)nn”You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.”nnAnd of course there’s everyone’s favorite,nn”Mabel, Mabel, strong and able, get your elbows off the table.”

  • Mary Alice

    We have a rule “no singing at the table” but we always sing it.u00a0 Then the collective, sung, response is “then why are you singing?”u00a0

  • Jurismater

    Love that one, Happy Mother, my daughter heard it at school and it’s become our family favorite! Seriously, is there any more important lesson in life for kids and adults? It encompasses gratitude, yielding in personal preference, generosity, graciousness.

  • Jurismater

    Kat, these are great… we may take one or two for our own use. This is just the right spirit for teaching manners, I think. Intentional, but lighthearted!

  • Anonymous

    We loved hearing these rhymes when we visited!u00a0nnOur 3 year old is a picky eater (I know you are smirking, JM, that we have a child that doesn’t love raw spinach and foie gras). The last 3 weeks he has refused to eat dinner with much whining on average every other night, and I put him straight to bed kicking and screaming with no dinner. Is there a better way to do this? I am pretty tapped out by that time of evening and generally have no patience for whining especially at meals. Would a cheerful rhyme help me?nnI don’t offer the same dinner for breakfast, which I know some people do, mainly because he sleeps later than the others and often has a banana and cheese in the car.u00a0

  • Areader

    Read Ellen Satter on eating and how to avoid food battles!