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13 Basic Table Manners for Kids

Dear Dr. Dave and Dr. Dee,

Is it still improper to have your elbows on the table when you are eating? I have two boys 9 & 10, who seem to think I'm crazy. Any other table manner advice you can give me would be well appreciated. I'm trying to raise our boys to have somewhat decent table manners.



Dear Bewildered,

For informal dining situations, it's okay to rest an elbow on the table if you're not actually eating. But, if you're eating, then only rest the forearm or wrist on the edge of the table. One doesn't want to be hunched over their food. At formal functions, no elbows on the dining table.

Tell your kids that table manners are more than about proper eating; it's about being kind and considerate of others. Also, tell them although you know that they are smart and nice, other people will judge them on how they appear. Having proper table manners is one way people judge others, and they wouldn't want people to think that they're yahoo's, do they?

Whether in a restaurant or in a home, here are some basic table manners to teach kids:

1. Eat with a fork unless the food is meant to be eaten with fingers. Only babies eat with fingers.

2. Sit up and do not hunch over your plate; wrists or forearms can rest on the table, or hands on lap. You don't want to look like a Neanderthal.

3. Don't stuff your mouth full of food, it looks gross, and you could choke.

4. Chew with your mouth closed. No one wants to be grossed out seeing food being chewed up or hearing it being chomped on. This includes no talking with your mouth full.

5. Don't make any rude comments about any food being served. It will hurt someone's feelings.

6. Always say thank you when served something. Shows appreciation.

7. If the meal is not buffet style, then wait until everyone is served before eating. It shows consideration.

8. Eat slowly and don't gobble up the food. Someone took a long time to prepare the food, enjoy it slowly. Slowly means to wait about 5 seconds after swallowing before getting another forkful.

9. When eating rolls, tear off a piece of bread before buttering. Eating a whole piece of bread looks tacky.

10. Don't reach over someone's plate for something. Politely ask that the item to be passed to you. Shows consideration.

11. Do not pick anything out of your teeth, it's gross. If it bothers you that bad, excuse yourself and go to the restroom to pick.

12. Always use a napkin to dab your mouth, which should be on your lap when not in use. Remember, dab your mouth only. Do not wipe your face or blow your nose with a napkin, both are gross. Excuse yourself from the table and go the restroom to do those things.

13. When eating at someone's home or a guest of someone at a restaurant, always thank the host and tell them how much you enjoyed it. At least say that you liked the dinner or mention a specific item that was particularly tasty, i.e. the dessert was great. Again, someone took time, energy, and expense to prepare the food, so show your appreciation.