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Manners Make Family Mealtimes Enjoyable
Mealtime manners area taught as soon as baby is sitting in a highchair. Table manners begin before the food is even placed on the plates.
Children should wait until the family is seated together before beginning to chow down. One way to accomplish this is to serve your meals family-style. The food is served from platters on the table after family members have assembled. (Children under two should not be expected to wait more than a minute or two once seated in the highchair.) Serving family-style, the food at the table isn’t placed on individual plates until after everyone is seated.
Another positive routine to incorporate at the table is to take a moment to thank God for the food. The family praying together models thankfulness and appreciation as well as patience.
Giving children an opportunity to thank God for their family and food not only makes them a part of the process, but encourages thankfulness. The signal that it’s now time to begin eating the meal comes when grace has been said.
It’s a pleasure to share a meal with a child who is polite, like Ethan.
If you’re not already thanking God for your blessings before you eat, it’s a good habit to begin. Saying grace will focus everyone’s attention on thankfulness. We found that the gesture of holding hands during grace helped to still our fidgety pre-schoolers during the few moments of prayer.
Attitude Is Everything
You know when your child is being childish and when your child is testing you. Toddlers are naturally messy when they eat. Accidentally spilling milk shouldn’t come with a consequence. But, it’s obvious when your toddler is defiantly throwing food on the floor because he/she doesn’t want to eat it.
That’s when positive-discipline comes into play. Time out is an effective positive-discipline method to enforce mealtime rules. When your little one’s naughty behavior disrupts dinner, remove her from the table. Gently deposit her on a child-size chair facing a wall. The place you decide on for your child’s time out should be devoid of activity.
An appropriate time out is one minute for every year of age. Although, time spent crying doesn’t apply to the time-out minutes. Of course older, grade school children may be excused from dinner altogether, when naughty behavior becomes an issue. Once a child has been removed from the table because of naughty behavior, the unintended consequence is they won’t be enjoying any anticipated dessert.
Manners Are Learned
Eating with your mouth closed is a learned behavior. If your child chews with his mouth open, kindly remind him to close his mouth when chewing. If your child speaks with food in her mouth, ask that she/he, “Please finish swallowing before talking.” Not only is it impolite to talk with a mouth full of food, it could be a choking hazard.
“That’s yucky! It’s disgusting. Or I don’t like that!” are comments that should never be tolerated. Not only is it impolite for children to make rude remarks about the food prepared, it cements the idea that some food is yucky. Look for positive attributes for your child’s less favorite items. What color is it? Who especially likes to eat this food? What is the texture like?
Burping at the table is distracting and unappetizing. Sometimes a child can’t control a burp. Instruct your child to close his mouth before he burps and to say, “excuse me”, afterward. Never encourage inappropriate behavior by laughing. Purposely belching isn’t to be tolerated and your child should be removed from the table if he does.
Kids often grab things from across the table. All that is needed is a reminder that you’d be happy to pass the item, if only they’d ask. Playing with food is often considered impolite. But, it depends on the age of your child and if the “play” is constructive. If an older child is being obnoxious and distracting, he’s obviously testing you, a toddler needs to experience all the attributes of a food, before appreciating it’s taste.
Interrupting others is also impolite. Teach your children to say, “excuse me” when they want your attention. If they continually interrupt you while you’re talking, remind her/him to be patient, “Please wait one minute, then I’ll listen.” When children take part in the family discussion at the table, the temptation to interrupt will be less. An interactive dinner conversation booster is for family members, including children, to tell about something memorable that happened during their day.