It is one thing to have a vision for your family; it’s another thing to have a perfect vision for your family. Take the family dinner table (please! as some exasperated families might exclaim). This is a great way to reconnect as family, feed and nurture souls and make sure that your family is making the mark nutritionally.
But a problem arises when the maker of the family meal (usually Mom) has visions of Norman Rockwell family dinners dancing in her head like proverbial sugar plums. Let’s cut to the chase, shall we? Those Norman Rockwell pictures were paintings, not actual snapshots taken in someone’s real home. This was Norman’s exercise in fantasy caught on canvas — not the real deal.
If your family is anything like mine, your children are likely to be the conductors of all manner of unseemly behavior that would make a grown man’s eyes water. You know what I’m talking about — wiping their mouths on their sleeves and putting such large forkfuls of food in their mouths that knowing the Heimlich maneuver is essential just to survive until breakfast the next day.
The question is — how do we bring up these children of ours to not be social misfits and ne’er-do-wells at the dinner table?
The real answer to decent table manners lies with the parents. Children must be trained, and part of that training is by example. Here are a few dinner table rules to consider for everyone involved:
• Put your napkin on your lap. It requires very little energy to do so and will endear you forever to the hostess.
• Wait for the blessing, if one is said. If you want to blow away the hostess, wait for her to sit down and pick up her fork.
• If you find you must spit something out, it is better to use your napkin than to gross out the entire table with the big wad of unchewable meat you pulled out with your hands and perched on the side of your plate. It is also unnecessary to make an announcement about your finding.
• If you are drinking something from a glass or enjoying your soup, it is preferable to do so silently. It is unnerving for well-mannered guests to listen to five people at the same time slurp soup.
• It is better to ask your table mate to pass something to you than reach across him and drag your sleeve through his gravy. This will most assuredly cause great distress to the person whose plate you have desecrated and the person in charge of laundry.
• The words “please” and “thank you” have not been stricken from the English language. Use them liberally.
• If there is something big and green stuck in someone’s teeth at the table, make inconspicuous hand gestures to notify him or her. Again, loud announcements of this sort are completely unnecessary. Likewise, if there is something big and green stuck in your teeth and someone gestures to you about it, kindly ask to be excused and take care of it out of view. Using a fork tine, credit card, or even toothpick to dislodge the intruder is highly frowned upon.
For some reason, manners aren’t taught as quickly as they are caught. Becoming vigilant with dinner table habits will serve everyone in the family well. Manners are a common ground that helps to establish the dinner table as an enjoyable place to be. Use them, and they will serve you. Forget about them, and they (or the lack of them) will embarrass you. It is a simple thing that costs nothing and yet could cost everything in a social setting. Manners are essential: Don’t let your children leave home without them.
PS–We created a great menu to help teach kids great manners called Manner Minders. Click to download your copy!
Want some delicious dinner-time recipes to help the family practice those all-important manners around the table? Subscribe to Dinner Answers today!