Manners? Even if the rest of the world has forgotten them, you shouldn’t. Here are Five Table Manners Every Kid Should Know (and we should be teaching.)
Thanks to Terra Mediterranean for providing the perfect dinner experience for this post.
“I’m never having children,” I remember telling my date (now husband) as we dined at a restaurant one Friday night full of loud, thankless, and rude children.
I didn’t want to be “those people” with ill-behaved children that couldn’t handle what I considered basic manners like not burping at the table, saying thank you, and eating only chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese.
Fast-forward to now with two kids, now 9 and almost 6, I’ve softened a bit on my dining out rules with the kids. There have been plenty of nuggets and mac eaten, devices brought out to keep them quiet, and a fair share of cleanups that caused a double-tip on our part once we left the restaurant. Unfortunately I’m not proud it’s happened and will most-likely happen again much to my dismay. However, there are some basics I feel like as parents we have to keep pushing no matter where and what we’re eating.
Growing up, whether it was meatloaf at home or a rare fancy dinner out, basic table manners were mandatory. You knew if you didn’t utter thank you or keep your chompers closed while you chewed, you’d be asked to leave the table, go hungry, or something much worse. That was the norm and the expectation.
I know things have changed and many table manners (forks to use, where to lay your napkin, or proper pinky etiquette) don’t seem as relevant anymore. While I still think elbows are fine on the table and believe everyone should know the B and D rule just because it’s a handy reminder when you roll up to a business meal, there are few we need to not just make sure the kids learn but we keep exercising ourselves – and more often than most of us do.
Five Table Manners Every Kid Should Know
1. Try New Cuisines.
Remember the first time you fed your baby mashed bananas or rice cereal and watched them go through the process of trying something new? It was like the most amazing day ever and you might have cried even a little to see their first reaction. However, somewhere around 3 or 4 years old many of us stop trying the discovery of new foods and settle for the five dishes offered on the kids’ menu or what we can microwave in less than two minutes.
I’m not saying you need to introduce a completely new cuisine every time you go out to eat, but probably the only way brussels sprouts are ever gonna beat out a burger is to make them try it. At our house we call it a “No Thank You Bite.” Our kids have to try something they’ve never had at least once. After one bite, they can say “no thank you,” but only after one bite.
However, I do believe discovering new cuisines isn’t so much something kids should have to do as much as everyone should. Recently we took ours to Terra Mediterranean in Irving to try a some tzatziki, gyro, lamb and I had heard about “the most amazing cauliflower ever.” I was in.
They weren’t quite sure what to expect and I admit taking them to a new restaurant is always a little unnerving, but once we opened the door, the most patience staff greeted us and waited on us hand and foot (kids and all.) What I was even more relieved was to find there were just as many girls’ night / young couples at the place as there were families. It was a great mix of people, an amazing menu of both traditional Greek and unique dishes like my Sea Bass with an artichoke cream sauce and pine nuts (I’ve been talking about it ever since), and a lovely, comfortable, but still upscale feel.
2. Use Your Napkin.
Oh yes, this one is on the list for a lot of reasons. Mostly, because kids are messy so let’s try to mitigate everyone’s losses. You don’t have to go through all the napkin mumbo jumbo when they’re little (napkin on the chair, on the table, on your left…), but it should be on the lap and on the lips. That’s your first step.
Then once your husband starts using the napkin correctly, perhaps you can teach the kids (kidding..well kinda.)
3. Chew with Your Mouth Closed.
Good luck with this one as it’s hard to teach when so many adults don’t do it. However, who wants to see a cow chew its cud (that’s what my dad always said.) This also includes not talking with your mouth full. I know, I know, we all have done it and sometimes it’s permitted (like “NO! Don’t do that, honey”), but for the most part this is the one that doesn’t have a profound change in them except don’t be gross, don’t be rude, and sometimes it’s best to think it out first before you say whatever comes to you mind. (That’s another good one for all of us to remember.)
…As you can see here, it doesn’t look like she could even get her mouth around this gyro, but she worked it until she did. I did tell her it was chicken until she was done and when she told me how good it was, I let her know it was lamb. I wish I could have been honest, but sometimes they need a little convincing (a little Mary Poppins technique) and this gyro is really convincing! (Don’t worry she did finish it with my help.)
4. Say Thank You.
This is probably my #1.
“Thank you.”It means so much, can do so much and leave a big impact with just two. little. words.
I’m sure you remember a moment when someone did (or worse, didn’t) say thank you and how it made you feel. I feel like it might be the single most important thing to say to others. When someone comes to top off my water, bring me my plate, open the door, whatever…I say thank you and I can only hope that’s something I can teach my children, especially in customer service and specifically food service. (If you’ve been in it, you know.) No one should ever feel like a servant or beneath another person even in the nicest restaurant or hotel. Say thank you when anyone does anything for you. It’s not just smart when it comes to the people bring you your food, but it’s the human thing to do.
Make sure “Please” gets in their repertoire, too. PLEASE.
5. Teach Tipping.
Think tipping is something that only the person throwing out the credit card should do? Nope, we talk to the kids about it. We ask them to give us their thoughts on the meal and why we pay for a tip. While there is a little difference when we go to another country, it’s important to acknowledge what it takes to create a successful meal experience (and when someone doesn’t do it either.) We also ask them to take a look around and see how they’ve left the place before we go. If they have made a mess, they need to clean it up the best they can.
So with all these expectations, wouldn’t it just be easier to stay at home and just ignore the whole thing? NOPE! These manners aren’t just stupid rules, but are a basic set of tools to being a kind, respectful, and polite person. And that is our job. What they do after they leave our table…well that’s up to them, but at least we’ve done our job. And besides, you can still slap ’em with a cane when you’re old…:)
I would suggest taking up on specials, buffets (like Terra Mediterranean has on Saturdays) and early dining when you are teaching kids manners. This way you have the opportunity to have the experience, especially when they’re young that doesn’t interrupt the people around you, especially if the restaurant has a price point and people might be on their date night (leaving their kids at home.) And a buffet like at Terra gives them even more changes to get in that “No thank you bite.”
Terra Mediterranean has two locations – one in Fort Worth, one in Irving and coming to Plano this fall. Make sure to check out their special events (1/2 off bottle of wine night), don’t miss their cocktail/wine offering (some using Mediterranean libations you can’t find anywhere else), and don’t fill up so much early on or you will miss the baklava…or the cauliflower…or the hummus…well, you get it. It’s all good.