In another kingdom there was another little boy, also about four, who was invited to a friend's house for dinner. The host-mother thoughtfully made pizza, assuming that all kids like pizza. The little boy looked at it, decided he didn't like it and announced, "I'm a vegetarian." Since there was ground beef all over the pizza, the mother suggested he eat the salad and garlic bread. Using the tongs, the little boy picked a few tomatoes out of the salad and proceeded to scarf down most of the bread. The host-father said, "You aren't a vegetarian. You're a 'pick-a-tarian'!"
photo credit: Clarskston Scamp
Oh my, which boy would you be happy to claim as your own?
These are true stories where I was involved, but I won't give away any clues as to who the parents were!
Wouldn't you love your child being the one who exhibited good manners at your house and at others? It is possible. Here are some simple suggestions to make it possible at your house:
- Model good manners--You've heard it said that behavior is caught more than taught. So sit at the table, say please and thank-you, don't slurp, burp, or grab. Etc...etc...etc.
- Keep it simple--If you are starting with young children, don't make too many rules. Maybe "stay in your chair" would be a good first rule. Or perhaps you want to hear "please" more often. Start with no more than three rules and when those are mastered, move on.
- Make it a game--the Dobsons (as in Focus on the Family founder) used to have a "rule" that if you forgot to put your napkin on your lap you had to walk out of the room and come back and try again. Even parents! What about if you are looking for that magic word? Maybe if they ask for the bread without saying, "Please" you could pass them something else, like the pepper. Every time they ask without saying, "Please" pass the wrong thing! Do it with a smile and if they don't get it after a couple tries, give a clue about what you want them to say. What other upbeat game can you make up?
- Talk about it--when your kids are a little older, discuss what manners are and what they are for. Maybe look up the words manners, etiquette, deportment, and courtesy together and talk about them. Help them come to the conclusion that manners are to help everyone in the situation feel comfortable. Then ask,
|Photo credit: Pink Poppy Photography|
- "What makes you comfortable when we're at meals together?"
- "What makes you uncomfortable?"
- "What makes you comfortable or uncomfortable when eating at someone else's home?"
- "What do you think makes Mom/Dad/Grandma comfortable?"
- "How can we work together to all be comfortable when we eat together?"
When your mealtime is marked by people enjoying being together, eating together will be something your family will want to do. Being together is the first step in building those family connections we all long for.
For more ideas on how to teach manners and another great game we used with our kids, check out my book.