How Much Should You Focus on Your Child’s Table Manners?

By: Kristen Yarker ‌‌‌

Table manners, like most matters of etiquette, can cause a strong reaction in us – really getting under our skin. However, having too much focus on your child’s manners can interfere with your child meeting their nutrition needs. And, interfere with learning the lifelong habit of being a healthy eater.

When it comes to table manners, the best course of action is to not focus on manners. Like many other things, your actions speak louder than words. Kids naturally have an internal drive to master things and grow up. Eat together with your child on a daily basis. Use good table manners yourself – use utensils, a napkin, say “please” and “thank you” when you ask someone to pass you the pepper, don’t get up and down from the table like a jack-in-the-box. Your child will pick up your good habits.

That is, as long as they aren’t staring at a screen during the meal (iPad, phone etc).

Don’t sweat your child’s messy eating. It’s normal for kids to use a combination of utensils and fingers into the school-age years, depending on the food and how hungry they are. And like all things, some kids learn to use utensils faster than others.

Now this doesn’t mean that the table can become complete chaos. There’s a difference between being messy while eating and playing with your food. Messy eating – don’ sweat it. Playing with food – that’s the time to intervene and nip that behaviour in the bud.

The most important factor for kids to learn to love healthy eating is to enjoy eating at the table. This requires the tale to be a pleasant place. Constant nagging about table manners (“elbows off the table”, “use your fork”, etc) can really get in the way of kids enjoying meals.

It takes a lot of effort to organize yourself to plan and prepare meals and snacks and to have an adult sit down with your child to eat together. Congratulate yourself for accomplishing this and know that over time your child will learn good table manners.

‌‌About Kristen

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Kristen Yarker, MSc, RD helps moms and dads support your picky kids to get good nutrition today, and instill a lifelong love of healthy eating.
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