|Manners Are Served!
by SARA AHMAD
To teach your kid to be polite at the table, etiquette mavens have cooked up a plan
Some of the traits you love about your kindergartener or first-grader - her boundless energy, honesty, and hands-on approach - may be the very things that can drive you absolutely crazy, or freak you out during mealtime. If you're at the end of your rope with how she behaves at the dining table, consider yourself in good company and take comfort in this: You can teach any 5- or 6-year-old basic table manners in a few weeks, but it takes repetition and practice. You should introduce no more than two or three concepts at a time. Otherwise, it's too much information for a young child to process. Here are four simple steps that will end supper time shenanigans once and for all.
Say Please And Thank You Without Prodding
You taught your child these words when he was 2 or 3, but maybe he uses tem inconsistently, or only with reminders from you. If your kid tells you "Oh, yeah" when you ask if he'd like a drink, or he snatches a roll out of your hand without thanking you, help him understand why it's important to be gracious. Explain to your child that "please" changes a demand into a request and sounds nicer, while "thank you" shows someone that you care about what he's done.
Have A Seat
By the time kids are 5 or 6, they should be able to sit at the table and remain relatively wiggle-free for at least 20 minutes. Start by finding a comfy position for your child. Chances are you no longer use a booster seat at the table for her, but your chairs are designed for adults. A cushion might help, and you may find that using a stool from the bathroom as a leg rest also works wonders.
Make Friends With The Fork
Five-and 6-year-olds eat so many finger foods that they can legitimately be confused about what parts of their meal require utensils. Let your child know that if he's unsure, it's best to ask you. And be consistent about what you require: To get your kid more comfortable with utensils: Put him in charge of setting the table. You can say something like, "Now that you're getting older, I think you're ready for a grown-up job of getting the table ready for dinner. We'll do it together the first few days, and then you can do it by yourself." Talk to your child about what to expect at restaurants as well. Let your kid know that it's okay to wipe his mouth with the fancy cloth napkin in a restaurant.
All the "pleases" in the world will seem insignificant if your kid responds, "Eww, that looks gross," when your best friends asks her if she'd like an egg-salad sandwich. Teach your child that if she doesn't want to eat food offered at someone else's house, she simply has to say, "No, thank you."