Why you should teach children to eat with manners

>>  Sunday, April 22, 2012

We are on Brownie Pack holiday this weekend (please don't ask how my back is going to stand up to it, I've no idea) and knowing what I was about to face set me thinking about table manners.

I'm going back to my 'I've done a lot of residentials' with children again. This means we spend a lot of time eating together. On Brownie Pack holiday we purposely move the seating at meals around a lot so there is experience of mixing with different leaders, children, conversation etc. Meals are a great time to come together and talk, we learn conversation skills, sharing, trying new things, it's a nice time to be together.

Unless it involves the lip smacking, mouth wide open, talking with mouth full, spitting food child. I have a particular intolerance for this (which I will blog about independently) but I have heard the most gentle, tolerant leaders say 'do not sit me with X again, I really can't face it'.

Children need to learn when it is appropriate to finger eat and when not to.  I'm not getting posh here but if the sausage has been floating in a plate of beans it should be picked up with a fork, if sausage was on a dry plate then fingers can probably be gotten away with!

It is possible to teach them not to breath so heavily into a cup whilst gulping juice that they sound like Darth Vader with sinus. And the 'AHHHH' after every swallow isn't a necessity.

Napkins are for wiping lips on, even mopping up spills, not for blowing noses on then putting back on the table.

'Please could you pass me the .....' is the way to the jam jar, not reaching across the table dipping a sleeve in someone else's dinner.

I know this sounds like a grumpy rant but I'm not talking silver service, I'm talking basic knife and fork, mouth closed, no slurping manners. So many children can do it, why are there as many that can't?

Teaching 'appropriateness' of behaviour in a particular place matters. Yes at home they may be allowed to have a burp the alphabet competition but not if Grandma is visiting (she hates losing at it).

If you teach them this they can move between social situations and basic appropriate manners but you have to invest time into it as parents. Social boundaries (and kindness) prevent me from asking them to stop slurping, although I have been known to send them off for a nose blow and hand wash!

So hey, it's only a pack holiday does it really matter? No not really but these types of behaviours learnt when young become habitual. Your child's business prospects will be hampered if they can't apply social manners, how about the first meal at the in-laws or celebrity snaps in 'Hello'(!)

Manners matter and they are learnt from us.

(and I promise to try harder to put my own glass house into order too!)


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