There are many techniques that parents can use to teach children how to behave during meals. However, it may take a while since the child does not have self awareness and is not mature. The best way that a parent can teach a child on how to behave properly during meals is simply to set a good example and the children will emulate that behavior. A parent can set up a formal dinner that is complete with dinner plates, cloth napkins, glasses and even silverware. He then passes the side-dishes and entrees and even serves food to the smaller child while at the same time encouraging the older child to kindly ask his glass to be filled or a dish to be passed. The child will thus be able to learn good table manners by copying the parent.
Some parents use role playing to teach their children good behavior skills during meals. This is done through setting up a dinner that is formal or through tea parties; where children will learn how to be a host at a party or how to be a wonderful guest. Parents can use this opportunity to teach the children on how to behave during meals and at the same time correct the children where they go wrong. Attending an etiquette training school can be enormously helpful, Often times children and young adults will respond more favorably when instructed by a teacher rather than a parent. As a mother I found this to be true many times.
Using puppets, just like role playing, is a good and effective method that parents use to teach their children proper behavior during meals. The parent and the child can create puppets and perform skits about a family having a meal. The parent will be able to teach the child using puppets on how to politely ask for things such as salt or sugar, how to participate in table conversation, how to properly excuse themselves from the table and so much more
Many books and videos are available that can be very useful in teaching children the basics regarding table manners. They are a useful supplement to the real training that a parent gives children while they are at home.
Additionally, there are hundreds of children’s books that have pictures. These books use illustrations and rhymes that humorously portray good and poor table manners. Parents can read these "manners manuals" with their children also providing a platform where children can practice what they have learned. Parents can even encourage the child to write their own manual.
It is advisable for parents to know that reinforcement works best in teaching children about proper table manners. Parents should avoid lecturing and scolding their children when they make a mistake during meal times. Overemphasizing the setbacks and mistakes that a child does will not help them. The parents should practice being specific, sincere and positive with the remarks that they make.
Good parenting skills entails that parents should be consistent in training their children on acceptable table manners and always remember to praise the children when their behavior is good. Children can be overwhelmed or overexcited when they are having dinner in restaurants or when they are in the company of guests; therefore parents are advised to lovingly reprimand them briefly so as to refocus the child’s energy.
As children and young adults learn how to fit in in any social function their self-esteem and confidence will soar. And that is wonderful!
Marcy Breault "Etiquette Training Guru"