Family Time: Instant Protection Against Dangerous Influences

Moms on Edge LogoFamily time is a necessity for those wishing to build happy and healthy families. Parents that take time out to eat as a family, play, read, and talk together, teach children that they matter, that relationships are worth nurturing, and that strong family bonds breed success. 

Setting aside blocks allocated for family time can be very difficult for busy families. By the time everyone is home from work, school, sports, and other outside activities people are tired, playing a board game seems like the least important item on the to-do list. However, playing a board game, metaphorically, is the most important item to cross off of the list.  

Family time is valuable time when parents can take time out to observe their children, follow their children, hug and kiss them, encourage, guide, and laugh. Family time is when children feel comfortable opening up to their parents; this is a time when the mood is relaxed and children feel supported, valued and loved. 

Eat together

Studies have shown that the family activity with the greatest positive impact on children, is sitting down together to dinner each evening. Benefits for children include learning patience, (family members should wait for everyone to be served before eating and remain at the table until everyone is through), sitting quietly and calmly to eat, and listening attentively and participating in the conversation. If an evening meal is impossible to schedule, families can find a different meal to gather, a fun idea is to set the table later in the evening when everyone is home, and have dessert together.  

Children should be included in meal preparation, setting the table, and clean-up. Although table manners must be taught and reinforced, mealtime should be a pleasant experience with a focus on togetherness. Quick behavioral reminders will reinforce good manners and then conversation can be resumed. Parents should choose to be in a good mood and not let the day’s issues weigh down the meal. After all, this is family time! 

Creative planning can make the evening meal easier to put on the table and clean up afterwards. Simple meals, and meals prepared in advance and frozen, are good ways to ease the evening scramble and help keep the focus on family time, not on cooking and cleanup. Instead of spending an hour cleaning the kitchen after the meal, simple meals free up some time in the evening for togetherness. 

Shut off the television and the computer

Shutting off the television in the evening helps to place the focus on the people in the house instead of the strangers on the screen. The evening hours spent interacting as a family instead of staring at the television will benefit everyone greatly and will help create warm and lasting memories.  Shutting off the television and the computer eliminates the risk that children will be exposed to damaging levels of violence and sexual content. Experts claim that violence and sexual imagery negatively change the brain chemistry of children, resulting in permanent changes in the brain’s wiring.   

Set a relaxed mood

Bathe young children and put them in their pajamas. Put on some light music that isn’t jarring or offensive, this often cues a little impromptu dancing from children, always good for a laugh. No arguing, bickering, or crabbiness. Family time should be warm, joyful and happy. Parents should be demonstrative and giving, snuggle, hug, and kiss the kids and each other. Family time like this is ideal for modeling loving, kind behavior. 

Find fun games and activities

The nature of children is to be fun loving and flexible and open to many ideas. Coloring, board games, guessing games, acting, playing with dolls or cars, and reading are all fun things to do together. Allow children to help set the evening agenda. One idea based on the Montessori principal of learning suggests observing the child and leading by following the child.  

There are other opportunities during the day for family time

The evening is not the only option for family time. Parents should seek out other times to be together. Take the kids on the morning and afternoon dog walk, invite them to join in on gardening, ask them to help wash the car or help with the laundry. It is probably true that activities will be completed slower with kids as helpers, but their happiness far outweighs the inconvenience. 

Parents who zone out each evening in front of the television or computer for hours and hours rob children of the necessary family time that they need. It is stingy of parents to choose to channel or web surf over spending time with their kids. In a blink of an eye the kids will be up and out of the house and parents will have the rest of their lives to stare blankly at a screen, alone.  

Making a conscious effort to spend quality family time together is vital to the health and welfare of children. Children do not thrive if parents don’t interact with them daily. When parents choose to have kids, they automatically choose to sacrifice their time to raise their kids. Family time is a parenting tool which helps to regulate the content that children are exposed to and introduce healthier activities. Developing strong relationships with children also will build bonds that last a lifetime.   

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Nurture Your Child Not Your Ego

moe-logo.jpgParents should never allow their egos to become wrapped up in their child. Many parents measure their own value and success by their children’s successes and failures. Children behaving like children, not hitting milestones early enough, or not living up to a parent’s unrealistic expectations, can be devastating to these parents and to the healthy development of their kids. The parent becomes focused on what the child can do versus on who the child is.  

A perfect example of a parent never satisfied with her son’s accomplishments was the mother of a preteen tennis player. When complimented by another mother about her son’s skills, the tennis player’s mother responded through clenched teeth, “Well, he’s no Roger Federer.” (She was referring to the number one tennis player in the world, a living legend, and perhaps the greatest player in history.) 

The mother’s response was typical of a parent desperate for her child to astonish and dazzle the world. Her expectations were destructive to herself and to her child. Her comparison robbed her of the joy of watching her son play, and because even Meryl Streep isn’t a good enough actress to hide the kind of disappointment the mother was feeling, this child’s self-esteem was most likely suffering as a result of her conditional love. 

The other side of the coin is the parent who takes all of the credit for the child’s success and creates an entire identity around that child. This parent yearns for an exceptional child. The parent is special because the child is special. The child becomes responsible for the parents feelings of self-worth.  

It is important for parents to disentangle their egos from their parenting. As soon as the umbilical cord is cut, children begin their own journey through life and even though hands on, attentive parenting is vital to their growth, children deserve to own both their disappointments and successes. Parents are then able to comfort, encourage, applaud, feel pride and express love.  

Taking parenting personally can also make parenting much harder. Unable or unwilling to see the child realistically, the parent misses what skills, manners and behaviors need work, and then the parent gets frustrated and confused when the child acts out. “But my child is gifted, why is he unable to potty train? I must be a bad mother.” 

Recently a very well known parenting expert was quoted in the New York Times, “The thing about toddlers is that they are uncivilized,” Dr. Karp says. “Our job is to civilize them, to teach them to say please and thank you, don’t spit and scratch and don’t pee anywhere you want. These are the jobs you have with a toddler.” 

To a parent who has their ego enmeshed with their toddler, the Dr.’s insight above would be terribly offensive and even hurtful. Instead of saying, “Yes, that is exactly what I am experiencing with my toddler, and I am really enjoying helping my toddler to become civilized,“ she says, “How dare he say that my child is uncivilized.” The mother is unable to actually see that the Dr.’s statement is not a personal attack, he is saying that her role is vital and it is okay to have a child who doesn’t understand proper social skills, and with her unconditional love and training the child will learn. 

Being objective and establishing appropriate boundaries with offspring is an important step towards not allowing ego to get wrapped up in the child. “Helicopter Parents” or parents who hover, are very inappropriately involved with their, often, adult children and have skewed the division between themselves and their child. For example, it has become commonplace for parents to come to the defense of their children who have been given a low grade or have been reprimanded by a teacher. Their ego is damaged when their child needs correcting, and in response they bristle and challenge the professional. The term “helicopter parenting” has been coined to describe these hovering parents. 

A true but unbelievable example of “helicopter parenting” happened at a large insurance agency. The father of a smart, well educated and capable, twenty-five year old woman, called her boss to discuss her job performance. Weeks later this same young woman missed a flight to a meeting she was supposed to take with her boss. He understandingly told her that she should go straight to the office and work. Instead she took an 8 hour train ride to the city to try to attend the meeting anyway. When questioned why she did not go back to the office as she was instructed, she responded, “My mother told me that I had to go to the meeting.” 

Parenting without ego helps develop healthy self esteem in kids. Children experience their parent’s unconditional love and feel valued for who they are and not what they succeed at. When parents allow their children to be their own people instead of an extension of themselves, children begin to take responsibility for their own decisions, likes and dislikes, good and bad behavior and choices. Establishing appropriate boundaries between parent and child helps the child become autonomous and independent and not feel pressured to excel in the hopes that their parents will feel fulfilled.  

An excerpt from a wonderful poem that summarizes this theme is in Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet: 

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.

“Must Use” Parenting Tool: Nine Point Checklist for Proper Phone Etiquette

moe-logo.jpg Parents learn quickly that telephones are like magnets to children. With multiple cell phones and land lines ringing, children have greater access to phone communication than ever before, and are more fascinated than ever with their use.  

Per Spiderman’s creed, “With great power comes great responsibility,” children need to be taught early that the telephone is not a toy and that proper behavior is a must for anyone who uses the phone. Parents should always model courteous phone etiquette.  

The check list below is a good parenting tool to ensure that children use the phone properly. 

Ask to use the phone

To maintain boundaries, it is a good idea to require children to ask before using the phone. Very small children can be tempted to hit the redial button over and over, annoying the person on the receiving end. Older children can while away hours chatting, before parents become aware.  

Answer the phone properly

Parents should equip children with a polite greeting for answering the phone. “Hello, may I help you?” or “Hello, who is this speaking please?” are polite salutations and not abrupt like, “Yeah? Who’s this?” Unless the child knows who is calling, he should refrain from identifying himself. If the child knows the caller, (the phone is handed to him, or he recognizes the number displayed on the caller I.D. feature) he should say politely, “Hello, this is “Dan”.” 

When a child answers the phone and it is for someone else, he should politely say, for example, “Yes my mom is here, one moment please while I get her,” and always hand the phone to the requested person. Yelling, “MOM, PHONE!” is disrespectful to caller and call recipient and should be curbed immediately. Suspending phone privileges is an effective method of reinforcing ground rules; time out from phone use gives kids an appreciation for the privilege. 

Responding to a wrong number appropriately is crucial. Kids should never give personal information of any kind to unknown callers, including their own names or the names of others in the household. A respectful and smart response to a wrong number is, “I am sorry you have the wrong number,” and hang up.  

Conversing with a stranger over the phone is dangerous. People who prey on children know how to manipulate them into giving personal information. Parents should teach kids to hang up immediately and without saying, “goodbye,” if the caller makes them feel even remotely uncomfortable. After hanging up, the child should alert a parent immediately. 

Older children, home alone, should never let a strange caller know. Parents can train children to have an excuse ready, “I am sorry but my father is busy and can’t come to the phone right now. Goodbye.” The child should hang up immediately without further discussion. Screening calls is an even safer idea, kids can pick up only those calls where they recognize the caller’s I.D. 

Use a polite salutation when placing a call

A child placing a call should identify himself using his full name, “Hello, this is John Jones, is Miranda at home?” is a polite greeting. 

Speak so the listener can understand

Kids should be told to use an “indoor voice,” and encouraged to speak into the receiver clearly, without mumbling or yelling. Very young children sometimes go silent or trail off when on the phone, so parents should be ready to encourage the conversation or take over. Parents should make sure that the caller is amenable to speaking to a small child, as adorable as kids are, not everyone responds positively to teaching kids to use the phone. 

Establish time limits

Phone use is a privilege and parents need to set clear boundaries. Most families don’t allow calls to go out or come in between 8:00 or 9:00 in the morning and 9:00 at night.  

Set a reasonable amount of time for children to be on the phone. Preschoolers up through elementary age children are easy to limit, but parents need to be very clear and consistent with time limits for preteens and teens. It is appropriate to take a time out from the phone during the homework block, while eating dinner or during family time. Cell phone use and text messaging should be monitored to ensure activity doesn’t get out of hand.  

Finish the call politely

Little children should be taught to say, “goodbye,” at the end of the call, not to just toss the phone down or hang up. As children mature they should finish all phone calls with a polite remark such as, “It was great speaking with you,  Grandma.”  The phone should always be returned to its designated home by the person who used the phone last. 

Be respectful when others are using the phone

Eavesdropping, creating background noise, and speaking to or distracting a person who is on the phone, are all impolite behaviors that should not be tolerated. In addition, pushing phone buttons, playing with the cord, picking up an extension and grabbing at the phone are off limits behaviors that should be “nipped in the bud.” 

It is difficult for very small children to understand that they must be quiet when a parent is taking a call. Cutting calls short or planning important calls when children are napping, occupied by the other parent, or engaged in an activity, helps ensure less stressful phone calls. Parents can let older children know beforehand that they need quiet while they are on the phone.  

Take a message please

Children of about age eight and up can take a basic message. Paper and pens should be placed near phones and kids can be coached to ask for whom the call is for, who is calling, and the telephone number where the person can be reached. The child should read the information back to the caller to ensure accurate content. 

Leave a clear message

Even small children can be taught to leave a clear and concise message with their name and telephone number.  

The increase in telephone usage over the past decade has magnified the need for good telephone skills. Most people have a telephone on their person at all times. In addition, predators have gotten very adept at infiltrating homes and communicating with children. Completing the above checklist will assure parents that their children are politely and safely using the phone.                    

4 Successful Parenting Tips I Learned from my Harvard MBA Husband

moe-logo.jpgMy husband is an insightful businessman with the unique ability to create something out of nothing, envision the future, work efficiently and strategically, and quickly get to the bottom line. In his books and seminars he teaches useful business strategies to high level executives so that they can grow their businesses successfully. His clients rave about the results they achieve when they implement his lessons.

Eager to have the same successful results parenting that my husband’s clients have with their businesses, I have incorporated four of his business practices into my parenting technique.

Think Strategically

When one thinks strategically he or she devises a careful plan of action to carry out and achieve a goal. Strategic thinking is a helpful tool for today’s busy parents who are pulled in many different directions and pressed for time. Set a goal and devise a smart plan to achieve the goal. Strategic thinking can be used in conjunction with meal planning, grocery shopping, leaving the house in the morning, etc.

For example, getting the kids to bed at the same time every evening is a great goal that can often go awry for many households. Creating a step by step plan, in this case a bedtime ritual, is an excellent means towards achieving the goal of consistent bedtimes. As children become more and more familiar with the bedtime ritual their internal clocks get set and falling asleep gets easier and easier.

Strategic thinking makes parenting easier because the whole family knows and adheres to a good plan and with a minimum of stress, achieves their goals.

Time Management

Good time management asks two questions: Is the activity of value? If the activity is of value, what is the best way to do it efficiently? Parents who find that the day is overwhelming, should ask themselves whether the majority of their time is being spent doing important activities efficiently.

There are four questions that should be asked when determining the efficiency of their activities: Should the activity be done at all? Does the activity need to be done now? Can someone else do it? Does the activity have to be done perfectly or is good enough, good enough?

A simple example is setting the table for the evening meal. The answer for most families is, “Yes, this is an important activity.”  Does mom or dad have to step away from the stove to set the table now? “No, a child would feel proud to do it now.” Does it have to be approved by the Queen of England? “No, good enough will do and I am proud my child completed the table, not guilty that it isn’t perfect.”

Create Possibility and Move Things Forward

Creating possibility opens the future to bright and wonderful situations and creates opportunity. Moving things forward happens when the person acts on the possibility created.

Parents should be coming from the possibility of love for children when there is opportunity to express it. For example, when a parent is faced with a challenging discipline situation, he can scream and lose his marbles or he can come up with ideas or possibilities to express his love while still managing the children’s behavior.

“Maybe my kids are out of control because we have been in the car all morning, if I take them to the shore and let them run on the beach for an hour I bet we would all calm down.” Moving things forward is then simply Dad driving to the beach and having a wonderful time rough housing with the kids for an hour.

Another way of thinking about this is Stephen Covey’s concept of choice. As he says in The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People:“BETWEEN STIMULUS AND RESPONSE IS OUR FREEDOM TO CHOOSE. We have self-awareness, imagination, conscience and independent will. Responsibility is the ability to choose your response. Highly proactive people recognize that responsibility. They do not blame circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for their behavior. Their behavior is a product of their own conscious choice, based on values, rather than a product of their conditions, based on feeling.”

Manage Risk

With every activity in life there is the chance that something could go wrong. Putting a baby in the tub and feeding whole grapes to toddlers are high risk parenting activities. Moving the baby from the crib to a bed with a rail is medium risk and coloring at the counter with washable markers is low risk but risky all the same.

Thinking ahead will help parents manage risk and will minimize the likelihood that something might go wrong. Parents need to get in the habit of asking themselves, “If I let my kids do this, what is the most likely outcome.”

Parents should measure the probability of something (good or bad) happening multiplied by the negative impact if it does happen. They should then ask, “What is the cost of eliminating the risk?”

For example: Electrical outlets are dangerous if a child sticks a fork in one, so parents are willing to go to the baby store and buy outlet protectors. A child might possibly be able to remove an outlet cover, but is that slight risk worth the parent hiring an electrician to come in and move all of the electrical outlets up to the ceiling?

Parents who overestimate the probability that something will happen, compulsively worry and hover. People who underestimate risk don’t provide a safe environment for kids. Good parents are able to correctly estimate risk so that they protect their children when the risk is too high and loosen up the reigns when the risk is low.

Applying these business management practices to the everyday challenges of parenting will help give parents tools to parent more efficiently and with less stress. Parenting thoughtfully and creatively will model effective adult behavior to children and create a calm and peaceful home.

     

Parents Leave Your Emotional Baggage at the Door

Recently I ran across a parenting blog in which the writer was reviewing an educational product. She immediately lost credibility with me when in her first paragraph, she wrote that the product made her feel like vomiting, and then used some form of sexual innuendo to refer to the innocuous item.I was curious: What kind of a person could have such an over-the-top, bizarre reaction to something so banal?
Reading her bio and other personal blog entries, I learned that she is haunted by a very sad childhood, filled with sexual abuse and parental abandonment. The non-physical disciplinary technique she was critiquing appears to have triggered her childhood feelings of terror, abuse and abandonment. I wondered, as I read her words, if the pain from her childhood was spilling over into her parenting.

It is important for us as parents to be aware of the emotional baggage that we bring from childhood into our children’s lives. Divorce, abuse, bullying, abandonment, neglect and the many other bad experiences one can have in childhood, often spill over into adulthood, and can have a drastic effect on how adults shape their children. It is hard enough to navigate through childhood without having to shoulder the hurt, anger and frustration of one’s parents.

Parents do not want childhood events affecting their adult decision making. It is natural that feelings are going to “come up” when we interact with our children. Parenting is much harder than anyone says and far more emotionally charged. It should be the intent of parents to calmly and rationally assess situations and respond fittingly. It can be irresponsible and counterproductive to make parenting decisions impulsively, stemming from feeling.

As Steven Covey says in The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People:

BETWEEN STIMULUS AND RESPONSE IS OUR FREEDOM TO CHOOSE.We have self-awareness, imagination, conscience and independent will. Responsibility is the ability to choose your response. Highly proactive people recognize that responsibility. They do not blame circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for their behavior. Their behavior is a product of their own conscious choice, based on values, rather than a product of their conditions, based on feeling.

Bearing that in mind, the responsible parent lets the feeling come up: frustration, anger, stress, disappointment etc., pauses to choose a response, and then responds based on what is appropriate, not based on what she/he feels. Kids are precious, innocent, and impressionable; they deserve a suitable adult response to their normal child behavior.

The mom blogger above lost her authority as an expert on parenting techniques because her unresolved childhood issues forced her to respond irrationally. The venom that she spewed would have been perfectly appropriate if directed toward, say, a child murderer, but when directed towards a simple product, her reaction was weirdly out of proportion. One can only hope that when faced with parenting issues that trigger her in the same manner, she doesn’t respond with the same rage.

Parents who have unresolved issues leftover from childhood owe it to themselves and their children to take action. Working through painful emotions with a trained professional can free them up to make rational choices. Their defensiveness can be replaced by thoughtful and mature responses and decisions. A well thought out, appropriate response, is far healthier for parent and child.

All people experience hurt and disappointment during childhood. If those childhood experiences are going to have a negative effect on one’s offspring, then it is prudent to deal with the pain. Identifying that a painful past is affecting one’s decision making and then seeking help to resolve those issues, assures parents that they don’t pass on the hurt they are experiencing, to their own children. Kids deserve a positive upbringing and the guidance of a rational, loving adult unencumbered with ghosts from the past.

Six Communication Skills Every Child Should Know

“I was at a party the other night and I got trapped in the corner by a man who just talked and talked and talked. I tried to give him the signals to end the conversation, but he didn’t pick up on them. What a bore.” 

Teaching children how to communicate politely and effectively is one of a parent’s most important tasks. Assuming that children will learn proper communication skills without parental guidance is a big mistake. Parents should begin teaching their children basic communication skills at birth and continue to hone their child’s skills as the child matures. Communicating well with others is a basic tenet of society. 

Daily conversations with children are an excellent way for parents to model basic communication skills. Deliberate conversations with children, using polite conversational skills, help lay a foundation for good communication later in life. The parent’s ultimate goal is to raise a person who converses courteously, who listens to what others say, and who is able to clearly express his or her own thoughts, ideas and opinions.  

On page 195 of her book, Emily Post’s Etiquette, Peggy Post lists six basics of communication that parents should teach to their kids.  First, she advises, make eye contact. It is important that children be taught to establish eye contact with the person with whom they are speaking. Looking directly at the other person in the conversation shows interest and gives respect. Children need to be taught that looking away is a sign of disinterest and is not good manners 

Second, speak clearly and correctly. Using good pronunciation, not rushing speech and using good grammar are all aspects of communication that parents should model for children. Parents should pay attention to how their children are speaking and gently correct without embarrassing. There is no need to correct mistakes in front of others, doing so may cause children to feel self-conscious, inhibiting their speech in public. 

Third, take turns and don’t interrupt. Children must be trained not to jump into a conversation just because they feel like talking. It is important that parents curb this behavior and teach children self-control. When a child interrupts, the parent should stop their conversation, firmly tell the interrupting child to wait their turn, and then pick-up the conversation where they left off. 

Fourth, pay attention and respond appropriately. Modeling good listening skills to children is the best way to teach good listening. When conversing with children, parents should listen attentively and repeat key phrases back to the child so that the child feels heard. Ask appropriate questions of the child and allow the child to respond. Show interest in what the child has to say. The best conversationalists are those who listen well. 

Fifth, enter conversations politely. There is a correct way to join a conversation that uses good manners. If parents consistently demonstrate how to politely enter a conversation, overtime, children will learn the practice. Parents should show children how to approach the group quietly, smile to those in conversation, listen to what people are saying, and wait until they are spoken to before speaking.  

It is also important for parents to teach children how to behave politely when someone joins an active conversation. Those in the group should smile and nod to recognize the person joining them, when the speaker finishes, the group can greet the newcomer and make introductions. 

Finally, Post notes that one should end conversations pleasantly. Walking away from a conversation with good manners is a crucial skill to possess and one that parents should work hard at teaching to their children. Parents should encourage children to leave a conversation saying some pleasantry such as, “I promised my cousin that I would throw the ball with him and so I need to go now, but it was really nice talking to you.”  

Other important skills that parents should focus on when teaching children basic communicational skills are controlling volume, not using “potty talk” and keeping private matters private.  

Parents should also help children to understand nonverbal communication and cues. Rude facial expressions like eye rolling and grimaces as well as yawning at a speaker, hair twisting, turning one’s back to the speaker, finger nail picking and checking one’s watch, are all bad manners. Children need to learn that their nonverbal actions and behaviors can make people feel badly.

Learning to read other people’s nonverbal cues is an important lesson too, and with time, children will begin to understand when to end conversations, finish a story or change a subject.  

Being an adept communicator is a necessary skill in today’s world. Children need guidance from their parents to learn how to communicate effectively and politely. Good listening skills, self-control, use of good grammar, and sensitivity are all skills that are learned. If parents start modeling conversation skills early, they will help their children develop refined and sophisticated communication behaviors that will benefit them greatly in adulthood.   

14 Table Manners that Your Child Should Know

After interviewing for an exciting employment opportunity, the young candidate was rejected, “When I asked for real feedback, the interviewer told me that although my job skills and education were a good fit, some of my table manners raised a red flag. The position entails many client dinners and I guess I had a few bad habits that they saw at meals during the interview process.” The candidate continued, “I would have loved to have been taught proper table manners by my parents. I feel at a real disadvantage, and I am quite frankly, embarrassed by my lack of manners.”

Sadly the situation the interviewee faced above is not uncommon. Competition is fierce for good jobs and seats in good universities. There are many more highly qualified applicants than positions. Polished table skills are a needed asset and social skill in this competitive culture.

Every parent wants to launch their children into the world with the skills they need to succeed. Equipping children with good table manners is an important lesson that all parents should want to give to their children. Using good table manners allows the focus to be placed on the conversation not on the act of eating. Having good table manners gives people the confidence to participate in any dining situation with ease.

Start introducing manners lessons slowly to very young children and add more refined lessons as the child matures. Consistency and repetition are very important when teaching children. Parents will have to reinforce the rules time and time again until good practices become habit. Remind children whenever a slip in manners occurs but don’t scold or nag.

Practicing good manners daily will eventually lead to mastery and manners will become second nature. As children develop fine motor skills, their use of utensils and glassware will improve. With constant repetition, by the early teen years, kids will have built up a comprehensive collection of manners which parents need only fine-tune for teens to be capable of attending the most formal of occasions.

For the well being of the children, even busy families should find the time to sit down together each evening for a meal. The most simple of meals, including take-out fare, are fine choices. Make sure that the food is transferred and/or served in serving dishes and that the family uses dinnerware. If dinner is impossible on certain evenings, families can sit down later in the evening for dessert; make sure to set the table and use dinnerware and utensils.

Teaching children the proper way to set the table is a perfect start for introducing the use of utensils, plates and glasses. Explain where each utensil is placed, what it is for, when it is used, and the correct way to hold it. Young children love being given a responsibility and will happily and proudly set the table each evening. Put placemats, napkins, silverware, plates, cups and bowls within reach of children to facilitate easy table setting. A good idea in homes with small children is to purchase nice quality melamine dishes so when plates drop they will not break.

Children do not learn proper table manners overnight. It takes years of repetition and consistent training to refine their skills. Parents have eighteen years to help shape their child’s table manners so there is plenty of time to patiently work with them. Expect lots of errors and missteps, use gentle guidance, never scold or embarrass, just kindly correct and continue eating.

If parents begin teaching manners when their children are toddlers, by the time the kids are in kindergarten they will have mastery of the basics.

The following is a list of table manners that your child should have a good grasp of by age six.

  • Wash their hands and face before sitting down to the table.
  • Sit down in their proper seat and put their napkin in their lap.
  • Wait to begin eating until everyone is seated and has been served. Many families wait until an adult gives permission to start eating.
  • Stay seated in their seats without wiggling in their chairs, going under the table, or getting up and down.
  • Say, “Excuse Me,” and ask permission to leave the table.
  • Elbows do not belong on the table.
  • Mouths should stay closed while chewing and pieces should be bite sized.
  •  “May I please” and “Thank you” should be used when children would like food and never reach across the table.
  • Participate in the conversation during dinner and no interruptions when other people are talking.
  • Slurping, burping, squealing, singing, humming are all sounds that are not to be made at the table.
  • It is never kind or polite to make negative comments about what is being served for dinner.
  • Before getting up at the end of the meal say, “May I please be excused?”
  • Ask if adults would like them to clear their dinner plate.
  • Thank the cook.

Preparing children for adulthood starts the moment the baby is placed in the arms of the mother. Teaching children to use good table manners is a wonderful gift that will serve them well throughout their entire lives. Parents will be proud that their children are using the good manners that they have taught them, and more importantly children will be polished and refined and capable of being comfortable in any situation.