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    Parenting: Teaching Table Manners to Your Kids

    Geo Beats

    by Geo Beats

    Parenting: Teaching Table Manners to Your Kids - as part of the expert series by GeoBeats. Hi, I am Dr. Laura Markham of How can you teach your child good table manners? Well, the first thing to remember is that the classroom in which we are teaching is usually dinner. Since it is the end of the day, when everybody is tired, and everybody has not seen each other, and we are coming back together after a long day, and we are feeling a little disconnected, and all the parents really want is to kick back and relax a little bit, and we are trying to kids to eat healthy food, the last thing that anybody feels like doing, actually, if they are five, or six, or seven, or eight, or nine years old, and certainly if they are two or three, is to have good table manners. So, you know some people call this arsenic hour, mostly because we would like to take the arsenic, or give it to our children. So, it is a hard time of day to be expecting good behavior out of kids. But, that does not mean there is nothing you can do. There are some things you can do. So, the first thing you can do is reconnect with your kids. When you walk in the house, reconnect with your children so that they are not sitting down at the table feeling disconnected and ornery, right? How do you reconnect? Spend a few minutes on the couch listening to them about their day. If you have to get right in the kitchen and start making dinner, take them in the kitchen with you. Have a little child-size picnic table in you kitchen. Give them some carrot sticks or something good to snack on that is really easy, that is already ready, some cheese, some protein, right, something that will keep them going until dinner so they do not sit down ravenous and rude, right? So, use that time before dinner to connect a little bit so when you do sit down you can enjoy your children instead of fighting with them. The second thing you can do is role model with your kids. So, if you have good table manners, that is how your child will learn. 90 percent of what kids do they learn from watching us. So, if you have good table manners, if you say please and thank you, your child is most likely to be able to adopt those things as well. You always have to remember to be age appropriate in your expectations. Two and three year olds cannot sit at a dinner table, for very long anyway. Right? So, if you stop trying to control your child’s eating as much, and let him or her feed himself, and make it a fun interaction where you are talking about everybody’s day and everybody gets to participate, and you keep a light touch with it, kids are more likely to stay at the table longer. But again, that means you are not criticizing them about their table manners, because that is not fun for anybody, right? So, you have to have a pretty light touch when kids are little. And then, the secret is to start, as they are getting a little bit older - if you have a six year old, they should be using their silverware by then, their fork. If they are still picking everything up with their hands, that is when you say, “Honey, you notice I am using my fork? Can I see you use your fork also?” But, if you have a light touch, and you have a child who generally wants to cooperate with you because you have a good relationship, your child is probably already using her fork, right? If there are things that you notice that she is doing, like chewing with her mouth open, or playing with her food, then you can talk about those specific things. But, you have laid the groundwork by having the dinner table be a place where people feel fun and connected with each other. They will be coming to the dinner table straight through their teenage years looking to have a good conversation with you, and that is what you want.