We’ve all been in a restaurant or store and witnessed a child that’s pitching a fit, throwing food, or even flat out running away from mom and dad. Like any life skill, manners must begin at home. If a child is allowed to be wild at home, then why wouldn’t they think it’s okay to be wild out in public?
In our family, we teach that there are different manners for different places and situations. As adults, we know this but so many times, we make the mistake of assuming our children should know how to act when we as the parents haven’t truly taken the time to teach proper manners. When most people hear the word manners, the first thing that comes to mind often times is mealtime. So, I’ll begin with mealtime. I am not talking about white tablecloth, linen napkins, 7-course meal manners…that’s ridiculous. I am talking about common sense, polite manners that, unfortunately, are missing in many kids.
I know there are many opinions about what should be expected of kids at mealtime and I have my own (strong) opinion about it as much as the next gal. I am not a short-order cook. I do not pass out a menu and give 7 different food choices. It is completely ridiculous to open up the pantry or refrigerator and ask young kids what do you want to eat. If you want to nurture choice making, then give 2 choices, not open season on the pantry. For dinner, the whole family eats the same thing. If I am taking the time to prepare a meal, everyone will take the time to eat it.
Now, how about when a child sits and sits and sits and won’t eat or finish their meal? When it’s time to eat, it’s time to eat. A child should absolutely not be allowed to sit and refuse to eat. Obviously, I am not talking about a baby; I’m talking about a child that is old enough to feed themselves. The argument is often made, “why force a child to eat, as that is only teaching them to eat even if they aren’t hungry”. If you as the parent are serving up appropriately sized portions for a child, then they should eat it. Period. We spend time as a family eating dinner as often as we can. When the rest of the family has finished and one child is being stubborn, then we will set a timer and the child knows that he or she has that amount of time to finish. Using a timer accomplishes a couple of things. One, if keeps you as the parent from having to nag your child and repeatedly remind him to eat. Two, if you explain to your children, this is what is expected, then there is no room for argument or bargaining. It sets a boundary for your child and they know the rule. We use the timer and if the timer dings and the child isn’t done, then he or she doesn’t get a snack or dessert. We don’t have dessert every day but it can be as small as one cookie or some fruit snacks that they miss out on. Not only do they miss out on a treat in our family, but we save the food and warm it up for them to finish the next time. This isn’t cruel or mean. It teaches them discipline and teaches them that it isn’t okay to be wasteful. Furthermore, we as adults take leftovers home from restaurants so this is basically the same idea.
As far as other table manners, we also teach our children to chew with their mouth closed, not talk with food in their mouth and keep their elbows off the table. You may say, “they’re just kids, they don’t know any better, they’ll learn when they are older.” Really? If you don’t teach them, then who will? How your children behave is a reflection of you. If you were a guest in a friend’s home, eating at a restaurant with friends and your child’s behavior is embarrassing to you, or you feel the need to explain and make excuses, then you really aren’t doing your child any favors.
My name is Jamie. I am married to my best friend, who also happens to be an active duty Marine. I am a stay-at-home mom of three kids: Abigail is 7, Peyton is 5 and Preston is almost 9 months old. I am not a perfect mom, nor do I have perfect children but I work hard at giving them life tools to make the right choices. With God’s help, they will grow to be what today’s society considers “good kids”. It is not my goal to have good kids according to the standards of the general public but according to the standards that we have chosen to follow as a family and what we feel pleases God.