Sunday, November 29, 2009

Oh no...It's dinner time.

My husband and I -or maybe just me with my husband going along to keep the peace- have decided our kids need to learn better table manners, but the process is killing us. Our once semi-pleasant dinner hour is now mommy’s critics corner where violators of the agreed upon protocol are reprimanded continuously from the time we start the meal, until the time the meal is over.
And at the end of the meal, we usually just stare dumbstruck at each other as our rule breakers happily go off to play.

So what brought about our worry concerning our beloved children’s table etiquette? Several things really, like observations during meals out, and then paying more attention to how my kids were eating instead of how much they weren’t eating. My son is a rather picky eater right now, so my main concern has always been in the amount of food he is getting and not in the fact that he chooses to use his fingers instead of his fork. But after painfully witnessing and enduring several dinner blunders, I quickly decided that I had to set a standard of decorum when it comes to sitting down to a meal, and I decided on the following:

  • Forks not fingers will be used to bring food to our mouths, and the only exception will be designated finger foods such as pizza. This rule also includes using the serving utensils instead of our appendages to put more food on your plates
  • This has started to be a real problem in our house, and most of it, I think, is due to just laziness. I can’t tell you how many times I repeat this during one meal, but when I pay attention to what I’m eating and look back again, their fingers are once again on their plates! I remember saying that no one would want to sit next to them at lunch if their hands were constantly in their food, and I got the, “Everyone else does it too” response.
  • While singing at the top of your lungs may be enjoyable to you, the rest of us could use a break, so please refrain from doing this at the table and anywhere in our general vicinity.
  • I would love to sing Christmas caroles with you, but I don't want to be doing dishes at 9:00 PM, so let's eat.
  • Coughing without covering your mouth with your elbow is strictly prohibited. I don’t care if you don’t have the H1N1 virus-no one wants you to spew your germs all over their food.
  • This is driving me crazy because I have repeated this over and over! I know the kids have had the “cough in your elbow” thing drilled into them since pre-school, and I know they follow this rule faithfully in school, so why do they think I want to share in every illness that they have?
  • Everyone should wait his or her turn instead of trying to out-talk or drown out another person’s conversation. Everyone has the right to have his or her say in the dinnertime chitchat, but patience is preferred over sulking or tantrums when someone else is talking.
  • This has been a real problem because big sister wants to monopolize the conversations and then finish her brother’s conversations as well. He was a late talker so my daughter took on the role of his interpreter, only now he would like to talk for himself.
  • And speaking of talking, we all would appreciate it if you refrained from talking with your mouth full of food. We prefer to eat the meal without seeing it in an altered state from within your teeth and gums.
  • This one is better left unexplained.
  • Don’t just reach for the dressing, ketchup, or other item on the table. Ask and someone will pass it to you and do so nicely.
  • I refuse to respond to “give me this,” or “give me that,” and my kids are pretty good with this one, especially after a glare from me.

I introduced a number of these rules to my kids over the years, but none of them have really sunk in and harping on them during dinner is giving me a constant case of indegestion, so that brings us to plan b: consequences for actions. My kids and I are off one more day so we are going to undertake a craft project-a chart of expectations and consequences for mealtime behavior. If this doesn’t work, my husband and I are either going to change our evening meal beverage to wine or we will look only at our plates, but personally I'm in favor of the wine...


  1. I always ask my daughter to tell us about her day at dinner. Then when she is DONE I ask my husband abouthis day. The minute he opens his mouth, Emily has more to say. Every. Single. Time.

    It drives me nuts!

    I don't think I have heard about his day in 3 years ;-)

  2. I like your rules. I may borrow them.

    Too bad we didn't live closer to each other. We could skip the dinner craziness together and grab an uninterrupted bite to eat. Oh, the little joys!

  3. I could have written this post! Dinner is so crazy over here. Logan once again opted not to eat rather than try a couple of bites of Alphabet Soup. Hopefully your kids fall in line soon!

  4. Oh dinner time... with a teenager, tween, toddler, and baby, I haven't had a hot meal in like 2 years. It's like that scene in the movie The Christmas Story. That's me... the ugly mom!
    Good luck at dinner and have plenty of 2 buck chuck on hand!

  5. This is too funny Susan! Makes me realize how things like "dinner" can bring up so much stress. You are one brave woman to lay down the rules. I usually just give up! I know thats sad but sometimes I just dont want to deal with drama. Not the best thing to do, but lets me enjoy my meal.

    I am feeling inspired by your rules and writing down some new rules for our family. Thanks for the motivation!

  6. I use a lot of the same rules. The twins are three, so I'm not as tough on them. My husband on the other hand, expects them to follow the rules - period. I'll have to get a little tough too after reading your list, and familiar reasons.

  7. Ladies, I'm glad you like my rules... Thanks for your comments.


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