With pressure on parents heading into the Easter holidays to get everything DONE and be a fun Mum, we certainly don’t want this post to be all preachy. But holidays are the perfect family time to try to instil some new healthy habits and you may be surprised to hear that table manners top the list for growing healthy kids. Our child nutrition expert gives us the Scoop.
Deb Blakley is a previous Scoop Sub of the Month and a highly experienced community nutritionist, dietitian and mum who is passionate about kids learning to love good food from birth and beyond. Deb has worked on community nutrition initiatives as diverse as breastfeeding promotion and food security. Following the success of her facebook page Kids Dig Food, Deb has recently launched a new website and consulting business for Kids Dig Food. Make sure you follow her for practical tips and nutrition news to help you grow happy, healthy kids or talk to her about a workshop for your childcare centre or kindy.
Do “children of today” really have no manners? I have often asked myself if this is really true, and if so, why? Most likely each generation considers that things have “gone downhill” somewhat since they were young, but were manners “taught” in a more formal way to previous generations? Perhaps so. I had cause to ponder these questions recently when my dear mother-in-law (Grandma), my Miss 5 and I went to a tea house to play “ladies” for a bit of fun one morning tea-time.
Two Old Ladies
“Two Old Ladies” is a quaint little place known for its delectable high teas at Pomona. Upon entering I noticed not unexpectedly, but with some trepidation, that the whole interior seemed to be covered in an obscene amount of fine bone china. Looking nervously from the delicate cups and back to my 5 year old, I wondered how this particular meal would turn out. We gingerly sat down at a small table for three where I noticed an amusing list of do’s and don’ts of table manners hung on the wall. Among the DO’S were tips on napkin etiquette, how to hold a knife and fork and which utensil is appropriate to use for dessert. The DON’TS suggested that loud eating noises, talking with one’s mouth full, licking fingers and picking teeth were all frowned upon and that it was not polite to use bread for dipping into soup or mopping up sauces. We were in trouble! I will say from the outset that no china was broken, though I confess that a few saucers were clattered. The experience did make me consider what manners we had been “teaching” at our dinner table at home, and perhaps where I need to spend some more time. Perhaps we even need a list? Here’s an hilarious version courtesy of a family friend, Prue, when she was 7!
With my kids’ nutrition and feeding behaviour lens on, here’s what I came up with…
Table Manners 101 – for children of the 21st Century
Respecting Food: Every bit of food that we eat should be appreciated because, let’s face it; there are many families who go without. From another angle, think about how many people toil to get it to your plate? The farmer, the packer, the truck driver, the shop assistant? Whether this is in the form of a simple acknowledgement of thanks to the preparer, remembrance of those who are going hungry or a prayer; being Thankful is important.
Say Please and Thank You
These are the hallmark of manners at meal time and at all times: “Please may I have some more?”, “No thank you, I don’t want to try that today”, “Please can you pass me the…”, “Thank You for making a lovely dinner Dad”. Please and Thank You help children show respect for others. Enough said.
Do not say YUCK!
Respecting the food preparer: Ban the word YUCK! whenever food is served. There’s nothing worse than slaving in the kitchen to prepare a lovely meal and being confronted with YUCK! Teach little ones a polite way to turn down new, unfamiliar or disliked food with a “No thank you” instead. Expect it, and reinforce it over and over. It can take time, especially for very fussy children with many food dislikes.
Sit Still, Don’t Wriggle
Easier said than done I hear you say! Just hear me out for a moment. We CAN help children come to the table attentive to the meal, ready to eat and less likely to be distracted from eating when they get there. HOT TIP 1: Aim for kids to come to the table hungry. Offer meals and snacks at regular times and don’t cave into begging for extra food in between meals. HOT TIP 2: As much as possible, engage in a calm activity just before a meal or snack is served. A perfect opportunity to get some little helpers in the kitchen!
May I please leave the table?
Wriggling and generally distracted and disruptive behaviour can be a sign that your child is not hungry. Ask: “Is your tummy telling you that it’s full?” If the answer is yes, then it may be appropriate to allow the child to respectfully ask to leave the table. Stick to your guns – offer no more food until the next meal or snack. Distracted kids soon learn to eat at meal times when they come to the next meal ravenous! No child ever starved overnight.
I’m not sure if the Two Old Ladies would have given Miss 5 a gold star for Table Etiquette, but if we work together to master Table Manners 101, I know I will be most proud indeed. We’re not quite there just yet!
Love it Deb! And so impressed with your Kids Dig Food Facebook Monday Munch question and answer service. If you have a questions on kids and nutrition Deb is your go to girl or scroll back through the Kids Dig Food archives for fantastic tips and hints. How about you lovely readers? Were you made to say please for your peas? Drop us your views below or perhaps you have a question for Deb?