Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Cute, aren't they? Oooh, but it's amazing how difficult these little people can make it to have a sane family dinner. Recently Dave and I found we were spending almost the entire mealtime correcting their aberrant behavior. In response, Meg and Matthew seemed to want to ramp up the rudeness. It was not fun.
So I decided I would make table etiquette an official part of our school curriculum this year. (I'm doing some very simple preschool/pre-k work with Matthew and Meg this fall.) I spent some time online, trying to figure out what others have done, but in the end I decided to do my own thing. This is a small but fun creative challenge for me, and it also allows us to address the specific issues we encounter with our kids in a proactive way. Thus was born "Table Manners Tuesday."
Every Tuesday morning, we learn one new rule. I make up a little couplet to teach them about a concept (like not talking with your mouth full of food). We read the little poem together until they're able to recite it on their own. Then we practice. Meg and Matthew each get a plate filled with small pieces of food, and a fork. (Confession: sometimes I've done cut-up fruit, but the last couple of weeks I've used mini-marshmallows, which makes Table Manners Tuesday one of the highlights of the week!) We recite the rule together, then they get to take one bite, being very very careful to practice the new rule. We recite it again. They get another bite, and I sometimes issue reminders. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
Now we're to the point where we have a small collection of rules, so we start with review, reciting all of the old rules, one at a time, taking a bite in between each one, and (theoretically) practicing all of our rules at once. I try to make it fun (marshmallows, gently teasing them when they do something wrong) and formal all at once. They seem to be enjoying it. And I think it's having a positive effect on our family dinners. Not instantaneously, mind you. But we've been able to have something resembling conversation lately.
Here are the rules we've learned so far:
1. After it delivers the bite that you ate,
Your fork goes right back on your plate.
2. Please do not show us the food you have chewed.
Keeping your mouth closed is much less rude.
3. Interrupting someone is shocking!
Please wait until others are all done talking.
4. Conversation has its own sweet ring;
The table is the place to talk, not sing!
And a peek at what's ahead for future Tuesdays (remember, I make these up based on what I observe in our real-life dinners):
I don't poke or play or lean or flap;
The place for my hands is on my own lap.
(Whoa! Branching out into quatrains!)
First we pray and then I wait
Not a single bite will leave my plate--
Whether bread or beef, pudding or pork--
I don't eat until my hostess lifts her fork.
There you have it--a glimpse into one of our little family challenges and how we're attempting to solve it. Anyone else have good ideas about teaching table manners? I'd love to hear any thoughts.