As we were sitting there during family dinner a typical topic of conversation came up – table manners. This is something we discuss often with our children while we are eating together. How to pass the food, where to place your napkin, and what not to do with your elbows.
My son struggles with all of it. He uses his hands, puts his elbows on the table, and down right shovels food into his mouth.
Table manners are very important to me. I learned proper manners when I was young, and there is nothing worse than attending a dinner to see a grown adult with deplorable manners.
My older daughter does ok and is much more aware of her manners but still doesn’t always use them, and the four year old, well she is working on it.
So as we sat there enjoying our ham, and the kids pointing out each others mistakes, my husband brought up the proper way to cut and eat your meat. They were intrigued.
We gave them steak knives at dinner and something amazing happened.
I got up from the table and took out two steak knives for the older ones, and a table knife for the four year. I then proceeded to show each of them how to turn over their fork in the left hand, with the index finger point down, and carefully cut a bite with the knife. Then, place the knife on the plate, switch the fork to the right hand and eat the bite. One bite at a time.
They sat there, practicing this new skill and I noticed something incredible – everyone slowed down.
All three of them sat up straight.
No one was shoveling food into their mouth as fast as they could. They were busy concentrating on cutting and taking one bite at a time.
There were no elbows on the table as cutting the meat had forced them to pick up their arms and keep them close to their sides.
No one was talking with their mouth full. They were enjoying conversation, yes, but taking one bit at a time and talking while they used their knives to cut the next piece.
They were using proper table manners – and enjoying it! All because I had given them steak knives.
I have to admit, I’m not sure why I hadn’t given them knives to use up until this point. I guess it is just easier to pre-cut the meat for them. I think many of us may fear the use of knives as a safety issue as well. But in reality, we don’t give them enough credit. They are more capable than we assume and certainly at the age of 6, they are capable of using proper table manners and correctly using utensils.
This is a work in progress at our house. They didn’t suddenly have perfect etiquette after just one meal, and still have a lot to learn. We will continue to work on our table manners and this new skill. And I certainly won’t underestimate them again!