Table Manners

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Dear Etiquette Imperative,

Is it still improper to have your elbows on the table when you are eating? We have two children; a 9 year old daughter & a son who is 10, who seem to think I’m crazy. Any other table manner advice you can give me would be well appreciated. We are trying to raise our children to have good table manners, but we are certainly no experts.


Allison and Scott

Dear Allison and Scott,

Great question! You may be surprised to know that both you and the children are correct!

For informal dining situations, it’s okay to rest an elbow on the table if you’re not actually eating. But, if you’re eating, then only rest the forearm or wrist on the edge of the table. One doesn’t want to be hunched over their food. At formal functions, no elbows on the dining table.

Please consider telling your children that table manners are more than about proper eating; it’s about being kind and considerate of others. Although you know that they are smart and nice, other people will judge them on how they present themselves. In the long run, etiquette and social grace mastery is another wonderful tool, that will help them to attain their dreams and ambitions!

Whether in a restaurant or in a home, here are some basic table manners to teach kids stated in ways that will help them to laugh AND learn:

1. Eat with a fork unless the food is meant to be eaten with fingers. Only babies eat with fingers.

2. Sit up and do not hunch over your plate; wrists or forearms can rest on the table, or hands on lap.

3. Don’t stuff your mouth full of food, it looks kinda gross, and you could choke.

4. Chew with your mouth closed. This includes no talking with your mouth full.

5. Don’t make any rude comments about any food being served. It will hurt someone’s feelings.

6. Always say thank you when served something. Shows appreciation.

7. If the meal is not buffet style, then wait until everyone is served before eating. It shows consideration.

8. Eat slowly and don’t gobble up the food. Someone took a long time to prepare the food, enjoy it slowly. Slowly means to wait about 5 seconds after swallowing before getting another forkful.

9. When eating rolls, tear off a piece of bread before buttering. Eating a whole piece of bread looks um…tacky.

10. Don’t reach over someone’s plate for something. Politely ask that the item to be passed to you. Shows consideration.

11. Do not pick anything out of your teeth, it’s gross. If it bothers you that bad, excuse yourself and go to the restroom to pick.

12. Always use a napkin to dab your mouth, which should be on your lap when not in use. Remember, dab your mouth only. Do not wipe your face or blow your nose with a napkin, both are gross. Excuse yourself from the table and go the restroom to do those things.

13. When eating at someone’s home or a guest of someone at a restaurant, always thank the host and tell them how much you enjoyed it. At least say that you liked the dinner or mention a specific item that was particularly tasty, i.e. the dessert was great. Again, someone took time, energy, and expense to prepare the food, so show your appreciation.

Thank you for your question!

Bon appetite!

Ladon Brumfield
Girls Rule!
The Etiquette Imperative

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