Are you one of those troubled parents looking for creative approach to teach table manners to your kid? Kids are just kids and we can’t expect them to act like adults. It is our job to instill them proper table manners. They are the future generation.
I am in your shoes with my 1 year-old and 3 year-old. Being toddlers, they have their own distinctive characters. Candidly, I find it a challenge to feed my 3 year-old toddler as she loves to say “NO” during our meal time while my 1 year-old toddler enjoys throwing food on the floor. I feel dishearten. I started looking for advices from other mommies, and I’ve discovered new thinking and ways to cope with every day struggles on this topic.
Here are ways which I find useful:
1. Start educating them even they are 6 to 12 month-old. Start telling babies and toddlers not to throw food and talk too loudly at the table. They may not understand the word you’ve used (try to use simple words). But they definitely able to feel from your tone of voice and facial expression. They will know that you are not happy if you use a firm tone or shows a serious face.
2. When toddler throws his food on the floor, this action may likely indicate that he is done already. I suggest not giving him any snacks before his actual meal. Only feed him during specific timing and the routine should be regular so that he eats his meal on a regular timing.
3. Throwing and dumping food are part of their exploration. Start by showing them how to behave at mealtime. Be a role model. Show them how to use utensils and what to do with their food. As you are probably aware of this, kids love to imitate and follow your behavior. They are great copy cats.
4. Toddlers are an energetic bunch! Therefore, their attention span is short. One suggestion is to let them play and move about/exercise at the playground before their mealtime. Exhaust their energy! This will help them settle down by mealtime to eat their food as they are too tired from playing.
5. It’s important to set mealtime rules and stick to your rules laid out to them. This provides them a chance to understand what your expectations from them at the table are and they are mindful of the consequences. If they did not fulfill as promised, you need to stand firm and punish them accordingly. Example, face the wall corner or alone time by himself in a room while the siblings/friends are playing.
6. According to parenting coach, Lisa Bunnage, “If dropping food gets attention, they’ll keep doing it. “If eating and talking politely gets attention..well..you get the idea.” And according to Freedman Smith, “the key to proper table etiquette is PRACTISE.”
7. For picky eaters like my 3 years old daughter, I found out that complimenting her and thanking her for eating and following table manner rules are effective. Who doesn’t like compliments? Sometimes I reward her for meeting my expectation at the table.
8. Lastly, I try to engage my kids during mealtime with interesting conversations that gets their attention. For instance, discussing with them what they have learnt at the park, getting them to describe the butterflies they have seen for the first time, the new friends they’ve made in school today, get him to share his thoughts on various topics and so on… Personally, I am a believer in maintaining good oral hygiene. Thus, I will brush my teeth after every meal and I will do it together with my kids outside. Always be a role model.
What are your approaches to teach your child table manners? Share with rest of the mommies here!