One of the most important times proper etiquette is important is during mealtime. Everyone who sits at the table, including children, should know some basic manners and use them so everyone can enjoy their meals. Doing otherwise can ruin the meal and give everyone indigestion.
Basic table manners should be firmly instilled in children as early as possible and come naturally to them by the time they are old enough to start school. Following is a list of fundamental table manners that every child and adult should learn, practice, and have under control during mealtime.
At the Start of the Meal
- Don't be late to the table.
- Arrive at the table with clean hands and a clean face, and in general in an orderly fashion. Your hair should be neatly combed, your clothing should be clean and you should not come to the table smelling bad.
- After you are seated, your napkin should be removed from the table and placed across your lap. This is the first thing that you should do upon being seated.
- Wait for your host or hostess to begin eating. In general, you should not begin eating until after your host or hostess is seated and he or she invites you to start eating or begins eating him/herself.
Sitting at the Table
- During the meal, you should remain seated until everyone is finished. Remember to use good posture.
- Here is an old saying that will help you with keeping your elbows off of the table. It goes, "Mable, Mable, strong and able, keep your elbows off the table, this is not a horse's stable, but a fancy dining table." It is perfectly acceptable for you to rest your forearms on the edge of the table as long as you don't tip the table. During the meal, you can rest your passive hand across your lap.
- Keep your feet on the floor. Resist the urge to curl a leg beneath you.
While Eating During the Meal
- Always remember to chew with your mouth closed. No one wants to see partially chewed food.
- Wait until you have finished chewing and swallowing your bite before you speak. If someone has asked you a question, gesture that you will answer in just a moment by raising your hand or finger, signaling that you've heard them.
- Be complimentary. If you do not like the food, you should never say so. Simply eat around the food you do not like without comment. If the host asks whether or not you like the food, say that you enjoyed the meal.
- Ask for food rather than reaching across people for it and always use your manners. Remember to say "please" and "thank you."
- Use your utensils unless you are eating finger food like tacos or hamburgers and french fries.
Talking During the Meal
- Think of creative and pleasant things to discuss and talk about during the meal. Avoid any controversial topic that can cause indigestion.
- Show courtesy by not interrupting others while they are speaking.
- Refrain from engaging in rude and disruptive behavior such as burping, snorting or singing.
- Don't call attention to the rudeness of others when they bring up topics that are not appropriate for the dinner table. Instead, change the subject to something more appropriate. The rude person will probably get the message.
After the Meal is Over and You're Finished Eating
- Show your gratitude by thanking your host for the meal.
- When you have finished your meal, if others are still eating, you should remain seated if possible. If you need to get up for any reason, you will want to ask for permission to be excused. This is a courtesy request from both children and adults as well.
- Offer to help your host, hostess, mom or dad by way of clearing the table or another cleaning task as needed. It is rude to eat and run, leaving the host with a mess.
Mealtime with the family, friends, and business associates should be an enjoyable experience. These simple tips when used should go a long way toward increasing your quality of mealtime dining pleasure.