Can I really expect my toddler to learn good table manners?
It may seem like a long shot, as you watch him purposely drop his spoon on the floor and gleefully fingerpaint with his mashed potatoes. But with a big serving of patience, you can start instilling the idea that there are acceptable and unacceptable ways to act at the table. Manners are built over time, and you can start teaching your child some concepts just as soon as he can sit in a highchair.What can I teach him?
Of course, you won’t be showing your toddler which fork to use for dessert, or how to gracefully dip his soup spoon. But you can teach him that mealtime is a pleasant experience for the family. You can help him wash his hands before coming to the table, and you can start teaching him not to bang or throw utensils, not to throw food or grab it from other people’s plates, and not to spit, scream, or run around the table while others are eating. And just as soon as your child can talk, he can learn to say “please” and “thank you.”What’s the best way to tackle these lessons?
Your toddler wants to please you, and he wants to be like you, so the best way is to show him how it’s done. Talk pleasantly at the table – no lectures, arguments, or raised voices. Say “please” and “thank you” when you ask for something to be passed. And don’t read your tablet, text, watch television, talk on the phone, or jump up to tend to other things.
Consistency will help make good manners a habit for your child in the coming years, so when you introduce a behavior, set expectations and use gentle reminders to reinforce them. Once your child learns to say “please,” prompt him to say it before you give him that second helping, for example.
Give your child strokes for behaving well at the table – when he sits quietly, uses his spoon, and says “thank you.” Don’t overdo the praise, though, because you don’t want him to think that he’s the center of attention whenever you sit down to share a meal.
What should I do when my toddler misbehaves at the table?
You have a couple of choices. Some parents find it’s best to ignore the misbehavior – the spitting, the screaming, the mess-making. When this tactic works, it’s because the child stops doing whatever gets no response.
Other parents find that it’s better to find ways to discourage their child’s problematic behavior. One mom discovered that if she wiped her toddler’s face every time he spit out his food, he’d stop spitting. Other times just a reminder, like placing the spoon in your toddler’s hand when he grabs a fistful of food, is all that’s needed. And some parents simply remove their toddlers from the table when they do things that are unacceptable, explaining that their behavior is not good manners.
If you make it enjoyable for your toddler to share meals with you – by talking with him and being upbeat –- then he’s more likely to want to stay and share the good vibes. Next time (or eventually, in any case), he won’t do things that get him banished.
Read Full Post »