How to Teach Your Children Table Manners
I am often asked, “how to teach children table manners”. Table manners are very important as they provide an invaluable level of confidence for children. Here are tips on how to teach the difference between American and the European styles of eating.
It is amazing how a six-year-old child can charm and mesmerize you from a distance. We were in Madrid a few years ago at The Westin Hotel waiting patiently for our table. I looked over at a cute little girl having breakfast. She was intensely involved with consuming her eggs and bacon. This little one ate beautifully and elegantly in fine continental style. Obviously, her parents took her out to eat often and traveled with her. She handled her knife and fork with ease and grace. I couldn’t help but smile and point her out to my husband. We tried not to stare!
Tips to Teach Your Children Table Manners
What is the difference in dining styles, and is it acceptable to eat in a continental manner (often referred to as European style) here in the United States? If I choose to eat this way, will others think I am eating incorrectly? Which style do I need to teach my children?
The following are answers to frequently asked questions about dining styles for children.
American vs. Continental Dining Styles: Should Your Children Know the Difference?
What is the difference between American and Continental style dining?
Continental style is where you keep the knife in your right hand and eat with the fork in your left (for those who are right-handed). The fork is lifted to your mouth with the tines down. In American style, you cut your meat with the knife in your right hand and the fork in your left. After cutting your meat, you put your knife at the top of your plate, blade facing toward you, switch your fork to your right hand, and the left hand goes in your lap while enjoying your bite. The tines of the fork face up as the food goes into your mouth. With both styles, while cutting your meat; remember to cut only one bite-sized portion at a time. For young children, it is acceptable to cut the entire chicken breast (or steak, etc.) at one time to make mealtime easier. However, this is not the case for adults.
Which style do I teach my children and at what age should I introduce both?
At age 10 and older, your children should know both styles. He may be more comfortable with the American style simply because this is what he is used to seeing. It is very important that your children understand that the Continental style is perfectly acceptable in the United States. Explain that he may grow up and have to travel internationally. He may want to join his business associates in their tradition. Also, if he notices others eating this way, he knows this is an acceptable dining style. He will not point it out as being “odd.”
When teaching good manners, I consider it critical to educate a child about the proper fork and knife usage and eating techniques. Since we live in such a busy society, we often serve chicken nuggets or apple slices which do not require utensils. Children do not learn how to hold a fork correctly when these types of food are served. This results in them holding their fork or spoon like a shovel, which is unacceptable in any culture.
How do I teach my children to correctly hold a fork while eating?
This is so very important. Using a fork correctly is the same as holding a pencil. The child balances the fork on his middle finger with the index finger and thumb on top.
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