Dinner Table Etiquette and Manners

Last Updated on September 20, 2022 by Ellen Christian

Wondering about dinner table etiquette and manners? The words bring to mind Miss Manners columns and my mother harping on me about keeping my elbows off the table.

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I’m quite sure I didn’t appreciate her advice on table manners when I was a child. Now that I’m an adult, her advice makes a little bit more sense.

Dos and Don'ts of Dinner Table Etiquette and Manners

Dinner Table Etiquette

We all want to enjoy our meals together but I like to think that if the kids had to eat dinner with the Queen that she wouldn’t be horrified by their behavior. Because that’s my hope, I tried to introduce etiquette at a young age. As soon as they were old enough to grasp things, I always placed a toddler spoon on the high chair near their food. They weren’t always able to hold it properly but eventually, they did learn.

Now as the kids are teenagers, etiquette isn’t about what they can do. It’s more about what they remember to do. A few things that are extremely important to me at the dinner table are:

No electronics

Absolutely NO electronics at the table. If you cannot take a few short minutes to be unplugged from your DS, cell phone or MP3 player, there is a problem. I do not want my meal interrupted by dings, buzzes or bells.

boy reaching for bread at the table

Elbows off the table

First, elbows do not belong on the table. I know. I know. It annoys the heavens out of me to see kids hunched over their plates with their elbows on each side like vultures. Sit up. Take the elbows off the table. It looks better.

Clear your plate

Yes, you do need to eat what’s on your plate. You may not make negative comments about what’s on your plate. You don’t have to like it. But, you do have to eat it. The world will not end. You may find a new favorite like my family favorite chili in the crockpot.

Knife usage

Your knife should not be used as a ramp to get on your plate. Do not lean it off the side onto the table. When you’re not using your knife, it should rest evenly on the plate off to one side. This should be covered in a discussion of basic table manners along with saying excuse me and please.

place setting with a napkin

Remember your napkin

Napkins go on your lap. They do not get tucked over the collar of your shirt. You do not need a bib. We’re all adults here. Remember to place it on your lap. It will be there if you need it and may prevent messes.

Remember dinner table etiquette isn’t just for eating out. This is a cute book to explain the concept to kids.

Fork to mouth

Bring your fork to your mouth. Do not lean your head into your plate toward the fork. The idea is to sit up straight and not gobble. Eat slowly and with your mouth closed.

There is a specific way to set the table. Yes, the fork has to go on the left. Yes, the knife has to go on the right. No, you cannot do it a different way. When my kids were little, we used to draw a sample plate with utensils and a cup on a piece of cardstock. That way they’d remember how to set the table correctly.

Family dinner time can be fun but it shouldn’t look like a pack of vultures have descended on the dinner table. We still have casual dinners in the living room in front of the television sometimes. But when we sit down at the table, I want them to know how to eat properly and that means no bad table manners. What are some ways you helped your kids learn dinner table etiquette?

Dinner table etiquette summary

  • No electronics
  • Elbows off the table
  • Clear your plate
  • Knife usage
  • Remember your napkin
  • Fork to mouth

2 thoughts on “Dinner Table Etiquette and Manners”

  1. Thanks for the reminder about the elbows. What's funny is that is the one I have to share with my husband! The kids aren't a problem! LOL

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