13 Things to Teach a 9-Year-Old Dinner Guest From Hell

Rant 20

kids tableCan we talk about kids' table manners for a minute? I feel like half of us are doing our job as parents, and half of us are all, "Table, what table?" I think we've all hosted the dinner guest from hell -- and we've wondered if he's being raised by orangutans. There's a lot of rude kids out there.

Hey, I'm not parent-shaming. Families nowadays are so stressed and busy, it's hard to get the family to sit down together around the table for a meal on the regular. But it's one of the most important ways we teach our kids to be civilized.

It's hard work, too. I swear, it's taken me YEARS to get my son to stop wiping his face on his sleeve and use his napkin. This stuff does not come naturally for most kids -- but for the future of humanity, it needs to happen. Here are 13 things every young dinner guest needs to learn.

More from The Stir:

At the very least, kids should learn the following:

  1. Chew with your mouth closed.
  2. Don't talk with food in your mouth.
  3. Wipe your face and hands on your napkin, not your sleeve or your neighbor's sleeve.
  4. Take at least one bite of everything you're given before you decide you don't like it.
  5. Say "no thank you" calmly if you don't want to eat something you've tried and did not like.
  6. Ask people to please pass you the butter, salt, etc. Don't just reach across the table.
  7. No yelling or fighting at the table. For the love of all that is holy, do not make other people cry.
  8. Remain seated through the duration of the meal unless you REALLY have to pee.
  9. Keep your hands to yourself.
  10. Keep your feet below the table and DO NOT under any circumstances touch your feet during the meal.
  11. Never, ever blow your nose at the table. If you sneeze or cough, turn to the side and do it in the crook of your elbow.
  12. Don't talk about gross stuff at the table. You know what we mean.
  13. Don't belch loudly or make the kinds of body noises parents don't like to hear. You know what we mean.

More from The Stir: 6 Rude Things Moms Let Their Kids Do (Tsk Tsk)

Bonus advanced table skills:

  • Don't make that face like the food we've served you is literally killing you with its death rays.
  • Keep your napkin in your lap.
  • Keep your elbows off the table.
  • If you finish eating before everyone else is finished, just sit quietly or ask to be excused.
  • Don't mash up your food or otherwise treat it as an art project.
  • Try to make interesting mealtime conversation.
  • Thank your host for the meal at the end.

MAYBE by the time my son graduates from high school, he will have a handle on these. I'm trying my hardest.

What else do you think goes on these lists?


Image via Michael Newton/Flickr

behavior, discipline, kid activities


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handy... handy0318

I must add from experience:

Unless what is on your plate is universally recognized as "finger food", use your knife and fork.  


nonmember avatar robin

Guess I should be proud of myself my kids that r 4 n 6 met most of that except I can't get them to not fight at the table

Flori... Floridamom96

Are you seriously lecturing anyone, especially children on manners after you just used the f word in a blog post? 

Histo... HistoryMamaX3


There are some very unruly children out there when it comes to sitting down at the table... and while it might be easier to just let your little angel be and not teach them boundaries- you are doing a horrible disservice to them later in life.

All of these rules are the standard here at my table- and even my 5 year old has a firm grasp on most of them.

PonyC... PonyChaser

And remember, the adults set the example. Don't expect Little Johnny to control his belching if Dad thinks it's a big joke and regularly lets fly during meals.

You have to model manners to teach them. (And FloridaMom is right - no swearing)

gabe05 gabe05

Wait--are you saying peas are not finger foods???  And I'm guessing licking the spaghetti sauce from your plate when it is empty is against the rules too?  I think perhaps it's time to work on table manners!!!!

Stink... Stinkydog

Question: when do you (or anyone) think these things should be mastered by? i.e. what age? I'm not being sarcastic, I'm really asking. With mine at ages 2 and almost 4, we consider it a minor victory if we get through a meal with no one sticking food into body parts. (that should totally be on the list, by the way, no huffing macaroni up your nose).  I think toddlers are given a pass, but at what age would most of you consider that dining ettiquette needs to be in place? 

Judith K Littles

I've been in restaraunts and seen adults blow thier noses at the table. Disgusting, it's not just children who desperately need to be reminded of how to conduct themselves at the table.

BxBom... BxBombshell

When I clicked on this article I actually thought it would have some useful information and actually offer some helpful tips! Oh well just another bad cafe mom article...

jhslove jhslove

Stinkydog, I don't think there's necessarily a specific age by which every should have these mastered. I see it more as part of a process that's learned by families sitting down to meals together, talking over dinner, and parents showing by example. I'm not sure when we had "mastered" these skills, but up to a certain point, I think it's just something that each kid will get on his own time, given consistency and clear expectations.

But I do think that by a certain age past toddlerhood, it's reasonable to expect a basic level of table manners from a typical child (typical meaning, he doesn't have any mental or physical development issues that would cause it to take longer. Kids with special needs can usually still learn to do these things, it just might be a longer process.) By the time I was in kindergarten or first grade, we were expected to do most of the things on this list.

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