Table manners - in fashion or out?

When my children were little, I thought teaching them table manners was important, - it was part of our everyday life. But looking around me sometimes I have a feeling that my emphasis on manners is not considered as important as it once was.  However maybe I was wrong.  I was reading the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper and found an article about parents sending their children to “classes” so they can be taught manners.  The classes “The Little Etiquette Program” is aimed at children aged five to 12 and focuses on producing young ladies and gentleman who know the correct way around a butter knife, how to hold a knife and fork,  what a tea pot is plus how to hold a stemmed glass (I assume so they know how to drink wine latter in life!). 

Why would any parent send their child to a class, when these things should be taught everyday at home.  Is it because the parents are “time poor”, don’t know traditional table manners themselves or they no longer eat dinner at the table (instead around the TV)?  Or perhaps they are just too lazy as teaching a child  table manners requires effect and consistency.  It sadly appears we have come down to the level of contracting out our parenting responsibilities to others.  Teaching a child manners starts from a very early age and continues through to adulthood, I am still providing guidance to my 22 year old son in regards to good old-fashion manner.  Parents, however, should be setting the example but sadly they themselves may have no idea how to use a table napkin, coordinate the cutlery, whether elbows should be on the table or talking with food in their mouths.  

Have you even been to a fast-food establishment and watched people eat – it is quite an eye-opener.  It is a great way to teach your children what not to do.  I can remember taking my youngest when he was little to McDonalds and he was as surprised as I was at the way people ate, in particular talking with food in their mouth and shoving as much as possible into the mouth and then trying to chew.  I would say to my sons — no matter who they were eating with, whether it be with their grandparents, the Queen of England or by themselves, table manners were still important!!

Like all types of manners, it appears to be in decline.  One can only imagine what the next generation of children will be like, if this generation no long sees table manners as essential.  Call me old fashion but I still think it is essential.


  1. Oh so true. With five boys and only one girl this was a challenge. Four of the six are adults and on their own, but we still talk about it when they are the adult boys like to give me fits, teasing, and show very bad manners.
    Yes there are courses now for young adults because companies are seeing such a decline in manners from the 20's generation.
    Our 24 year old has called us many times to thank us for showing him how to have good manners....but I can say society does work against us.
    Enjoyed...thanks for stopping by my blog...Patsy Clairmont...she is just wonderful!!! I haven't read a book of hers I haven't enjoyed!!!
    Nice to meet you

  2. Table manners are always in fashion and children are never too young to learn!


  3. Janette - we have a course running where I work on respect, isn't it sad that adults need to be taught how to be respectful to others.

  4. I find it hard to teach my children table manners. My three youngest still think using cutlery is optional despite being told each and every night to please use their fork! But I do persist.

  5. Absolutely manners are necessary! Great post, Jo! The thing I've noticed is even people who tell you they know what good manners are still don't seem to be able to get it right according to good old-fashioned etiquette (for example, someone I know very well likes to get up and starting clearing things off the table before everyone's done eating - that is TERRIBLE manners!)!
    At the moment in our homeschooling programme we're doing a book for Health lessons that is called "Proper Manners and Health Habits" - I was so pleased to find it because it uses little stories to teach children manners right down to washing their hands and faces and combing their hair before coming to the table, asking to be excused before leaving the meal table, how to set the table, and other manners like knocking before entering a room, respecting other people's property, opening doors and helping the elderly carry things and so on. It even teaches good posture!! So many of these things are badly lacking in today's world, which is why I started a series on etiquette on my blog this week, too! :)

  6. Good post Jo! I think one major reason could be as you say that parents are time poor. Also, parenting is plain hard work isn't it! We are trying to work on manners here every day...even with only one child, we have a long way to go...! :(

  7. Thumbs up for manners, and sitting together for a meal is of A one importance to me :-)
    While manners are often not used in general these days, I am thrilled to say that among the well brought up home schooled kids I come in contact with I will always get a "Hello, Mrs G..." and doors held open etc. People with manners certainly stand out!

  8. I agree with Rosemary, about parents being time poor. Life is so fast-paced these days, and it seems almost everyone is rushing from A to B, and eating a meal gets done on the run.

    I also think etiquette is a little like knitting etc. It is a dying art. Etiquette is not as widely understood (or practised) these days, as it was in our grandparent's and/or even our parent's days. So a lot of people don't even know it themselves, to be able to teach their children.

    Also, society is much more 'tolerant' and relaxed in the sense, that not many people seem to mind (or notice) the lack of manners / etiquette, except for older folk. You're not 'older folk' Jo, lol, but you have obviously been raised to know etiquette. Generation Y won't be familiar with it at all, sad to say. Well, a large percentage of them won't.

  9. Table manners are a must, it might be hard at first but by example and with a constant watchful eye children learn how to act and behave. I think its delightful when children use manners but it is a dying art, the amount of comments I receive about my daughters beautiful manners are very surprising as we view this as part of everyday not an exception.

  10. Oh boy! Once again, you are right on target with this post. This is a HUGE concern of mine, because I believe that the decline of manners precipitates the decline of society in general. Manners are one of the few things that separate us from barbarians. Truly, I think parents have indeed "out-sourced" their teaching responsibilities (I say this as a retired teacher), and, I think that a lot of parents today simply don't have the proper manners themselves, and wouldn't know where to begin. It's a sad commentary. But in the long run, it has to do with priorities, doesn't it? Manners are actually a reflection of propriety and respect. And if you are walking around half-dressed, flaunting your flesh, and being generally loud and crass, I would imagine table manners mean nothing to you at this point. Table manners are just another form of decency and grace that has gone by the wayside in favour of the "in your face" mentality.

    Blessings to you for your continued willingness to broach the "touchy" subjects!

  11. Manners and etiquette were very important at the dinner table when I was growing up so when I became a parent it was natural for me to instill that in my own daughters as well. It takes lots of persistence, though, and you do have to sit at the table together regularly, which I guess is part of what's missing these days in so many households.


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