Q: When my grandkids come over they used to have a habit of just opening the refrigerator and looking for something to eat without asking. I told them we don't do this at our house.
I expect good manners and give praise and works. I don't respond to "I want ..." Instead, I say, "I can give you ... when you ask me in the right way. Say 'May I please have ...' "
Their behavior changed in just a few days!
Holidays are coming soon and we'll have many meals with friends and relatives.
Please urge parents to make a resolution to eat together as a family and have their kids use good manners at meals, both at home and at the homes of others. -- Concerned Grandma
A: I agree with you on the current state of family meals and table manners.
Most of our adult children did use good manners at meals when they were growing up. I feel that the reason this was not "passed on" is that today's families seldom eat a family meal together, except during the holidays.
They have forgotten that eating together and conversing is one of the main ways parents pass on their personal and family values to their children.
The family meal is also the main venue for modeling appropriate manners.
Today many families don't have daily conversations together at a meal; instead everyone grazes and gets something to eat on their own.
Studies on family meals and their effects on children, however, show us something very important.
Children who eat regular meals with their parents, and converse with them about their day, their interests and their opinions are children who have better self-esteem, fewer problems in school, and who are less likely to engage in substance abuse.
Put family meals back into your lives. It's the best way to keep communication going and help prevent problems.
In addition, children do need to learn what is expected by society regarding table manners.
When children are teens or adults they'll need to know how to eat properly with good manners.
Knowing how to behave, converse and eat properly can make a huge difference in getting or keeping a job, and in making or maintaining friendships.
Children are not born with good manners or values; we need to model and teach manners and values.
Family meals are the best time to do this. Insist that you all eat together as often as possible.
Even babies in high chairs are learning about good table manners when they watch and listen to adults who talk, pass foods and say please and thank you.
Family meals need to happen regularly, not just during the holidays.
This year, let the holidays help you make this a daily family tradition, not just an occasional event.
Note to Butterfly's Mom: Help her understand the difference between acquaintances (like people on Facebook) and real, true friends.
Give examples of what real friends do. They talk honestly and often, never talk about you behind your back, trust each other, stay friends even when they disagree, and support each other in bad times.
Evelyn Petersen is an award-winning parenting columnist and early childhood educator and author who lives in Traverse City; see her website at askevelyn.com.