With two teenagers in the house, we find ourselves repeating the same basic rules and lessons over and over. And over and over and over….well, you get the idea. If you are a parent, you share in our pain. I’m sure our own parents said the same thing about us growing up! Table manners for teenagers are all-important rules to learn, and we are hell bent on teaching our kids at least the basics.
This is the age when they know everything, and you can teach them nothing. It’s also the age when important lessons like table manners for teenagers are vital social rules they must adhere to. After all, to a teen the only thing worse than their embarrassing parents is embarrassing themselves!
We must send our little lovelies out into the world with manners better than neanderthal. So we repeat the rules of table manners for teenagers many times over a span of years. This way, we can ensure they sink into those stubborn little heads.
Table Manners for Teenagers
One of my favorite movie scenes of all time is from Pretty Woman, where Vivian is dining with Edward at a fancy restaurant. She tries to eat escargot with that special contraption that holds the shell, and instead sends it sailing across the table. It’s a hilarious predicament we can all relate to. Who hasn’t fumbled at the dinner table when we were trying so hard to impress?
I don’t expect we are raising future Queens of England, and our girls are far from prissy. But we do expect them to know their manners and behave themselves at the dining table. Years ago, a dear friend gave me the book Tiffany’s Table Manners for Teenagers. It was originally published in 1961, written by Walter Hoving and illustrated by Joe Eula. Hoving was chairman of Tiffany & Co. for 25 years, and Eula was a prominent fashion illustrator. Suffice to say these gentlemen traveled in circles where they needed to know these rules!
Some of the lessons in this short book are extremely outdated. Many are still quite relevant to this day. Here are a few of my favorite excepts, and ones we will continue to teach our kids until they are no longer living at home.
Good Manners at the Table
Teaching teens table manners is not a task for the faint of heart. Having a sense of humor helps, because part of the lesson is to loosen up and act confident (not an oxymoron).
Back in Hoving’s day, there was no need to worry about phones at the table – they hadn’t even envisioned a cordless phone for another 20 years! But here we are today, trying to regulate the use of devices and technology at the dining table. It’s best just to ask that they be left elsewhere during meal time.
Another lesson I remember myself even now when I dine somewhere fancy: work from the outside in. This rule pertains to the table setting, when you are seated and there is an array of silverware in front of you. The silverware has been placed to help you. You use the pieces to the far left and far right first, and then work your way in.
BTW, table manners for teenagers applies to adults as well!
Do’s and Don’ts at the Dining Table
- Place the napkin in your lap when you are first seated. Always. It does not belong tied around your neck like a kerchief or tucked into your shirt.
- If you have been served and others have not, wait to begin eating until they also have their meals. If it is a large group and the wait for everyone to be served may be long, you can begin eating when several of you have been served.
- When eating soup, move the spoon away from you towards the center of the table to scoop up soup – never toward you.
- When you take a bite, lean slightly over your plate. This way if something drops, it will hit the plate not your lap.
- At the end of your meal, place the fork and knife together facing the pointy ends away from you across the plate. The fork should be positioned with tines facing down, and the knife with the sharp end facing the fork. This is the universal “I’m done” signal.
- Hard to believe I would have to say this, but no noises! No slurping, no loud chewing, no talking with food in your mouth.
- Don’t over-exert yourself when cutting something. If you break a sweat carving your meat, it’s probably not worth eating.
- Don’t put your elbows on the table, and no slouching.
- Don’t play with your hair or groom yourself at the table. Nobody wants to see that, and your hair may accidentally end up in the food.
- If you have long hair, don’t hang over the plate. It may brush into the food and then mess up your pretty shirt.
- If you must leave the table during the meal, place your napkin on your chair. Don’t leave it on the table for others to view.
- If you burp, don’t break into riotous laughter. Just say excuse me and move on. (This one is personally hard for me, because I think burps and farts are hilariously funny and cannot control myself from giggling. I know, 12 year old boy syndrome.)
The most important component in all this is confidence. When a teen feels confident and self-assured, their demeanor changes. I watch my girls in situations where they feel comfortable and confident. They sit up straight, their eyes are bright and attentive and they are engaged in the conversation. This outweighs whatever small transgressions they might make at the dinner table.
My greatest advice when discussing table manners for teenagers is for them to be themselves. Be confident, smile, take a deep breath and dive in. Once you have the basic rules covered as outline above, the rest will come naturally.
Most of all, have fun! It’s not the end of the world if you mess up. Once. (Kidding. OK, not really kidding.)