I strongly feel that manners, be it table manners or in general, reflect your personality and also your upbringing. In today’s fast-paced, technology-driven world, practising good manners may sometimes seem like a thing of the past. But, one cannot deny the fact that manners play a crucial role in our daily interpersonal interactions and also shape our relationships.
Manners are particularly relevant at the dining table and it is important to teach children how to behave and conduct themselves. Whether related to general behaviour or specific table etiquette, how children conduct themselves in social settings shows they know how to respect others and have the ability to navigate social situations.
Teaching children good manners commences at home with parents as primary role models. Your child will observe and mimic your mannerisms – how you behave, interact with people at the dining table, and even eat. Family acts as a training ground where children learn valuable life lessons and values, which become the cornerstone for how they will interact with the world at large.
I am a firm believer in ‘no gadgets at the dining table’. I do not encourage screen time during this hour as for me, that is family time. Mealtimes should be for family bonding, free from the distractions of gadgets. Engaging in meaningful conversations and revelling in the shared experience of a meal strengthens familial connections. Children, too, learn to put family over their phones, which they are otherwise so fascinated with.
Another thing I insist on and being followed as a table etiquette is closed-mouth chewing. There is no ban on talking but be mindful while talking with mouthfuls of food. Or making slurping sounds while eating should be discouraged as weel. Remaining seated at the table until everyone has completed their meal is more than just a formality. It is a mark of respect for your fellow diners. It shows an acknowledgement of their pace and ensures that everyone feels valued and included in the dining experience.
Basic practices like using napkins and maintaining cleanliness at the table are important too. Placing a napkin on one’s lap shows the child understands proper table setting. By practising good manners within the family, the child becomes equipped to navigate a variety of social situations with poise and grace. Whether dining at a friend's house or a restaurant, expressing gratitude towards the host or hostess is equally important. Even if you don’t like the food, a ‘thank you’ makes the host feel appreciated for her/his efforts. Finally, offering to clear the table, though not always expected, is a gesture of consideration and cooperation. It shows the child is aware of sharing household chores and is responsible.
When it comes to interactions, politeness holds a significant power. Hence, it is crucial to teach children why politeness is required for their character building. Encourage the use of polite language and phrases so that it lays the groundwork for healthy and considerate communication in children. These might seem like small actions, but they go a long way in making them considerate and well-mannered adults.
Children are astute observers and they mirror their parents’ behaviours. Thus, parents must embody the manners they seek to instil in their children. The lessons learned at home form the foundation for how individuals conduct themselves in broader social settings. By instilling these values at home, the child grows up to become a considerate and respectful adult.
(Riddhima Kapoor Sahni is a jewellery designer, and daughter of veteran actors Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Kapoor)