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Correcting Bad Habits & Inculcating Table Manners In Toddlers

Team AckoFeb 9, 2024

Table manners should be inculcated from a very young age. It is very important that you teach your kiddo how to behave during meal times. You should start instilling the idea that there are acceptable and unacceptable ways to act at the table. It is okay if your kid will be a messy eater at first, but as he grows older, you need to start inculcating proper table manners.



Correcting bad habits and inculcating table manners in toddlers

Teaching your child table manners can begin as soon as he starts eating solid foods. Mealtimes are a messy affair as your toddler explores new foods and works on mastering self-feeding skills. By almost 15 months, your little one should be able to control a spoon fairly well, but some children still make a mess at mealtime long past their second birthday.

1. Show your kid how food is to be chewed properly with the mouth closed and that he should not talk with his mouth full. 

2. It can be difficult for your little one to hold the cutlery correctly so teach him patiently how to use a fork and knife to eat food. Show your kiddo how to put the napkin on his lap and use it to wipe his mouth.

3. Talk pleasantly at the table. Ask him to use “please” and “thank you” when he asks for something to be passed. And don't read your tablet, texts, watch television, talk on the phone, or jump up to tend to other things, while you sit at the table.

4. Be at your best behavior while eating your meals as your tiny one will learn the same from you. You are the first inspiration for your child.

5. Instead of giving commands, sit with him and teach the basic things like hand washing before coming to the table, not to bang the utensils, no spitting food out while others are eating.This is an important table manner as well as a good hygiene practice.

6. Teach him the proper etiquette of not burping at the table. Remind him to quietly say, "Excuse me" and move on. Everyone else at the table should not draw attention to the noise and act as if nothing happened.

7. Try to make mealtime a healthy adventure. You can ask your kiddo to tell about the food having vitamin C, calcium etc. Do pay attention to what he does right and give your child strokes for behaving well at the table. Don't overdo the praise because he will start thinking that he is the center of attention whenever you sit down to share a meal.

No matter if your kiddo is a picky eater, attention seeker or a super slow eater, you have to be patient and make him practice a lot. Remind yourself that your child needs constant reminders to behave in a proper way. Consistency will help make good manners a habit for your child in the coming years, so when you introduce a behavior, set expectations and use gentle reminders to reinforce them.

Read: Make your child learn more table manners

Correcting bad habits and inculcating table manners in toddlers: Misbehaving at the table

You have a couple of choices. Some parents find it's best to ignore the misbehavior – the spitting, the screaming, the mess-making. When this tactic works, it's because the child stops doing whatever since he gets no response. He is old enough to start learning and even performs the basics.

Other parents find that it is better to find ways to discourage their child's problematic behavior. One mom discovered that if she wiped her toddler's face every time he spit out his food, he would stop spitting. Other times just a reminder, like placing the spoon in your toddler's hand when he grabs a fistful of food, is all that is needed. And some parents simply remove their toddlers from the table when they do unacceptable things explaining that their behavior shows no mannerism.

If you make it enjoyable for your toddler to share meals with you – by talking with him and being upbeat – then he is more likely to want to stay and share the good vibes. Next time or eventually in any case, he won't do things that get him banished.

Also read: Table manners should be taught at a young age

Correcting bad habits and inculcating table manners in toddlers: Age-wise chart

Below is an age-wise list chart that shows at what age your toddler should learn the following:

By age 2, your kiddo should be able to:

• Sit calmly at the table for a few minutes

• Use a napkin to wipe his face with prompting

• Use a fork or spoon to eat his food (not neatly though)

By age 4, you can expect him to:

• Refrain from sprinkling food or drinks while eating

• Chew with his mouth closed, with some prompting

• Refrain from talking while eating when prompted

• Use a napkin and eat from a spoon or fork correctly

• Drink from a sippy cup 

• Ask to be excused from the table

By age 6, he should be able to:

• Sit politely at the table when company comes to dinner

By age 8, he will become an expert and able to:

• Help with clearing the table

• Compliment the cook if he liked the meal

• Refrain from criticizing what is served.

Teaching good table manners to your child in general will be appreciated by people who come into contact with him. Teach him that when he show respect to others, he will get great things in return.

Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only, based on industry experience and secondary sources. It is not a substitute for professional advice. Please consult a qualified expert for health or insurance-related decisions. Content is subject to change, refer to current policy wordings for specific ACKO details.



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