We have good nights and bad nights as far as the manners go, as everyone does. Some nights are really peaceful. Other nights it looks like we’re feeding the dog we don’t (yet) have off our floor. Some nights we have a really fun conversation. Other nights, well, let’s just say other nights we seem to be living in the land of the loud people.
Kory and I try hard not to expect perfection, but aim for gradual improvement. For us teaching kids to eat involves an ongoing, sustained effort at involving them in the culture as well as the food at the table.
Some of our rules include:
- no toys at the table
- no singing at the table (though I know very happy, well-fed families who do sing at the table)
- no falling off your chair
There are probably others, but they don’t include things like “If you don’t eat yer meat, you can’t have any pudding/How can you have er pudding if you don’t eat your meat?”
And I am not above bribing my kids to get them more involved. Ella gets allowance her automatically ($1/week), but if I need help with a task, I often promise to pay her. I do this with setting the table. Or sometimes I just ask her & Finn to set the table without proper remuneration. In any case, a small amount of money can be a great motivator, and Ella and Finn like to eat enough and, like all little kids, they appreciate beautiful things enough, that it can actually be fun to give them ownership of the table once in a while.
A recent night resulted in this:
I let her choose plates, table cloth, candlestick, napkins, etc. There is always some coaching about what utensil goes on what side (but seriously, I have to coach my husband about this fact eight times out of ten, you know how those artists are…), but she & Finn take this as a fun challenge/puzzle.
She took a lot of pride in her work: note the little flower hooked onto the edge of the glass:
On the menu was turkey sausage cooked in red peppers and carmelized onions:
Mini penne with butter and cheese and Erbette chard sauteed with cherry tomatoes:
It was an easy, pretty Saturday night dinner, but fast enough also to cook on a weeknight. And it’s even faster and easier if you don’t have to set the table yourself.