May 29, 2011
My kids have awful table manners. It's probably my fault, because sometimes I can't help but laugh when they're being silly, but it has gotten pretty bad. They often are so silly that things get knocked over and there is a big mess on the floor afterward. We decided we had better start training them better so they can find spouses someday.
To help encourage a change in behavior, we made a sticker chart. I love sticker charts. We might have a few too many sticker charts, but I think they really help kids see progress and stick to goals. For each child we have a page with 96 squares on it. When they fill up the sticker chart, showing they have good manners, they will get to go out to dinner with mom and dad.
At every meal, I put 2 stickers in front of each child. When they have bad manners, I take a sticker away. If they've lost both stickers and still have bad manners, they get asked to leave the table and sent to their room. If it's dinner and I'm exhausted, they might get sent to bed also. When they're done eating their meal, they clear their dishes and put their stickers on the chart. If they forget this last step and leave the table without putting up their stickers, I just put them back with the other stickers and they don't get to put them on their chart.
I also put up a list of manners we are focusing on, and a list of things we don't do at the table, since they seem to respond to "don't touch anyone" more than "keep your hands to yourself". Sometimes I just have to give up positivity for results. We keep adding things to the "don't" side, and may need to add some paper there at the bottom. The kids like adding things to our list of "don'ts" and think it's funny. Our rules are more strict right now than I would like to be, but until they have the basics of manners down, there's no room for leniency. I especially struggle with the "no singing at the table" rule, since I'm a fan of spontaneous singing, so we may revoke that one in the future. Also on the don't side are things like judge others manners, wave utensils around in the air, burp loudly, complain, and lick the table. Don't they sound like pleasant eaters? Don't you want to invite us over for dinner?
You can probably tell from the picture which one of my children I struggle with the most. One night Joshua started acting up right after the prayer, making burping noises as loud as he could. I didn't want to have him leave the table since he hadn't even had a bite to eat yet, but he wouldn't stop after he had lost both stickers, so he got sent to his room and he was done. As he was walking away from the table, my 4 year old asked if he could be done too, and I told him he needed to eat more first. Joshua leaned over to him as he passed by and whispered "Just pretend to burp a lot and you get to leave". So, yeah, the plan is flawed, but it has also been helping a lot. That night I gave Maren dessert just to make Joshua realize there are benefits to eating your dinner.