Good Table Manners: How to Teach Your Children Well

Eating and behaving correctly at the dinner table is an important learning process for our children. Let's discover some keys to teach kids about good table manners right from an early age.
Good Table Manners: How to Teach Your Children Well
María Matilde

Written and verified by the pedagogue and trainer María Matilde.

Last update: 27 December, 2022

Knowing how to behave correctly at all times and in all places is fundamental in life. This allows us to relate correctly to other people and to be able to achieve our goals in any situation. Having good table manners is one of these areas of life.

We want to emphasize the importance of teaching our children good table manners. These good manners will help them as they grow up, and, when they’re adults, they’ll be able to behave correctly in any type of formal or business meal, in a restaurant, or at a friend’s house.

What are good manners?

Good manners are attitudes or rules of conduct that show that a person is polite and knows how to behave in a way that’s consistent with the place they’re in and the people they’re with. Good manners are necessary in order to live together with other people, both within the family and in other areas, such as the workplace, and in society in general.

Good Table Manners: How to Teach Your Children Well

Basically, having good manners is synonymous with knowing how to act and relate in every place or environment.

These attitudes are as basic as:

  • Greeting people when entering or leaving a place
  • Turning off the cell phone when you’re in quiet places or with other people and it may bother you if it rings (as in a play or movie, or a conference)
  • Not littering in public areas
  • Saying thank you and sorry

And, when talking about good table manners, we’re referring to the attitudes and behavior that one should have in order to behave appropriately in a dining situation. That is, eating in the right way and relating appropriately with other diners.

“Good manners serve as an ornament to knowledge and they open up opportunities throughout the world.”

– Philip Stanhope of Chesterfield –

Keys to teaching your children good table manners

Some norms and rules regarding behavior at a table are really rather strict, and we can’t expect our children to learn them all to the letter. However, we can insist on some basic good table manners to get children, from a young age, into the habit of doing things in a certain way at breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as snack times.

  • Never allow them to sit down at the table without washing their hands first.
  • Correct them when they don’t sit correctly in the chair, with their back straight and leaning against the backrest.
  • Don’t allow them to lean their elbows on the table or to swing back on their chair.
  • Teach them from a very young age to hold their silverware correctly.
  • Give them a warning if they make excessive noise when they chew, or if they talk with their mouths full.
  • Don’t let them start eating until everyone is seated at the table.
  • Don’t allow them to take things from the table or to pass them in front of the people sitting next to them.
Good Table Manners: How to Teach Your Children Well
  • Explain to them that if they need to use a toothpick, then they shouldn’t do it at the table, but when they’ve finished eating and in private.
  • Tell them not to touch the food with their hands or push it around with their fingers. If really necessary they can use a small piece of bread to help them.
  • Always remind them to use a napkin to wipe their mouth, instead of their hands or clothes.
  • Establish as a routine that, when eating, they don’t watch TV, or use their cell phones or tablet – under any circumstances.

Insist and teach them by example

We can give a lot of advice and share many tips to ensure that our children learn good table manners. However, we’ll never achieve this if we don’t teach them on a daily basis, and give them a good example.

It shouldn’t be something we just do from time to time or when they do things wrong. Rather, it’s a matter of emphasizing the small details at every mealtime. And, above all, we should be aware that if, as parents and adults we aren’t capable of having good table manners in front of our children, then we’ll hardly be able to teach them to do things well.


All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.