Dinnertime Discipline

How I Hacked Table Manners

Moms dish their best tips for mealtime etiquette.

Involve Everyone
"My husband and I made up a game where we'd all police each other's manners. It's a fun way to address the problem and it prevents the parents from being seen as the bad guys!"
Therese Cofer, mother of five; Charlotte, NC

Make a Pass
"When my girls were 3 and 6 years old, we began passing a toy flower in a pot around the table to prevent constant interruptions. Whoever had the pot would be able to talk, and we would give that person our full attention. When we find ourselves starting to talk over each other at the table, my younger daughter now says, 'We need the flower.'"
Pearl Peszeki, mother of two; McLean, VA

Dine Out
"Taking our kids to casual restaurants gave them great practice. We'd all put our napkin on our lap, keep our elbows off the table, and use our indoor voice. We told them in advance that we'd have to leave if they didn't behave. Sometimes we wound up taking our dinner to go, but following through paid off."
Jodie Fratantuno, mother of two; Los Angeles, CA

Put It in Writing
"I keep the rules that I expect my 4-year-old and my 10-year-old to follow written on a chalkboard next to our table. Some reminders are still necessary--and occasionally, consequences."
Zshila Alsop, mother of two; Charlotte, NC

Originally published in the November 2013 issue of Parents magazine.

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