Kids aren't born knowing how to use a fork or sit up straight when they eat. And unlike reading or science, these topics probably aren't taught at school. Like charity, table manners begin at home. Start teaching your child the right way to eat as soon as he can feed himself. Explain that mealtime manners display kindness and respect for other people at the table. Focus on one or two behaviors at a time so he doesn't get overwhelmed. Correct mistakes gently, and praise him when he does something right. Above all, practice what you preach. With constant reinforcement, good eating habits should become automatic. But in case they don't, we've got solutions for the most common offenses.
Not Washing Her Hands
Manners Makeover Remind your child to get rid of all the germs before she comes to the table. Make the task easier for a toddler by putting a step stool by the sink and keeping her towel within easy reach. Have her use warm water and scrub for 20 seconds -- long enough to sing the ABCs. Most kids 5 and older can wash by themselves, but it's a good idea to inspect and sniff their hands afterward (just to make sure).
Reaching Over to Grab Things
Manners Makeover Your child is trying to do things on her own, so don't scold her. Instead, say something like, "I'd be glad to pass the peas to you, honey. Just remember to ask next time."
Manners Makeover Everybody burps (admit it), and some cultures consider it to be a compliment. But since ours views belches as unsavory and distracting, tell your child to close his mouth when he feels one coming on and to say "excuse me" afterward. Reduce his gassiness by avoiding carbonated beverages before and during the meal. And discourage copycat burping by other kids, which can kill the mood of a nice dinner.