Manners: Ages 0-5


Table Training

The golden rule – treat others as you’d like to be treated – is the basis of all etiquette, says Rock. So how soon should parents start teaching children manners? “You can’t start them too young,” she says. “There is no certain age when the magic begins.”

That means establishing family behavior norms early on. If you don’t want your children to run indoors, traipse through airplane rows or jump on furniture, correct these behaviors in toddlerhood with a firm, gentle reminder: “That is not how we act in this family. It doesn’t matter what other children do.” Toddlers have notoriously short memories, so catchy songs can help etiquette lessons stick, says Rock. “We sing ‘Yes is better than Yeah’ with our grandchildren,” she says. 

Table manners training can also start early. Rock recommends introducing flatware as soon as children can hold it (often in late infancy or early toddlerhood), discouraging eating with the hands, and gently stretching the time tots can sit still during meals. Start with just four or five minutes and build to 15 or 20. Children as young as 2 can be taught to ask their host – in most cases, mom or dad – to be excused from the table when finished.

> Manners: Ages 6-11
> Manners: Ages 12-18