Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Children's Etiquette for Dining


It is polite to wait until all or nearly all are helped before beginning to eat; and children should never begin before older people.


Manners at the Table


It is not polite to linger after being called to the table. When the bell is rung, or any other summons given, it is to be supposed that the meal is ready, and the call should be promptly obeyed. Food does not improve by waiting, and unnecessary delay is rudeness to the persons at whose table we sit, whether our own parents or strangers. When we know the hours for meals we should plan to be ready for them.

Until the lady of the house takes her seat, other persons should not take theirs. In taking our seats we should be careful not to jar the table. Each one should quietly wait his turn to be helped. Children sometimes pass their plates as soon as they are seated, or begin to handle knife, fork, and spoon as if they were in hungry haste. They should wait for visitors and older persons to be helped first, and brothers should wait for their sisters.

A story is told of a little girl, five years old, who at a large dinner party was overlooked until the company had finished the first course. She waited before her empty plate in perfect quietness until some one noticed her,—bravely trying to keep back the tears,—because she thought it was the polite and proper thing to do. This was carrying polite waiting further than was necessary, but was much better than the rude haste too common among children.

It is polite to wait until all or nearly all are helped before beginning to eat; and children should never begin before older people.

It is not polite to ask for things at other tables than our own or those of intimate friends who expect it of us. The persons at whose table we sit are expected to supply our wants without our making them known. In asking we must not forget to say, "Please pass the bread," or whatever we wish for, and to say, "If you please," "Yes, thank you," or "No, thank you," when we accept or decline what is offered. We should ask for any article by name, and never point at the dish. 


Ill-mannered children sometimes ask for pie or pudding or oranges before they are brought on, instead of waiting for the courses in their proper order, and even have been known to make their entire dinner on the dessert. One is apt to think such children are not accustomed to dainties in their own homes, or they would not be so greedy for them.

We should never say, "I don't like that," if something is offered we do not wish to eat, but simply decline it beforehand or leave it upon our plates without remark; and under no circumstances should we criticise what is on the table.

There is a proper, graceful way to handle napkin, knife, fork, and spoon, and we should study to learn this way and to avoid the clumsy awkwardness in these little things that marks the person unused to good society.

To eat fast is one of the bad habits of American people which we ought to avoid. If acquired in childhood, it will be hard to overcome, and will cause us much mortification when, later in life, we find ourselves with empty plates long before well-bred people in the company have finished theirs. Since we do not leave the table before others, there is nothing gained, even in time, while much is lost in health and in good manners.
– From Edith E. Wiggin's 1884, “Lessons on Manners / For School and Home Use.”


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