Table Manners for the HomeJAMES STENSON
Parents should make a conscientious and sustained effort to teach their children good table manners.Background Considerations
children are led to practice etiquette at home — by the parents' example and their
own repeated practice — they will internalize these details of civilized behavior
to form lifelong virtuous habit. Good table manners, like other forms of etiquette,
lead the children to exercise personal restraint (the virtue of temperance) and
respect for the sensibilities of those around them. Moreover, living good manners
at home underscores that family meals are a special, even sacred time together
— where we call down God's blessings on the family and treat each other with
Parents should realize, too, that later in life their children's
habitual good manners will bring honor to the family and enhance their children's
social and professional lives. Thus parents' sustained effort to impart good table
manners is really an important investment.
of Good Table Manners
your napkin on your lap. Don't put it anywhere else, especially tucked into your
shirt collar like a baby's bib. Similarly, if you're wearing a tie, don't tuck
it inside your shirt to "protect" it from possible spills. Doing these things
is immature and oafishly ill-mannered; it implies that you're aware you slobber
food as you eat but you want to keep damage to a minimum.
you have to leave the table during the meal, be sure to say, "Excuse me, please."
Then pick up the napkin from your lap and place it to the left of your plate.
(If the table is crowded and your napkin might get in your neighbor's way, you
may put it on your chair instead.) At the end of the meal, the napkin goes unfolded
to the left of your plate. If you're a guest in someone's house or at a restaurant,
don't put your napkin on the table until your host does.
put your elbows on the table. Resting your forearms on the table is OK, but not
the table is crowded, know which food belongs to your place-setting: your salad
and bread are on your left, your drink on your right.
how to use your silverware. In a fairly formal, full-course meal, the outside
utensils (salad fork and soup spoon) are used first, the inner utensils for the
main course and then the innermost for dessert and coffee. Try not to make unnecessary
noise when using silverware; put knives and forks down gently.
add salt or pepper to food before you've tasted it.
someone asks you to pass the salt, pass both the salt and pepper.
something you need is out of easy reach, just politely ask someone to pass it
to you. Say "please" and "thank you."
several people are conversing at the table and you must ask someone to pass you
something, say the person's name first in order to get his attention before you
specify your request: "Frank, would you please pass the bread?" Then, of course,
say, "Thank you."
food to your mouth, not vice versa.
there's food in your mouth, swallow it before taking a drink. That is, you shouldn't
put drink into your mouth while there's still food in it.
taking a drink of water, first clean your lips by gently dabbing your napkin on
them. This is to avoid leaving an unsightly smear of grease or food particles
on the rim of your glass after you've drunk from it. Don't wipe the napkin across
your mouth; just dab a couple of times.
taking up soup in your soupspoon, you should move the spoon away from you in the
bowl, not toward you. This may seem awkward but it's good manners and there's
a sensible reason for it. If you pull the spoonful of soup toward you, you might
spill or drip some drops on the table or onto your lap. This is less likely to
happen if you move the spoon away from you before taking it to your mouth. Also
note: If crackers are served, don't put them in the soup; eat them separately
between sips of the soup. (Exception: Small crackers can be put in clam chowder.)
your knife and fork properly when cutting meat. That is, hold the fork in your
left hand with the tines pressing on the meat, then cut with the first couple
of inches of your knife held in your right hand. (If you're left-handed, reverse
the hands holding knife and fork.) Don't cut more than one piece of meat at a
time. After you cut, place your knife sideways on the outer rim of your plate
with the blade facing toward you; no part of the knife should touch your table.
Also, never wave silverware when talking; that is, don't use silverware to point
the food briefly and sincerely, but don't make conversation about it. To talk
too much about food is bad manners.
with your mouth closed, and don't talk while food is in your mouth (extremely
bad manners). Swallow first, then talk. For this reason, you should try to eat
small to moderate mouthfuls of food at a time. If you are asked a question while
you have too much food in your mouth, you may have to keep people waiting for
a reply until you finish chewing and swallowing. This is awkward for everyone.
(By the same token, try not to ask a question of someone when he has just put
food in his mouth.)
when you're buttering toast, you should not butter a whole piece of bread all
at once. Instead, break off one piece of bread at a time and then put butter on
that piece. If there's only one butterknife for the table, use it only to put
a small amount of butter on your plate, then return it and switch to your own
knife to butter your bread. In other words, don't use the table's butterknife,
which other diners will also use, to butter your bread. And above all, don't use
your own knife — which has crumbs or grease on it — to cut a piece of
butter. The principle is this: The slab of butter is for everyone to use, and
so you shouldn't smear it with crumbs or grease which other people then have to
ingest. Keep the butter slab clean and keep your crumbs to yourself.
you've finished with the main entree, place your knife and fork together in the
center of the plate. This signals to your host or whoever is waiting on you (if
anyone) that you've finished the course and are ready to have the plate removed.
Don't leave the knife on the plate's edge, where it might fall off (to everyone's
chagrin) when you or the server removes your plate from the table.
you're served dessert in a bowl placed on top of a dessert plate, as with pudding
or ice cream, don't leave your spoon sticking up from the bowl, especially when
you've finished the dessert. Instead, place the spoon on your dessert plate.
you're imbibing your drink through a straw, try to leave a little liquid at the
bottom so you don't make a slurping sound. If you do inadvertently make a slurping
sound (and this can easily happen), stop right away. To keep making slurping sounds,
straining to drain the glass to the very last drop, is annoying to people and
implies that you're a glutton.
Stenson. “Table Manners for the Home”.
Published with the permission of the
James Stenson gives permission to copy or e-mail this folio or any
others from his Web page (see below). He asks only that you include the following
attribution statement at the bottom of each folio: "Permission is hereby granted
to reproduce this material for private use. It is taken from the Website of James
B. Stenson, educational consultant."
Stenson is the author of Anchor:
God's Promises of Hope to Parents, Compass:
A Handbook on Parent Leadership, Upbringing:
A Discussion Handbook For Parents of Young Children and Lifeline:
The Religious Upbringing of Your Children among others. Mr. Stenson is
also the author of numerous articles and booklets including the very popular “Preparing
for Peer Pressure, A Guide for Parents of Young Children” and “Successful
Fathers — The Subtle but Powerful Ways Fathers Mold Their Children's
Characters”. An educator, author, and public speaker, Stenson was the co-founder
of The Heights School in suburban Washington, D.C. and founder and first headmaster
of Northridge Preparatory School in suburban Chicago.
Copyright © 2004 James