Are there any manners for a food fight?
The above question was asked when I volunteered to teach dining to my son’s 4th-grade Boy Scout troop. You now know why my business is corporate-oriented! Usually, I teach adults, but I recently agreed to take a friend’s 12-year-old daughter to lunch. The young woman’s parents wanted their child to brush up on her table manners before her upcoming Bat Mitzvah.
As I prepared for this atypical teaching activity, I created a number of steps. With the holidays coming, you may want to follow them with a relative’s or friend’s child. You will be giving a gift that will last a lifetime.
The following are the 7 steps to a successful Take a Child to Lunch activity:
1. Do not include the parents. It’s amazing how well-behaved some children can be when their parents are not around. I know -- my son is a great guest. Let the parents know this is a private, unique activity for their child and you.
2. Choose a nice restaurant. Pick a place that will be special for the child. Make a reservation. Make sure the atmosphere is conducive to talking. Tell the child that you will be going to a nice restaurant and that he/she should be dressed appropriately.
3. Let the child set the parameters. Ask the child how much he or she knows about table manners, based on a 1-to-5 scale, 5 being the best. Also, ask how much the child wants to learn. My guest said she was a 1 and wanted to become a 5. As a result, she was giving me permission to give her feedback. But remember that all feedback must be given in a positive way.
4. Order a three- or four-course meal. You want the child to experience different courses. Possible choices include an appetizer, soup, salad, entree and dessert.
5. Don’t overwhelm. Concentrate on just three or four key learning points, such as choosing items from the menu, understanding the place settings, and holding and using the knife, fork and spoon correctly. Young people usually enjoy learning the memory trick “BMW” (Bread, Meal, Water) to remind them that their bread-and-butter plate is on the left, and water glass is on the right.
6. Make the experience fun. Make pleasant conversation and use some amusing, even gross, stories to emphasize the importance of manners. Examples include the woman who clipped her fingernails at the table, the man who licked his dessert plate clean, or the young man who tucked the tablecloth into his waistband when he didn’t have a napkin, and pulled all the dishes from the table when he went to the restroom.
7. Discuss the importance of thank-you notes. The young person can use either email or stationery. My young woman sent a printed note card that said, “Thank you for teaching me proper manners. I had a lot of fun.”
I did, also!
(If you are unsure about your own manners, check out the information on dining in my book When The Little Things Count…And They Always Count.)