Bad Manners Are Closer Than You Think



If you ever break bread with others outside of your immediate family, it is possible you have been offended by others’ table manners, or they have been offended by yours. In the age of eating in the car, while standing up, and on the couch one might argue table manners are obsolete. But this is far from the case. Do you think about your table manners when you eat with others? In restaurants, when we have to share close proximity with other tables, are we aware of how we act affecting those around us?

Let’s face it, eating with someone is an intimate act. And there’s ways to make the act more attractive and less attractive. Which category do you fall in?

Here’s a list of six bad manners that are incredibly common. Do you recognize yourself or your loved ones in this list?

  1. Drinking before finishing the bite in one’s mouth.
  2. Putting food in or taking the silverware out with the inside curve of the utensil instead of the outside curve (like the picture above).
  3. Placing personal items on the table such as keys, cell phone, or purse.
  4. Touching your head or face while eating.
  5. Talking about your food preferences (likes or dislikes) during the meal.
  6. Leaning on the table with your various body parts, including arms, elbows, or chest.


The majority of the above bad manners involve issues of hygiene. After all, imagine accepting the bread basket from the person who just ran their hand through their hair or itched their ear? And most likely, that purse set on the table was just on the car floor.

Other table manners involve how we appear to the ones having to watch us eat. When we wash our food down with our water or chew with our mouth open, it means we are oblivious to the person sitting across from us. Remember, the purpose of etiquette is for the respect of others, showing we are aware of those we are with over ourselves.

Most likely, I am preaching to my choir of regular readers here at Tea Party Girl and you could write this article! However, manners of all kinds are common Internet search terms, because many of us are still in the dark on these matters. The days of debutante training and finishing school are over, and more and more think good manners irrelevant for their circumstances. However, an amazing amount of socializing and business take place away from the home in our society around the table. For this reason alone, good manners are not for girls only!

For further encouragement or instruction on etiquette, especially for the children in your life, there are a number of valuable resources available including:

Tonight at dinner, be aware of the dynamics around your own table. Were you surprised?

Teach Your Children Well–The Top Five Mealtime Etiquette Lessons for Children

kids and manners

Today my son’s grammar lesson involved handwriting a snail-mail letter. As we went over the process, I showed him how to address the letter he had chosen to write to his grandparents (Mr. and Mrs. Male-Name Evans). Now, my mother is not the least offended being called Mrs. Husband’s Name. But plenty of my college friends would be. And I couldn’t help thinking, am I teaching my son something that is obsolete?

What role do manners and etiquette play in the twenty-first century? Tea Party Girl wants to go on record as saying they play the same role they always did: to help us show preference and honor to others over ourselves. Good manners will never be obsolete and it is correct, for example, for my son to address his grandparents a way they are comfortable. “Hey, Pops!” does not work, on an envelope or to their face.

I’m always a little amused how many adults I have tea with who feel uneasy about their manners and make a comment about it. Teatime is not meant to be stiff and awkward, but somehow adults know it’s not a time to let it all hang out, either. So they worry about the minor things like whether they’re supposed to stick out their pinkie (you’re not! Unless your goal is to make fun of tea drinkers). But they’ll take a cell phone call during the tea or place their purse (that’s just been on the car floor) on the table and not think anything of it.

Do your children a favor, learn basic meal etiquette, and then teach it to them in the evening at the dining room table. A children’s tea party is an excellent, fun way to teach etiquette as well. But children need some of the basics reinforced over and over and over again (unless your children are different from mine in this regard).

So here’s some basic fundamentals of mealtime etiquette, modified from Emily Post’s The Guide to Good Manners for Kids. As a mother and Tea Party Girl, I’ve chosen the top seven I wish every parent taught their child.

Arrive at the table with clean hands and face. I admit, I did not do this every time when my children were very little. Now I regret it because I have to remind them all the time. It’s not a habit. Do you have the habit of washing your hands before you sit down to eat? Do your children?

Start eating when the host begins, or when everyone else does. Even in your own home. It breaks my heart to see hard-working mothers serving their families only for the other members to chow down before she can even sit down. She deserves her work to be respected by waiting.

Don’t criticize the food. Oh, that my children would never do this when at other people’s home.I can’t stand it when other children do it to me. Serving a meal is a labor of love and the one receiving it should never criticize it. My children are not allowed to say, “I don’t like…”

Talk with everyone at the table. We don’t live in a society anymore where children are seen but not heard. I don’t think, however, that they should be allowed to talk on and on with their brother about the latest video game, either. I am trying to teach my children to ask questions of others and listen to one another. I do this because as an adult, I have sat by many a dominating or exclusive conversationalist.

Thank the person who prepared the meal. I have served countless, thankless meals in my home to other people’s children and my own. This is another manner I wish I had enforced more consistently when they were really little because they constantly forget. It means a great deal to me as a host when another child thanks me for serving them food.

Tea Party Girl Asks:   Anybody have an etiquette lesson they’d like to add to the list?

 Please leave a comment below.