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How to Teach Table Manners for Children

How to Teach Table Manners for Children

Maybe it’s just me, but whenever my kids and I go out to eat and someone, whether it is another patron or our waitress, compliments me on how well the kids are behaving, I puff up a little. Not with arrogance, of course, but with pride. I love that my kids all have good manners- even my two year old!

Manners Are a Lost Art

It’s kind of sad, but it seems like kids with good manners are hard to find these days. It hurts my heart a bit to see children that are absolutely out of control in restaurants and the parents just sigh and give an apologetic smile that says “Kids… what can you do, right?” It makes me sad. Granted, I don’t live with these families and I don’t know their own personal story or situation, but it still makes me sad. I tend to get on a bit of a soapbox when it comes to good manners but my kids know their boundaries. They’re not always perfect. They are kids, after all. But more times than not, they know how to behave and for that I’m eternally grateful. There are a couple of keys that I’ve learned when teaching children table manners that seem to help make the lessons stick in their busy little brains. These are the cornerstones that I often return to when we all get a little lax and need a good reminder to get back on track.

Bad Behavior Has Consequences

In our house, going out to eat is a privilege, not a right. We have plenty of peanut butter and jelly at home if you can’t behave. If any of the kids get belligerent, disrespectful or outright defiant, the very next time we go out to eat, that child does not get to go. They usually get a babysitter and some quiet time at home. All of our kids are fairly social so this typically gets their attention. That and they just love to eat out. Watching their siblings go out without them and enjoy themselves is hard but it drives home the lesson that the privilege of dining out is not to be abused.

Share the Compliments

Whenever anyone gives us a compliment about the kids, we try to make sure that the kids know about it. Often, we do it while the person is still standing there so that they can hear the kids say thank you. In the moment, I will point out when one of the kids is doing something well during the meal. I’ll tell my son that he’s doing a good job holding his fork or that my daughter acted just right when she passed the salad bowl. It’s easy to reinforce the good behavior as it’s happening and it also makes the other kids pay attention to their own behavior because they want me to compliment them too. Conversely, when we are out and we notice that another family has well behaved children, we compliment them too and again, it’s often in front of the kids. They see that we appreciate it everywhere and that we aren’t living in a bubble.

Build on the Victories

When our kids are well behaved at a family dinner, we can look at larger and more upscale locations to eat. And if that works well, we can go another step up. The kids think it is a treat to dress up and go to fancy dinners and since those are only every once in a while, they know that it’s something special. When we do things like this, we help connect the dots for them. We tell them “because you guys have been so great at other restaurants, we’re ready to let you try out this fancy one.” They feel a little more grown up for a day and they can see that they have earned the privilege to try something exciting for an evening.

Model What You Want

I cannot tell my children to behave at the table, use proper cutlery or put the napkin on their lap before the food falls if I’m not doing it myself. It just doesn’t feel right. I’m very conscious of my own manners when we are out and I model the type of behavior they should be demonstrating from my own seat. This is a huge part of how to teach table manners for children. I realize that I have a high standard when it comes to my kids and their manners but every time I get a compliment from a stranger, I know we’re on the right track. It has been something that I’ve invested a lot of time and energy into, but it has been well worth it. And I think that the kids would agree.


What is one thing you’re FOR SURE teaching your kids? I’m teaching my son basic manners, a lot of people I know lack that and I will not let my son grow up thinking that’s ok.

We just got standard visitation of my four-year-old stepdaughter. She has very bad manners and is just flat out rude. Her mom doesn’t make her say please and thank you. We are trying to break her out of that bad habit but she doesn’t listen very well. Any ideas?

My daughter is 2 and has started the “I want” phase. It’s driving me nuts! How can I deter her from it? We are all about manners and lately they have gone out the window.

So I have heard from tons of parents out there that terrible twos are bad but nothing tops three! No manners, not listening, bully and worst of all potty training regression…

Me and my husband have a month on month off custody over our LO. When he leaves us it seems like his speech and manners are improving but by the time we get him back its hard to understand him and he wants to whine over everything little thing that happens. Any advice?

My fiancé and I are struggling on keeping his 3 minis in line when they come to our house every other weekend. They all 3 have potty mouths and act like animals. Sorry, it’s the truth. No manners or respect. He feels helpless…

Every time my daughter is in trouble she says I’m so so sorry mom in the cutest voice. She is so respectful I hope it stays that way…

What age did you moms start teaching table manners/ eating behaviors? Am I out of line to make my 21 mo. old niece be still while she’s eating?

Most of the mama’s here know I have been having a hard time with my 10 year old daughter for a while now…
Yesterday we had a breakthrough…


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10 More Reasons to Love Children’s Literature

If you’ve read my previous post, Enrichment over Entertainment, you know that I’m a fan of Enrichment. Books provide the best of both worlds: the perfect opportunity to enjoy literature while also enriching your child’s life with pre-literacy skills, rich language, and creativity.  Here are all the reasons I love Children’s Literature (and you will too!) 

I usually travel with a bag of books, often borrowed or purchased on Amazon. You’ll find children’s books stashed in the back of my car, backpack, and scattered around my desk. I was the college student that read children’s books to my friends because I would be so astounded that their mother never read them classic titles like Love You Forever.

I’m still awe-inspired by the beauty and richness of the language and illustrations in children’s books. Good children’s books are truly a work of art. C.S. Lewis said it best: “A children’s story which is only enjoyed by children is a bad children’s story.” The plethora of wonderful literature out there provides a good excuse for reading time with your child to be enjoyable, enriching, and entertaining for both of you!

Ok, I’ll admit it. My 10 reasons are actually just 10 of my favorite books.  I’ll mention a few of my old favorites, but I’ve also decided to share a few new gems. I hope they will work their way onto your bookshelf and into your heart.

  1. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
  2. Oh, The Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Suess
  3. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
  4. Dream Animals: A Bedtime Journey by Emily Winfield Martin
  5. If You Want to See a Whale by Julie Fogliano
  6. The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name by Sally Lloyd-Jones
  7. Not a Box by Antoinette Portis
  8. Sense and Sensibility: A BabyLit Opposites Primer by Jennifer Adams
  9. Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson
  10. What Does the Fox Say? by Ylvis and Christian Løchstøer

If these don’t strike your fancy, talk to your librarian. I’ve always found children’s librarians to be incredibly helpful. I usually end up with a stack of books that would compete with a CrossFit workout. If you’d prefer to stick with the classics, I suggest you refer to the New York Public Library’s 100 Great Children’s Books list. This list is geared towards all childhood ages, so don’t expect to complete it by your child’s third birthday.

Head to the SmartMom Pinterest boards for some pics of these books and a few good quotes.  I’ll leave you with this poem by Strickland Gillian titled “The Reading Mother.”

I had a mother who read to me

Sagas of pirates who scoured the sea,

Cutlasses clenched in their yellow teeth,

“Blackbirds” stowed in the hold beneath.

I had a Mother who read me lays

Of ancient and gallant and golden days;

Stories of Marmion and Ivanhoe,

Which every boy has a right to know.

I had a Mother who read me tales

Of Gelert the hound of the hills of Wales,

True to his trust till his tragic death,

Faithfulness blent with his final breath.

I had a Mother who read me the things

That wholesome life to the boy heart brings–

Stories that stir with an upward touch,

Oh, that each mother of boys were such!

You may have tangible wealth untold;

Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.

Richer than I you can never be–

I had a Mother who read to me.


What are your favorite children’s books?

My son is only 2 months old but he got all these great kid’s books for Christmas and I cannot wait to start reading them to him! When did you start reading to your babies before bedtime?

When did you start reading to your LO?

So I’m giving my two children a combined birthday party, turning 3 and 1. I made the “theme” children’s books, what are your favorite children’s books?

For those of you who read to your little ones before bed…do you only read children’s books? My boy is 18 months and I’m looking for book inspiration.

Good place to get children’s books.. Like the one that are hard , not paper. I’d also be like to spend $10 per book! Any ideas?

Does it matter what books I read to my one year old? Can i read anything or does it have to be children’s books?

My little sister has to write a children’s book. She wants to write it from the child’s perspective about the things the mother thinks goes unnoticed. Since I am a first time mom I don’t have a lot of answers to give. As a mother what are things do you do that you think go unnoticed?

In regards to children’s books: what subjects would you like to see more of? Potty training, opposites, family, religion, etc.


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Find a Good Babysitter - SmartMom

How to Find a Good Babysitter

I can still remember the first time I left my baby with someone else.  She was eleven months old and my husband and I were going on a much-needed cruise.  I cried from the moment we pulled out of our driveway to the moment we pulled into the port, over 100 miles away.

We would be gone for 120 hours…five days, but every hour absent from her seemed monumental.  She was in great hands with my mother-in-law, but I felt like I was abandoning her.   I was the only one in the world who knew that when my baby girl tugged on her left ear, it meant she wanted her Lovey Bunny.  Only I knew the exact temperature her bottle needed to be and that she had an aversion to the color purple.

Keeping my overzealousness in check, I painfully waited 45 minutes to call and check on her.  To my amazement and chagrin, baby girl was not screaming, but cooing happily for grandma.  I was almost hurt by the fact that she didn’t seem to care I was gone.

However, once I shrugged off my sensitivities, I had a fantastic vacation, grandma got some special one-on-one time with her grandbaby, and everyone was safe and happy.  This experience taught me that not only is it okay to leave little ones with a responsible babysitter, but it is necessary in order to recharge your own battery and strengthen spouse relationships. My daughter is now four years old, and now has a little brother and baby sister.  Needless to say, we have mastered the art of finding a good babysitter.

Leaving your small children with a babysitter can be scary, especially for the first time. Here are a few tips to help you find a good babysitter for your family.

  • Get referrals.  Ask friends and family for babysitters that they trust and employ on a regular basis.  Ask for specifics on what they like about that particular babysitter.
  • Request an application.  Babysitting is a job, so don’t feel strange asking for applications.  Request basic information, previous experience, and references.  This way you can keep a file of sitters you like for quick and easy access.
  • Check references.  Don’t be afraid to call or meet with references listed on the application.  A conversation with another mom about a potential babysitter can tell you more than what is written on paper.
  • Interview potential sitters.  Once you’ve narrowed down a few prospects, interview them over the phone or in person.  Ask about their experience with children and what they would do if certain situations arose, such as choking, injury, discipline, etc.
  • Observe them with children.  The benefit about home interviews is that you can watch candidates interact with your children.  Are they playful?  Comfortable around children?   Observation can help give you that “gut feeling” when it comes to choosing a babysitter.
  • Babysitting training courses.  Look for individuals who have completed babysitter training courses, like this one offered by the American Red Cross.  Many local hospitals and YMCAs offer similar courses that cover child care safety, age-appropriate games, and how to handle emergencies.  Some even offer a 2-year certification in Pediatric First Aid and CPR.

Now that we have three children under the age of four, my husband and I need a regular date night.  Having a file of babysitters we know and trust makes it much easier to enjoy a night out.  If you do your research and put in a little time, you will find someone wonderful that both you and your children will come to love.


Can anyone recommend a good site to seek a babysitter?

Who babysits when you all go on Date Night? What sites are good to find a babysitter!?

I’m getting a molar extracted. Am I going to be on excruciating pain after the numbness wears off? I have a 22 month old and 5 month old to take care of. Wondering if I should enlist the help of a babysitter or will it not be that bad?

Looking for a babysitter in the Washingtonville area. Flexible hours. I will be returning to work April or May. Any info will help. Thanks.

I have a toddler son and I work and go to school at night. I live with my mom and she watches him while I’m at work/school. I hate the idea of daycare or babysitters. I’m not that trusting. I feel like I should be doing more to support my son because my mom helps a lot with money. Should I get over my fear of daycares?

I saw a girl at a park who was a babysitter and looked young (around 18) but very good with the kid. We need a sitter. She is cheap but doesn’t know CPR and my hubby doesn’t want her because of it. But money is tight so a really experienced sitter may charge a lot more.. I feel like interaction with the kid is really important and she was great. What do I do?

I live in Texas and I need a babysitter for my 2months old does anyone knows a good sitter? I am so apprehensive in leaving my baby with anyone.

I have a 6 week old baby and I go back to work soon on 3rd shift! I know this is the worst shift to work but right now I have no choice! I was wondering what would be a good price to pay for a babysitter?

What age do you mommas like your babysitters to be? Girls (we don’t have many boy sitters) around my area usually start babysitting around 12 , which I think is fine if the kids are a bit older (like 3+) but I think 15+ is a good age. What do you think?

We are wanting to switch babysitters and I’m wondering if anyone has advice on how to tell the current sitter that we are going to a new sitter. She is a friend of the family, but she just has too many kids and we know he’ll get more attention at the new sitter’s.Has anyone gone through this?

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Mother Knows Best - SmartMom

Mother Knows Best

Photo by T&T blog

From the moment the stick turned pink, every well-meaning person within a 100 mile radius was itching to tell me everything there is to know about parenting.

At first, I really appreciated the information. However, it didn’t take long for me to realize that much of the guidance I received was contradictory. I still remember sitting at my baby shower when someone suggested that all the veteran moms in the room give me some “professional advice”. Almost immediately people started tossing tidbits of maternal knowledge at me like a group of children throwing breadcrumbs at a pigeon- a pigeon that didn’t even realize she was hungry! I desperately ran from one crumb to the next, my head flipping back and forth as the conversation bounced across the room.

“Make sure you swaddle your baby tightly… they’ll sleep better that way.”

“Yes but not too tightly, or they’ll get over heated and suffocate!”
“Oh, and never ever let the baby fall asleep in your arms. If you do she’ll never learn to fall asleep on her own. Trust me!”
“But hold your baby all the time! They grow up too fast!“
“If you do things right your baby will sleep through the night by the time they’re 8 weeks old.”
“The only way our baby sleeps through the night is if she sleeps with us.”

“Oh you should NEVER sleep with your baby! You’ll roll over her and kill her! She’ll suffocate!”
“Yeah, plus then she’ll want to sleep with you until she’s 12.”
“Don’t even watch the clock, just enjoy every minute… but make sure you put her on a schedule as soon as possible! Babies thrive on a strict schedule.”

Just when I thought my head was about to explode, my grandma piped in, “I hope you’re taking notes!  Does someone have a pen handy so she can write this all down?”  I wrapped my arms protectively around my growing belly as if to say, “I changed my mind little one! Just stay in there where it’s safe!”

Seven years have gone by since that day, and I am happy to report that I now have 4 fantastic kids running (and crawling) through my house. They are happy, healthy, and thriving, regardless of (or perhaps because of) the fact that each of them requires a unique blend of parenting. My younger siblings are starting their own families now and suddenly I’m considered one of the veterans. Sometimes they come to me, worried that they’re not “doing it right”. But the thing is, there’s not one “right” way to do it.

I don’t have all of the answers. The only breadcrumb in my arsenal is this:  You can read all the parenting books in the world, but until you can learn to read your child they won’t be of much use to you.

I’ve often heard people say, “I wish my baby came with an instruction manual.” The truth is, they do! It may not be spelled out for us, but it’s there. Mothers are blessed with a 6th sense, a deep maternal instinct that burns inside us. It may not come immediately, but with time you will learn how to read your baby’s cues. Even babies who can’t talk will tell you what they need if you are willing to listen. As you study your child’s spirit you will be better equipped to filter the parenting advice you are given. With anything from sleeping patterns to discipline problems- you will know what breadcrumbs to pick up, and which ones you should leave on the ground.

So, all of you sweet mammas, my advice to you is simple. Do your research. Respect other’s opinions and parenting styles. Keep in mind that what works for one, doesn’t necessarily work for all, and that’s okay. Devour every book you can get your hands on, and then take a deep breath… and let it go. In the end, Mother Knows Best. You got this mamma bear. You got this.

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