It's that time of year again. You'll be going to party after party as well as inviting guests over to your home this holiday season. And at each and every meal, chances are you'll be embarrassed by your child's lack of table manners. But all hope is not lost. It will take a bit of work and persistence, but you can get your child dinner party ready by the holidays.

Rules

State the rules of the dinner table ahead of time and even post them on your kitchen wall. It is important that children know what is expected of them. Have a chat before you sit down to the table about what behavior is unacceptable and what the consequences of such behavior will be. And follow through on the rules and consequences so that your child knows you mean it.

Repeat

It's true that practice makes perfect. It will take some time before your child remembers to use his fork instead of his fingers or to say please and thank you at every turn, but by practicing consistently with him, he will learn. And if you slack off, so will he. So as a family, practice the skills you are trying to teach him during each meal and snack. If you skip it even once, it could lead to confusion. And if you do something you have told him not to do (like eat with your fingers), apologize and thank him for reminding you. Admitting your mistake shows him that it is okay to make them himself. Be consistent and stay on track.

Remind

Your child's memory is still developing so it will take gentle reminding for him to recall what you've taught him so far. He will fall back on habits often. Don't yell and don't get frustrated. He isn't doing it to spite you (most of the time). It's more likely that he has simply forgotten. If he puts his cup on the edge of the table, simply ask him where it is supposed to go when he isn't using it. Or if he picks up his veggies with his hands, ask him if he is forgetting something or remind him that there is a fork available.

Reward

Be careful here. Rewards are different from bribes. Bribes are offered before a task is completed, whereas rewards are given afterwards. Make a big deal when your child makes it through a meal without spilling his drink, fidgeting, or whining to leave the table. Offer a special dessert after he cleans his plate like you asked. A little praise can go a long way in building your child's table manner self-esteem and can help make dinner parties bearable.

This post was included in the Carnival of Homeschooling.