Modeling the use of the knife and fork helps your child understand proper table behavior.
Children have no idea of the boundaries for appropriate behavior without an education in manners and proper action. If you haven't brought it up, expect kids to do the best with whatever knowledge they have -- like taking a quick taste from the frosting on a another child's tasty-looking birthday cake. Education and consistent reinforcement helps your child practice proper behavior.
1If you haven't been trained to use the proper silverware, the stack on each side of your plate looks daunting. Small children see the world of behavior as a daily silverware puzzle. Select a behavior to target for improvement for two months. Start by explaining the proper behavior to your toddler and the reasons for the behavioral traditions. Any more than two new behaviors overloads your toddler. Start with a limited behavior agenda, and build on the new basic knowledge by focusing on only on one or two targeted behaviors during the two months.
2Allow your child time to learn and practice appropriate behavior. The average 2-year-old takes two months to incorporate new behaviors. When your toddler does something inappropriate, explain the appropriate behavior and model it. Praise your child for mimicking proper behavior, and be specific in your language. Tell your toddler, "I love the way you wait to talk until after you've chewed all of your food," to reinforce specific behavior. Once the child hears the lesson several times, a simple reminder helps keeps your preschooler on track. If your child has trouble remembering acceptable behavior, select one behavior to change and use a chart and reward stars to encourage proper action. When your toddler has that single behavior mastered, move on to a second behavior needing improvement with the chart and star-reward system.
3Help your child remember appropriate actions by leaning over and quietly asking for the correct behavior. Smile and tell your child the behavior you want to see. Saying, "I've told you a million times not to do that," lets your child know you're upset at the inappropriate behavior. It doesn't, however, tell the child specifically how to change. Making a quiet statement asking, "Please take your sandal off your plate at the dinner table," reminds the child that proper dining manners require shoes to stay on the diner's feet at all times.
4Toddlers act by watching others and children model those actions. The toughest part of reprimanding your preschooler for inappropriate behavior happens when other children or adults participate in the same bad behavior at the time your child comes under fire for the same actions. Take your child aside and explain, "Other people sometimes behave badly, but that doesn't mean we're going to act the same way." This helps your child understand that the observed behavior is inappropriate in your family.