Every time 16-year-old Rohan’s extended family including his grandparents, go out for a celebration dinner at a swanky restaurant, the topmost thing on his parents’ minds is how the teenager is going to behave there. Will he rudely call out to the waiter or take ages to place an order? Will he be engrossed in his phone and ignore the other guests?
It is natural for his parents to be wary about his eating out behaviour. They have been embarrassed in public places more than once by Rohan’s disregard for manners.
The years of turning into an adult are very confusing for a teenager. The angst, fear of ridicule, peer pressure and changing body makes them highly sensitive during these years. Since they are taking giant steps towards decisions regarding clothing, friends, lifestyle, music, movies, smartphones and food, we, as adults, need to guide them gently into softening their edges into well-mannered individuals.
Socialising in a mixed group and eating out with friends and family is one of the situations where teens should be careful of their manners. With birthday parties and graduation parties being the norm, teenagers are invited to occasions that involve formal dining. While adults may be well-versed on how to present themselves at a dining table, teenagers may not be aware of such etiquette.
Here are some useful eating out rules for a teenager --
Greeting the maître d'hôtel – It is important to greet the head waiter and put on a smile as soon as you walk in restaurant. A pleasant customer is always guaranteed good service and a good experience. A smile and a firm handshake at the entrance commands attention, and helps teenagers to develop their personality.
Being dressed for the occasion – Once restaurant is booked, ensure your child is dressed appropriately for the occasion and for the venue. Many restaurants have a dress-code to be followed at their premises.
Communicating with restaurant staff – By the time your child is a teenager. he needs to know the basics of social communication. It is always important to be polite to the server of the table. Being rude and showing disrespect to the person waiting at your table indicates bad manners and reflects poorly on the teen. Any complaint or unpleasant experience can be communicated discreetly to the server or restaurant manager.
Placing the napkin – Setting of the napkin on the lap suggests the start of the meal. Once your teenager is on her/his table, the napkin needs to be placed on the lap prior to placing an order or even after placing it.
Eating with mouth open – Teens may sometimes do this just to annoy their companions at the table or because they are still learning to eat with their mouths closed. Gently ask your child to chew gracefully, without making rude sounds. He should also know to use the appropriate cutlery for his meal. To indicate the finish of a meal, fork and knife must be placed on the plate to the right side with the blade in and the fork
Grooming at the table – It goes without saying that grooming at the table is frowned upon. It is considered unsanitary and disrespectful. If your teenager has to groom herself, including brushing her hair or re-applying make-up, politely request to leave the table and go to the washroom to do so.
Pacing your food – Once the food has arrived at the table, it is rude to make a grab at it. Ensure dishes for the guests at the table have arrived and they have started eating, before your teenager makes a beeline for it. Pace meals slowly and do not rush them.
Sharing food – If your teenager is sharing a plate at a restaurant, make sure that he or she is considerate to the person they share their food with. It is best to divide the food on another plate before they commence eating.
Texting or talking on the mobile – Phone etiquette is very important during a meal. Teenagers are obsessed with social media and want to be in touch all the time. Texting and posting on social networks without much regard for the others at the table, is bad manners. Unless there is an emergency, phone use is discouraged. Also, if a picture needs to taken, request permission from the rest of the table.
Making conversation – The essence of eating out is socialising and enjoying company. While it is permissible to talk before the food arrives, talking with mouths full is not acceptable as general table manners. Ensure your teen chews his food properly, before making conversation.
Maintaining table manners and etiquette is essential in the world that we live in today and aids in transformation of a teenager into a charming and pleasant adult. Instead of pointing fingers, parents can give positive inputs to teenagers about their table manners.