Etiquette: Table Manners

Table Manners
A wife trying to get her husband and children to improve their table manners.
Billie-Jeanne explains to Dr. Phil that her husband Stirlyn's table manners are atrocious " burping, slurping and passing gas at the dinner table. What's worse, their two boys, an 11- and 6-year-old, do exactly what dad does.

"I want my boys to do better than this," says Billie-Jeanne. "He always tells them they're going to do great things, they're going to be successful. We feed that into them daily. So when they become a great success, I don't want them at the table wiping their mouths on their sleeves or passing gas, or burping out loud. I don't want that when he's 22 years old ... it's just disgusting."
Dr. Phil asks Billie-Jeanne, "Why do you put up with it?"

"It's hard," Billie-Jeanne answers. "I finally got them to leave the table to pass gas, so now they run to the end of the kitchen and stick their behinds out the door to pass gas."

Dr. Phil asks Stirlyn, "Do you do that?"

Stirlyn answers, "No, I'm not that quick."
"Seriously, do you think that this is OK?" Dr. Phil asks Stirlyn.

"Yes," Stirlyn replies. "I think she does a good job with off-setting what I may have as bad manners or etiquette."

"Not enough though," adds Billie-Jeanne, "because they're doing exactly what you do."

"They will do what you do," Dr. Phil says to Stirlyn. "They will model that because they'll say, 'Hey, dad does it and dad is the champ. So if I'm like dad, then I'm a champ.' If that's true, does that bother you?"

"Yeah, I mean it would bother me ..." Stirlyn replies, "but I don't think I have bad manners and etiquette."
"Really? So if one of them gets a little girlfriend and she says 'Why don't you come over for dinner?' and they go over there and do everything you do at the table, is that OK?"

"No, it's' not OK," Stirlyn answers. "But it's like I said before, when we have company or people over in a formal setting, we display manners."

"But we don't have company over as much as we eat by ourselves, so they're practicing to be ogres," says Billy-Jeanne. "They're not practicing to have good manners. I used to call them Shrek, but my youngest child is real sensitive so I don't call him Shrek anymore, I tell him that he has 'ogre-ish' behavior."

Dr. Phil jokes, "So, you're insulting Shrek when you compare [Shrek] to their father, is that what you're saying?"
Turning serious, Dr. Phil comments, "Those boys look up to you like you get up 30 minutes before they do every day and let the sun out. They think you are 'The Guy,' and you know that because you can see it in their eyes. And if they're going to emulate somebody, who do you think that's going to be? They're going to emulate you."
Dr. Phil turns to Peggy Post, author of the book The Gift of Good Manners, "Have you been making a checklist or are you just in shock?"

"Well," Peggy starts, "this is obviously a challenge, but this is fixable. Etiquette really is all about being considerate and how we do that comes through all throughout life, not just in a formal setting."

"In the book we have the golden rule of parenting, 'Do as I say not as I do,' but it's all about setting a good example all the time for your boys. It doesn't have to be stuffy or formal."

Peggy continues, "Manners are not about being hoity-toity. They're about getting along with each other, they're very basic; it's making people comfortable. And, they also provide a sense of order, and children especially love to know the reasons for things."
Dr. Phil explains that there are different sets of social rules for different social situations, for example when you're at home, when you're entertaining guests and when you're at work.

"Manners are sometime situational," says Dr. Phil. "The only thing I'm concerned about is it does put your boys at risk, because if they come home someday crying because the father of their little girlfriend said 'Leave the table and go home', you would feel terrible."

"And, you've got to pay attention to 'Gee, how's my wife doing with all of this?' Because that old saying, and I don't know if this is in the etiquette book or not, but that old saying, 'If momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.'"