The Two-Bite Rule: Teaching Gracious Table Manners
It happened again yesterday. The house was full of company, the table was set, the food was on the island buffet-style, and all gathered together to pray. No sooner had the “Amen” been said, than one of the kids piped up, “This looks awful,” and another said, “Mom, this is gross, I’m not eating any of this!”
Imagine how mortified and humiliated the hostess felt after spending an entire day—at least eight to ten hours—cooking, preparing, and making sure everything was just right—not to mention days of cleaning beforehand—only to be confronted by unappreciative, unruly, or ungracious guests.
…That hostess was me!
As Christian parents we have the responsibility to teach our children Christian virtues that will attract others to the gospel of Jesus Christ. When our children are orderly, well-mannered, and respectful to others—especially their elders, they display Christian qualities, “so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive” (Titus 2:10). One simple way we can build Christian character into our children is to teach them gracious table manners—whether they are eating meals in our own homes or elsewhere.
My friend, Jean, taught me this many years ago. We were working together as church secretaries when Jean told me about her “Two-Bite Rule.” No matter what was served for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, each child was required to eat at least two bites. Anytime they ate at someone else’s home, a restaurant, the school cafeteria or any place else, the rule still applied. In that way, Jean made sure her children were never rude, whiny, fussy, or ungracious whenever they ate meals.
Parents can start teaching their children gracious table manners early. Very few children will like everything put in front of them. However, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try everything. A “Two-Bite Rule” effectively gets your children to taste every food. They can eat more of what they like, and only two bites of any food they really dislike. When our oldest son was about 15 months old I noticed he only wanted to eat grilled cheese sandwiches and had stopped eating anything we served for dinner. It was shortly after Thanksgiving in 1983 when I made Turkey and Dumplings. He refused to eat it for dinner that night. So I wrapped up his bowl with plastic wrap and served it to him again for breakfast the next day. He refused to eat it. Same story at lunch. By dinner time he was famished and he ate the whole bowl. He never refused to eat anything after that and we enforced the “Two-Bite Rule.”
Teaching good table manners is an essential part of raising godly children. The “Two-Bite Rule” is not just for eating out. It needs to start at home. If all your children learn to eat is Macaroni and Cheese they will never learn to be good guests in someone else’s home. Teaching your children courteous and considerate manners at the table—whether at home or dining elsewhere—will not only make them welcome dinner guests but it will help them have principles to pass on to their own children later on.
Take the initiative and teach your children to eat for the honor and glory of God (1 Cor 10:31).
Here’s the recipe for my delicious Homemade Turkey and Dumplings. Today, it is one of my oldest son’s favorite dishes!