Table(t) Manners

Growing up my dad always made a point about having good table manners. He made sure we never chewed food with our mouths open. That we always sat up straight. That we we set the table properly and cleared away and washed the dishes afterwards. 

One of the rules was if you didn’t cook, you clean! 

Now that I have kids of my own, I really see the value in what he strived to teach us. Good table manners says something important about who you are. More to the point, you are saying something important by having them. 

It shows respect to those around you. It expresses gratitude for both the food you are consuming and the people you are sharing it with. It demonstrates mindfulness, discipline, love, care… 

The list goes on. 

It’s not uncommon for us to sit down and eat a meal made with ingredients from all four corners of the globe. First grown and tendered to by farmers in remote regions. Then picked, processed and eventually shipped, or flown, thousands of miles to your local super market. 

Have ever stopped to think about the multitude of people involved in creating your dinner? 

When you look deeply there is a great deal to be grateful for. I’m not religious but I love the tradition of expressing gratitude before a meal for that reason. It’s a tradition I mean to instil in my own children. 

Anyway I bring this up because, when I look around at the table manners of today, there’s something that breaks my heart. And I’m guessing that you can all guess what I’m about to talk about. If you can’t, then maybe you should get off your phone (hint hint) and have a good look around. 

What do you see? Are we paying attention? Are we mindful of our surroundings? Are we expressing gratitude? And I mean really expressing it and really meaning it?

Let me get to the point. 

What do you think it says when you take out your phone to check something at the dinner table? How do you feel when someone else does it? Do you feel anything? Are you even bothered? Or is it just me?

Because to me it feels like this modern exception to the centuries old tradition of having good table etiquette. It feels like everyone has quietly decided that having phones at the table is an acceptable social norm in modern society. 

“I won’t say anything if you don’t.” [wink wink]

I wonder if this is because we’ve only been living with smartphones for the last 15 years? Because the parents of today weren’t raised in a world with smartphones? 

Or because parents don’t want to acknowledge they might have an addiction themselves? Because they haven’t worked out how to have a healthy relationship with them? 

I wonder how many parents are even aware of the damage they’re doing by letting their children look at screens every time they sit down for a meal? 

I see it with some of my friends and I find it alarming. And let me tell you, it’s very awkward when I have to explain to my two year old son, while eating over at our friend’s house, why he can’t look at a screen while sitting at the table but their kids can (true story).

I genuinely fear the screens we are bringing to the table are doing untold harm to our relationships. 

There are many times I’ve sat at dinner while having a great conversation when someone has decided to “check something” on their phone. Sometimes that something is related to the conversation but even so. Rarely have I found that person checks just one thing. No they get sucked in. The temptation to check several other social media and/or news apps is simply too great. 

And so they click click click, getting one dopamine hit after the next, until they finally “return” to the table where, not only has the conversation stalled, their head is scattered across the stratosphere. Completely frazzled from all the dopamine and cortisol surging around their system while ruminating about events over which they have no control. Or emails they checked but can’t reply to. (You know, because that really would be rude.)

Let’s be honest here. We have an addiction problem. I would be very surprised if it isn’t all of us who have, at some point, found ourselves unconsciously scrolling on our mobile phones. Perhaps it’s not outlandish to claim that maybe we pick up phones, more often than not, for no other reason than we simply want that hit? Because we crave it so much?

You might think these small moments here and there aren’t a big deal but I believe they add up. All the interactions we miss as a result – when we fail to look up and see the people at our table or elsewhere. These conversations that get interrupted all the time…

The mobile phone has become something to hide behind. A shield from having to face one’s actual reality. I believe this is, in no small part, why we have seen such a rise in rates of depression and anxiety among our adolescents.

As I draw this post to a close it occurs to me that I’m not really upset about the fact that our collective addictions are ruining our interactions at the dinner table (although I am), but that they are ruining our interactions everywhere. Our interactions even, simply, with the present moment.

It’s for this reason I feel the dining table should be the place where we all lay down a marker. Where we make it our last bastion in the household free from smartphones. A place where we make a stand for our children’s sake, so their lives aren’t completely ruled by the devices in their pockets. The place from which we make a fight back against the infringement of technology in everyday life. Where we stake a claim to be seen – at the very least – by our loved ones during this very precious period of the day.

Ladies and gentleman I believe it’s high time we brought our manners back to the table. That must mean leaving our phones off them.

Is that really asking for too much? 


Thanks for reading everyone. I’m aware that technology has been a blessing over the last year or so. Allowing us to connect with our loved ones from isolation. However that doesn’t detract from my feeling that our face to face interactions have been significantly harmed over the past decade by the smartphones we carry around. As a parent it’s our children I worry about the most. I am, of course, keen to get your thoughts and opinions on the matter. Let us know below. Warm regards, AP2 🙏

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You can see find more of AP2’s nonsensical world views and poor self-help advice here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com

23 thoughts on “Table(t) Manners

  • I don’t have kids, but if I did, there would be no phones allowed at the dinner table. Actually, I’d be the mean mom who got their kids just a basic phone, and they’d have to save their pennies to buy their own smartphone.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ha yes. I think that will be me. I’ll be the last parent to allow my kids smartphones. From what I’ve read it’s the equivalent of giving them cocaine. That’s how addictive they are. This is why they are especially bad for teenagers. Personally I think there should be an age limit placed on them for that reason. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Ashley 🙏

      Liked by 1 person

  • Agreed! The only time I have my phone at the dinner table is when I go on date night with the hubby and we have left our toddler with a babysitter. Otherwise, mealtimes should be sacred – spent enjoying the food and the company.

    Liked by 2 people

    • We do the same. Only one of us brings a phone for emergencies on date nights – the other leaves theirs at home. Got to keep the dinner table free from phones at the very least! Thanks Shelly 🙏

      Liked by 1 person

  • I don’t like it anymore than you Pilot! But it is the sign of the times and I think it’s here to stay. Manners get re-defined with each passing generation, from your grandparent days, to ours, to our kids. Their kids too will irk them one day in what they perceive as bad manners. Still, this is your time and your rules for your home and follow them they should — even just in courtesy.

    Liked by 2 people

    • While I agree certain manners get redefined with each generation certain
      things stand the test of time. A lot of modern theories coming out about our ancestry tell us that “survival of the kindness” would be a more accurate summary for why we have survived and thrived as a species. Manners matter – however you define them. The golden rule will always stand the test of time – and some things are simply, clearly and obviously, rude. If I sat at the table with other people during dinner and started reading a book people would instantly call me out. Yet that is really no different. In fact it would be less harmful. For me it’s black and white. Taking your phone out is the equivalent of turning your back toward everyone – it’s the equivalent of giving everyone at the table the middle finger. One of the big problems today is that parents do it, so kids are taught that it’s perfectly fine. Worse they’re taught that they’re parents prefer the company of their phones to their children. It’s abhorrent really. So is giving a child a smart phone to make things easier for the parents. Even adolescents are really too young for them if you ask me. They are highly highly addictive devices. Steve Jobs refused to give them to his own children. It’s like giving a child a bag of cocaine. And the science is showing it might be just as harmful. So no I don’t think it’s a perception thing/generational thing to say phones at the table is bad manners. It’s about protecting our children. No phones at the table should be an absolute gold standard for families – a bare minimum in teaching our kids how to have a healthy relationship with them.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hey I agree with you on this Pilot! But that doesn’t make our judgement morally sound, especially as it comes from a different time, a different era when the smartphone revolution did not yet exist. Now they do and most likely do to stay! All I’m saying is that the etiquette of smartphone usage will not be determined by those who grew up without them like me or you. Nor should they, no matter how opposed we are. Ultimately our kids or the generation after will decide if smartphone usage at the dinner table is acceptable or not. That is their choice just as our generation has made our own be it for the better or worse.

        As history shows, behavioral acceptance is an ever sliding scale with many influencing factors including culture, country, media, changing times and yes technology. Manners are minor-morals created by these evolving societal changes. All we can do as parents is teach our children the benefits of politeness, empathy and integrity. How they adapt this to their generation — is up to them. Peace and tranquility my friend! And don’t call me during dinner! Lol!

        Liked by 1 person

      • I hear you Wayne, but surely the etiquette of smartphone usage has to be determined by the parents of the kids who are growing up with them today. When they grow older I agree they will ultimately decide whether or not it’s acceptable – we will no longer be able to control that anyway – but as the adults today, it’s our responsibility to instruct and protect them to the best that we believe. And I sincerely believe this is a matter of protecting them from addiction and related mental health issues that smart phones are clearly causing, as much as it is about manners. Of course they will grow up with them. And they will be a major part of their lives. For that reason we must try our best to teach them how to live with them in relation to other people. To teach them how to have a healthy relationship with them for their own well being. (While learning the same for ourselves). I believe that means setting clear boundaries. No phones at the dinner table or next to bed when sleeping, etc. And hey we may be wrong – in fact we will be wrong – as parents about certain things but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t at least try to make the most morally sound judgements that we can today right?

        Anyway Wayne I must stop here. I’m in the middle of dinner and my wife is super pissed 😂. Thanks for engaging us in some vigorous debate. I always appreciate being made to think (as much as it hurts). Peace and tranquillity to you too buddy 🙏

        Like

  • I do share the same sentiments with you. People hardly take note of the environment around them. Their whole world revolves around their phones. I have a friend who feels weird when away from his phone.
    However I do love how Jayson Momoa is raising his kids…you could go check it out..they are quite interactive and I’m sure with the time those kids spend with their dad every other time he is not shooting or anything they do a lot together. I find it quite fulfilling, the strengthening of the family bond, and the skills they gain from the games and other interactive stuff that they do. I’m not trying to imply that everyone should do as he dies…but it’s a good thing 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  • I do share the same sentiments with you. People hardly take note of the environment around them. Their whole world revolves around their phones. I have a friend who feels weird when away from his phone.
    However I do love how Jayson Momoa is raising his kids…you could go check it out..they are quite interactive and I’m sure with the time those kids spend with their dad every other time he is not shooting or anything they do a lot together. I find it quite fulfilling, the strengthening of the family bond, and the skills they gain from the games and other interactive stuff that they do. I’m not trying to imply that everyone should do as he does..but it’s a good thing 😊

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for sharing your thoughts Gloria. The more interactive and excited we can be with our children the better. Phones are a big distraction and that is a big problem. Kids don’t need distracted parents. They need engaged parents. I’ll be sure to check out how Jayson Momoa interacts with his children. Wishing you well 🙏

      Like

  • Yeah it would be nice if everyone was more present while eating a meal together but I think you raised some good points about today’s parents not being raised on smart phones, and smart phones being used to hide ourselves. We are still learning 👍

    Liked by 3 people

    • I think it’s asking too much for people to use their willpower at the table – that’s why I reckon we should keep phones away from the dining table altogether. The same we should keep our phones out of the bedroom when we sleep. We all need to be more disciplined when it comes to this addiction. I believe our children need us to be better role models too. And I definitely include myself when I say all this. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Kellie 🙏

      Liked by 1 person

  • Culturally I was brought to believe families ate together because it was a way to share the fact, to reinforce the fact, that they were family. We ate, we talked, we cleaned up and then did what we had to do.

    My grandchildren don’t play with social media at the dinner table. Yet there is always a feeling in the air that they can’t wait to get back to what they were doing before dinner. Even my son and daughter-in-law tend to do the same. I’m not saying this because I think they behave well or badly. I am simply saying what I see everywhere not just with them.

    Technology is a big part of lives. Yet, they are a highly functioning family of readers, hard-workers, have a social life and the kids do extremely well in their school work and sports. I am certain others out there are much the same. So what is the point of my discussion?

    I know the difference. I just don’t have any answers and am no longer sure I have the words to explain.

    Great post as always.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I get exactly what you’re saying. Smartphones are here to stay and it would be foolish to think we can keep our kids away from them. What I believe we need to do is teach our children how to have a healthy relationship with them. To understand the dangers – how dangerous a device it can be for mental health if used in the wrong way/too much. For parents I think it’s important to set some clear boundaries for that reason – no phones in the bedroom while sleeping, no phones at the table during dinner, etc. Kids will always want to be off playing computer games and doing other things during dinner time. That’s normal. But it’s important to teach them these traditions and why we must make the time for one another. How our phones can end up isolating us from the people we love within our very household.

      Thanks Barb – I’m enjoying the discussion with everyone about this topic. Really appreciate your input as always. 😊🙏

      Like

  • A final thought if I may after reading some open-thoughts from your visitors. It seems the crux of the conversation is more to do with parenting philosophy. Some in favor with heavy-handed hard-rules and regulations as our parents did with us and theirs (even-more-so) before them. Others considering, let’s call it a more progressive subtle approach for lack of a better term.

    Of course I’m not casting judgement on either approach, we are all free to raise our children the way we deem fit. There is no challenge here either way! Still, parenting philosophy is ever-evolving and the conversations between the old and the new, are just beginning. And so with this being the first born-into smartphone generation, I’m with Kellie — though it is a great change from what we parents are used to, we are still learning of its implications. My opinion of course.

    Thanks AP, for a very interesting and civil-minded open conversation. Too me, this is what blogging is all about!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Wayne. Of course. I agree. It was more about parenting philosophy. There is, I believe, an art to parenting. No rules is bad. You end up spoiling the child. Too many rules and you stifle them. With both extremes I believe you end up with unhappy children and then adults later on. We’re quite liberal parents at home. Our boys are free to explore and make a mess. However if we feel what they’re doing is dangerous (fingers in sockets or biting or kicking) then the hammer has to come down. I believe if parents don’t teach their kids what no means then society will. Society will be far less kind about it as well. With that said I believe parents need to pay attention and respect their children like adults. Not to trivialise their emotions. If we say no I believe in giving my children an explanation as to why. Not simply “because I said so.” Equally I believe their emotions should be acknowledged. They’re allowed to be upset. They’re allowed to express their discontent. Calm confident parenting is my motto. Come to think of it that’s my motto for life. As always it’s a balance isn’t it? Always appreciate your input Wayne. And thank you for the for your civilised response as-well. 🙏

      Liked by 1 person

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