Three-Year Touchpoint: Mealtime and manners

Joshua Sparrow, MD Child Psychiatrist & Author, shares advice for parents on how to teach their young children to enjoy nightly family dinners as well as proper table manners
Family Meals | Teaching Young Kids Meal Time Manners
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Three-Year Touchpoint: Mealtime and manners

By 3 years of age, children can sit still a little bit longer and they get a little bit more control over their impulses. This is still definitely a work in progress, but it is not too soon to start changing expectations for them. And one expectation to change is that they join your family at meal times. Don't make it miserable, don't make it a battle and if they need to get up, let them go and then they are done, they don't come back. But it is time, if you happened already to start expecting that they'll be there. And make it a fun time and a social time that is it own reward for sitting still and controlling the impulse for a little bit longer to run of and to go play. It is also time introducing manners if you haven't already, not because they are going to remember to say "Please" of "Thank you" yet but because they need to start hearing it. So you just have to tell yourself you are going to have to say this over and over and over, a hundred times, two hundred times. It is not because they are being define as not because they are not smart enough to learn, they just need the repetition and that is what starting at 3 is so important. If you wait until 8, they won't have this expectation themselves and it will be much harder for them to take the step.

Joshua Sparrow, MD Child Psychiatrist & Author, shares advice for parents on how to teach their young children to enjoy nightly family dinners as well as proper table manners


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Joshua Sparrow, MD

Child Psychiatrist & Author

A child psychiatrist, Dr. Sparrow’s care in the 1990s for children hospitalized for severe psychiatric disturbances, often associated with physical and sexual abuse, and for developmental delays aggravated by social and economic deprivation, prompted his interest in community-based prevention and health promotion. At the Brazelton Touchpoints Center, his work focuses on cultural adaptations of family support programs, organizational professional development, and aligning systems of care with community strengths and priorities, and has included collaborative consultation with the Harlem Children's Zone and American Indian Early Head Start Programs, among many others. He has lectured extensively nationally and internationally on related topics and has consulted on media programming for children and parents, including PBS’s Frontlines and Discovery Kids. Co-author with Dr. T. Berry Brazelton of 8 books and the weekly New York Times Syndicated column, “Families Today,” Dr. Sparrow has also served as a contributing editor to Scholastic Services’ Parent and Child magazine. In 2006, he revised with Dr. Brazelton Touchpoints: Birth to Three, 2nd Edition and in 2010, co-edited Nurturing Children and Families: Building on the Legacy of T. B. Brazelton, a textbook on the ongoing generativeness of Brazelton’s seminal research in a wide range of fields. Dr. Sparrow has authored numerous other scholarly works, teaches and lectures nationally and internationally, and is frequently called upon for his expertise by national and international media. Prior to attending medical school, Dr. Sparrow worked for several years as a preschool teacher and journalist in New York City.

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