Manner #14: Elbows On or Off the Table?
Attention Getter: I asked my kids: “True or False? “Keep your elbows off the table.”
Most of us have grown up being told to “Keep your elbows off the table!” Although this is true most of the time, there are some times when elbows on the table aren’t the end of the world. So the answer is true and false:
Manner: Elbows should be off the table when you are eating, specifically when you are holding a utensil, food or a cup in your hands. Elbows should be close to your sides- not winged out when you are using your utensils. A proper hold on the utensils and proper poster will help your elbows stay off the table. It is generally okay to have your elbows on the table before or after the meal, in between courses, or if your hands are empty. When in doubt, it is better to keep your elbows off the table.
Why: This manner is rooted in history according to my research. People used to eat in closer quarters. Tables were smaller or maybe they were packed in on a banquet table, but elbows took up room and they wanted to have as much space as possible. Also, people used to use tablecloths a lot more frequently, and elbows pulled at the tablecloth. Now a days, it is still a space thing- you don’t want to impose upon your neighbor- but it is also a social thing. When your elbows are on the table, your posture goes bad which makes you look tired or bored, and you literally and symbolically block out your neighbor. You are not as inviting to talk to and dinner seems to be more about the food than the company.
Practice: Sometimes it works to do the opposite of the manner to teach the point. We put our elbows on the table to see how that took up space and how it is a lot easier to bump your neighbor. We also noticed it was more difficult to use your utensils correctly if your elbows were on the table. We held the fork wrong to illustrate how that can wing your elbows out. My son over compensated and kept his elbows IN way too far while he drank his milk. We all laughed because he looked silly which caused him to spew milk everywhere.
Follow-Up: Later in the week, we busted out our ‚ÄúPoliteness Police‚Äù props- the buzzer and the badge. The police buzzed you if she/he caught you with your elbows on the table at the wrong time. The kids love any chance they get to buzz someone.