Manner #7: Who’s Served First?

Manner #7: Who Gets Served First at the Dinner Table?

Attention Getter: We recently had a birthday dinner for my brother at my mom’s house. There were 10+ people around the table. Before we started, I asked the question, “Who gets served first?” Responses ranged from the head of the table, to the hostess, to the oldest, to the youngest—all were wrong.

Manner: The correct answer is that the guest of honor gets served first (which would be my brother in this case because it was his birthday dinner. And if there were any doubt it was his birthday, the not-so-mini whole roast on his plate, made by my mother, just for him, gave it away.) The general rule is that women are served before men, older people before younger people, and guests before family members. And when I say serve, I mean they are encouraged to serve themselves. If there is no guest, and it is just your family, it is respectful to have mom served first. (This would infer that she is actually seated at the table, not running around adding last minute touches to the meal.) Although this may seem laughable, it is the most respectful thing to do because she is likely the oldest woman at the table. Once the “guest”/mom serves herself, she passes the food to her right (next week’s post/my family of origin is struggling to accept this) and the rest of the food starts going around the table.

Why? As with all manners, it is a matter of respect and courtesy to let the guests go first and if there are no guests, I think it is a great way to show appreciation to mom. This sends the message to our kids that we respect ourselves and that no matter how hungry they are, they can learn to wait (another chance to practice delayed gratification!) for mom to be seated. My mom was always the last one to sit down and the last one to eat. This did her no favors. Yes, she was selfless, but I just saw her as a robot or a superwoman, I didn’t see her as a person who might be hungry too.

Practice: I made up situation cards where I read a different dinner scenario and the kids had to figure out who would be served first. I threw in irrelevant information (like a good ol’ math story problem) just to make them think. My kids ended up wanting to make situation cards themselves to try to stump the family.

some of the situation cards

Follow-Up: Invite different families, friends,and/or relatives to dinner. Let your kids put their knew knowledge into practice.

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