Sure you could sign up your child for the Emily Post Table Manners workshop (only $1,500) or you can start teaching them table manners right from the get go and it will become second nature to them.
I'm a person that loves to eat at restaurants and when I became pregnant, I made a vow that even though we would have a baby we would still go out to eat. My plan to avoid having a child that hates being in restaurants was a simple one: take them when they are young to get them used to the environment/experience and teach them that having dinner at a restaurant is an enjoyable, family experience -- it's about the food and spending time together. Savor it!
So we tried it out and at 6-months, our son was used to the bustle and flow of the restaurant experience. Now at the age of 5, he's a veteran who can order for himself and can stay at the table (not under it or running around it) the entire time. Were we lucky? Who knows! Or was it just as simple as modeling the behavior we wanted to see from him?
We don't expect him to be able to tell which fork goes with which course, he's still a child after all, but we do expect him to say please and thank you. Even at home, we've made it perfectly clear that he should be using his utensils, ask to be excused, clear his plate when he is done and to use his napkin (although every now and then we still have the "Hey, little man, T-shirts aren't napkins" speech). We're interested to see how his manners will change as he grows.
What is your approach to teaching table manners? What tips can you share with us? Any funny stories to share?