27 answers

Elbows on the Table!

Please can anyone tell me where this came from that no elbows are allowed on the table? This is an ongoing situation in my home for the past 10 years that the
boys are told to get their elbows off the table.

Who started this? Why? What does it matter?
I feel that it is always good to have table manners, no doubt about that.

But when it comes to tears at the table, no talking because now the boys
are in a sour mood. It isn't that they are trying to dis-behave; we get to
having a good conversation and their Dad has is eyes on there arms instead
of listening to what they have to say for "what I did today".
Has one son pointed out to his father "your's is on the table too sometimes!"
Dad say's to remind him as well:)
But meals are not fun anymore. I believe that this is the only time you actually
get to sit down with each other and talk and have I hope a good family talk.
My boys are great boys and they can be bad "burbing" and ect boys as well.

So my question is where did this all start? I know our parents, their parents and ect in "camp" "get your elbows off the table "" "" and ect!


What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

I thank you all for your thoughts and they are all great.
Manners are very important. It's the eye watching that stresses the boys out.
They know to keep their elbows off the table.
Teens these days just get so upset with you when you remind them of their manners
and I know that will never stop. I continue to remind them that I am the mother
and they will always be my children!
I just wanted the History. I grew up with parents kids didn't talk at the table
only the parents or grandparents did unless you were addressed in the conversation.
I enjoy talking to my boys and hearing them laugh, complain about their day and get
to know them all over again has they are "growing up".
Thanks again the the response.
Grandma Sherry I hold your response with much respect, please don't think I don't care about the manners:)
Everyone have a great New Year.

More Answers

Hello! I just HAD to respond to this. In a previous issue of Wonder Time this exact question has been answered. I can't remember which issue but it's something like October or November of 07.
A long time ago boards and planks or wood slabs were placed on objects to make a "table". They were not attached to whatever was holding them in place (tree stumps, etc) so they asked people sitting at the table not to put their elbows on it in case it would tip it. Nowadays, tables are attached to legs to there is no more fear of tipping the top. So your boys should go ahead and put their elbows on the table. I never thought there was anything wrong with putting elbows on tables to begin with. If your hubby needs sound proof of the above mentioned, refer to Wonder Time Maagazine. Which is an EXCELLENT magazine in case you have not read it yet.

All the best! A.

1 mom found this helpful

Who knows! It's important to teach table manners, and kids need to be reminded - OFTEN. However, it has to be done in a kindly manner, not in a mean or angry way. Being mean in reminding is even ruder than elbows on the table. As I told my son, "if you have manners, you can keep company with kings". The MOST important thing is to have communication and love at the dinner table. Manners are second. However, both are doable.

1 mom found this helpful

In 1530 a Frenchman wrote a book about eating at the tabled and stated one should keep your elbows at your sides and this evolveded into the elbows off the table thing. I looked this up using History of table manners. We often had this problem until I talked to my husband about it. I also feel manners are very important but there has to be a line drawn about how far you are willing to take this. My kids are eight and elevend and still need gengle reminding as does my husband. I asked hubby how important this was, is talking to the kids more importand or winning this argument. As your kids get older they will get better. Peace was more important for us and the kids stilled learned. One funny thing is when our son reminded my husband about his elbows I thought he was going to blow, I just smiles, thanked our son and then smiles at my husband. He know is better about gently reminding and not arguing about something that just upsets us all. Hope this helps. You can also look up other history on table manner websites with you kids and see how things have changes. Kids used to have to stand behind the adults and eat what was given them, when they were allowed to eat at the table, they could not talk, figet or look at the others eating. So maybe your boys will find this interesting and be greatful all they have to do is keep there elbows off the table!

1 mom found this helpful


When I was a young girl, my grandmother made a game of table etiquette. Part of the game was to be polite and constructive while catching each other in poor etiquette. The most often caught was elbows on the table and talking with a mouth full of food. We also discussed why such things were expected of us. Traditions in etiquette go back centuries and are primarily ways to make a meal more enjoyable and cultured. In close settings, elbows on the table take up extra room and can result in something getting spilled or broken. The truth is that watching a table of diners using proper etiquette is a pleasure. Otherwise, it sometimes looks like a bunch of barn animals at a trough. After the meal is finished and people are just setting around talking formal etiquette is less necessary.

Everything I learned about manners and etiquette I learned from my grandmother and I still said yes ma’am and no ma’am to her when I was in my 50’s. She is my idol although she died from Alzheimer’s three years ago.

I have 5 adult children, 16 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren. Some of my grandchildren are disgusting with their eating habits but they improve considerably at a family dinner in my house.

Grandma S.

1 mom found this helpful

Hello M. -

I have three sons ages 14, almost 8, and 5 and this has, as you might be able to guess, been an issue we have considerred and dealt with in our nearly-all-male home as well.

What we ended up doing is allowing family-only dinners at home to be "barbarian dinners' complete with elbows on the table, chunks being torn off of the bread, and, honestly, the occasional fart or belch being indulged in and chuckled at.

I know, sounds gross, BUT the trade-off that they agreed to was this: all meals in restaurants and with guests must proceed with the utmost decorum and excellent manners. IF they slip into barbarism in the restaurant or at a friend's house then the next two weeks at home is practice time, so that they can re-learn the proper dinner-out manners.

On two occasions we have had to impose the two-week re-training (no elbows on table, napkin in lap, mouth-closed when chewing, smaller bites, no talking with food in the mouth, asking to be excused when finished, taking own dishes to the sink, and offering to help with clean-up after all are finished), but otherwise our boys are exceptionally well-behaved when eating with others and we are nearly always told by new acquaintances how wonderful our boys are and how exceptional their manners and consideration for others is.

Yes, for me, as a woman, it was not my idea of an ideal meal, but allowing my boys to be boys in all it's glory (farts and all!) has deepened my relationship with all of them and has visibly raised their self-esteem. It has allowed them to stop trying to foist their masculinity on me and to instead express the extremes on occasion only. But with their expressing the extremes of their masculinity they all have also been able to embrace ideals we consider feminine (creativity, art with textiles, knitting, quilting - I am not kidding!). They, and I have become more balanced and happy in genereal and it all started with me agreeing not to banish them from the table for farts, belches, or elbows.

So, my advice, immerse in the barbarian meals at home, complete with goblets or tankards for ales (AKA lemon water, juice or sparkling cider on holidays) on the condition that meals with others be a demonstration of exemplary manners.

It's FUN!

Best wishes -

1 mom found this helpful

Queen Victoria used to put her elbows on the table. If it's good enough for Queenie it's good enough for me. Probably all started when poor folks with big families were so crowded around the table there was no room for elbows. Time we grew up and realize what's important is that love, laughter and open communication = peaceful "success" in all our endeavours throughout life. The Little Ones learn a LOT at the dinner table. Are yours learning the way you would like them to live their entire lives? You are the role models...

1 mom found this helpful

You really made me think on this one because I kind of have the same problem. I did some Googling and it seems that there are a few reasons why you should not have your elbows on the table. For example: It may cause the table to tip, dirty the tablecloth or inferfere with the person sitting next to you.
Most of the articles I read said that it is acceptable to have your elbows on the table beetween courses and after table have been cleared to make it easier to join in conversation.
Hope this helped you, I know it did me.

I believe the no elbows on the table rule came from a long time ago when there was the danger of tipping over the table if too much uneven pressure was applied in one area. Also, if there are lots (or just a few) serving dishes on the table one is more likely to knock them over or get one's clothing in them if elbows are leaning on the table.

My husband has told me that when he was a kid and he or one of his 2 brothers put elbows on the table this rhyme was said: "Johnny, Johnny strong and able take your elbows off the table. This is not a horse's stable, but a decent dining table." I remember from reading Cheaper By the Dozen that if one family member caught another with elbows on the table the offending person would get his elbow "thumped" on the table. It then became a game to try to catch each other.

A game like that might make it fun to learn, especially if your husband is one of the offenders sometimes. Also, I think if you explain the reasons why it is not done (above and that if one is sloppy in manners at home one will inevitably forget in more important situations and frankly people do judge others by table manners. There have been many articles about colleges offering crash courses on manners to students who don't know how to act and will likely have a very hard time getting employment as a result.) it should not be too disruptive to "remind" offenders. I'm sure you and your husband multi-task all the time and could keep an eye out while having a pleasant conversation at the table.

Good luck!

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