Bad Manners Night

A fun way to teach good table etiquette to children

Jay Davidson
3 min readApr 18, 2022


When my kids were growing up, we had a family tradition that we called Bad Manners Night. Held during dinner every Wednesday, this was a night when everyone had good laughs about each others’ antics such as picking up food with our fingers, resting our elbows on the table, and proudly making burping sounds without so much as an “Excuse me.”

photo by the author

This turned out to be a wildly successful and positive means for teaching our children good table manners, and it carried forward into their adult lives, in that they both have exemplary table manners. [They are now 33 and 40 years old.]

With Bad Manners Night in place, during the remainder of the week, instead of our reminding them, “Don’t slouch at the table,” or “Sit up straight,” which made it a burden to either remind or correct about what not to do when eating with others, we were able to re-focus the undesired behavior by saying something along the lines of, “Wow! Slouching at the table! That’s a good one for Bad Manners Night! How about saving it until then?”

[Thinking back now, two decades later, something that we didn’t do was to keep a list of transgressions during the week, as a means of ensuring their repetition on the following Wednesday. That could have been fun. Perhaps, if we had it to do all over again, we could employ that as part of the process. We could have kept a list nearby and trotted it out before dinner:

Brian has to fart. Elizabeth has to burp. Brian has to ask to be excused from the table by saying, “I gotta take a dump.” That may have been fun.]

My approach to parental participation in raising children to behave in a positive way is something that I brought into our home as a result of my having been a teacher, a career from which I retired in 2003 after 34 years in urban public school classrooms.

As a teacher, I had long noticed that it was much easier to get children’s cooperation with positive rather than with negative statements about their behavior. It’s none other than that old saw about catching more flies with honey than with vinegar.

I had hoped that what worked well in the classroom would easily transfer to the household. For the most part, it did. I am…



Jay Davidson

Retired teacher (San Francisco, 1969–2003); Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (Mauritania, 2003–2005); public speaker, artist, writer, traveler, world citizen