Jun 28, 2014

Chinuch for Table Manners

Shabbos morning.  In many homes, adults and children, or just children, eat cake.  I happened to be in someone's home where little children, perhaps ages 3-6, were walking around the house holding cake (messy, chocolatey cake, no less).

It was harmless and the adults obviously don't have my squeamishness about food and crumbs all over and dirty hands and Pesach awareness.  However, even allowing for variances in how to handle messes, I thought this was a chinuch problem.  And this is probably not because I am in the middle of reading a book describing a frum home Czechoslovakia and the great emphasis on discipline and manners (along with plenty of love). 

What's the chinuch problem? Not instilling and cultivating discipline in children from the youngest ages.  Allowing them to go where they please with food in their hands.  Not teaching them that we eat at the table.   Sitting down. Then we finish eating and we wipe or wash our hands.  And (if the child is old enough) we say a bracha achrona. 

Our society's lack of discipline is at odds with a life of Torah and mitzvos; at odds with kabbolas ol malchus shomayim.  Allowing children to do what they want, where they want, whenever they want or too often, cripples them later in life.  It's the easier route for parents but it's not chinuch.


  1. I remember a few years ago that one of my mechutanim had a tenent living downstairs whose parenting methods were termed, "relaxed." My mechutanim would find that a small child had wandered up the stairs to their apartment, apparently wanting to eat, while the parents were relaxing. They would insist that the child sit at the table and eat properly with brachas, knowing that they were likely the only people that were exposing the child to this method of eating.

  2. Oh come now! Do not take your own values and generalize it as universal. If crumbs are to you a problem - then keep that problem in your your own home. It certainly is not a sin - and only for the latter can you be annoyed by others transgressing it - but crumbs? You gotta be kidding!!

  3. In the vanguard, while crumbs are not a sin, don't children need to learn how to behave in civilized society? If children were to be left to their own devices, they would want to wear diapers well past the time that those around them can handle the odor. Should we just say that children should be able to always do as they please with total disregard for anyone else's comfort? Does that approach lead to sins or mitzvahs?