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Table Manners

(24 Posts)
SewnSew Sat 25-Sep-21 09:22:14

At what age should a child be able to handle a knife and fork properly? Our nearly-8 year old granddaughter holds her knife and fork clumsily, cannot cut up her food and sometimes eats with her fingers. Her parents think she will grow out of it but we think she needs to be taught how to hold her cutlery properly. She is equally bad at holding a pencil and her writing is awful. Otherwise she is a bright and energetic little girl who loves to dance, do gymnastics, etc. We do not want to criticise her very loving parents and have to be careful with our granddaughter because she tends to have very low esteem and finds both praise and criticism hard to cope with. She was adopted at age 3 after a decidedly rocky start in life and I gather this esteem problem is very common in adopted children. I should add that she is surrounded by people who love her dearly. Any thought and advice would be welcome.

CafeAuLait Sat 25-Sep-21 10:18:19

She could have dysgraphia or some other learning disability. Some of these can also affect the ability to manage cutlery easily. Trying to pressure her could just lead to distress and her parents may opt to not eat with you anymore an you're wise not to. I get that it's hard to watch if you're not used to it. I know someone older than me that still struggles to look uncomfortable using cutlery (which they only do if socially necessary).

CafeAuLait Sat 25-Sep-21 10:19:26

Excuse typos. "struggles to look comfortable".

ginny Sat 25-Sep-21 10:22:35

Leave it to her parents and carry on loving her.

Blossoming Sat 25-Sep-21 10:26:22

There could be a physical cause. If she struggles with writing as well maybe it’s a problem with manual dexterity. Perhaps you could encourage to try some craft or play, such as making beaded jewellery, that would involve using her fingers to create something fun.

Bibbity Sat 25-Sep-21 10:45:54

It sounds like this is a larger issue. The school and her parents will monitor and work towards assistance.

I wouldn't bring this up at all. Ever, there may be things that they do not wish to disclose to anyone else.
Her history and medical issues may be private.

Esspee Sat 25-Sep-21 10:51:58

ginny has put it succinctly.

CafeAuLait Sat 25-Sep-21 11:18:47

I agree with ginny too.

Riverwalk Sat 25-Sep-21 12:16:04

Why have you entitled your thread 'Table Manners'?

Your young granddaughter obviously has some problems with her fine motors skills - nothing to do with table manners!

rubysong Sat 25-Sep-21 13:35:07

I can remember my mother standing behind me and holding my hands with the knife and fork to help me hold them correctly. I think this would help but, as others have said, you do need to be careful not to undermine the parents or let it be seen as criticism.

Judy54 Sat 25-Sep-21 13:59:29

Hello SewnSew is your granddaughter left handed? I am and and I recognise the things you are saying from my childhood. I could not hold a knife and fork well or a pen and pencil, my handwriting was awful and it still is! My Father was also left handed so there was no pressure on me to use my right hand (as He was made to do at school) Just a thought.

eazybee Sat 25-Sep-21 14:46:30

When I was teaching I encountered a child who had poor motor skills, difficulty with handling cutlery and dreadful handwriting.
His parents thought he was difficult and lazy; I didn't and suggested he was checked out by a doctor, who discovered a medical condition which mean his hands, and possibly his feet, were weak and caused him pain when he used them. I have searched on the internet but cannot find the name of this condition, sorry, but it may be worth this little girl being seen by a doctor to see if there is any physical cause.

Cold Sat 25-Sep-21 15:34:38

I know several children who have had this issue because of a physical issue including my own DD1 who had specialist OT and Physiotherapy hand training when she was 10.

You seem to be suggesting that this is a behaviour issue but there are often medical reasons for this such as dysgraphia, a motor skill disorder or hypermobility/Ehlers Danlos syndrome. For DD1 it was a mixture of ASD, hypermobility and an unfortunate elbow fracture - she was unable to write more than 4 lines (because it hurt!) until she was 10 yet she was a regional level figure skater (hypermobility was an advantage there).

I would back off completely and leave it to the parents and school to work out the cause.

eazybee Sat 25-Sep-21 16:47:18

I am sure it was hyper-mobility, Cold Thank you.
The boy did receive some specialist OT support which helped him and his parents.

Margiknot Sat 25-Sep-21 20:27:09

I agree it is best to leave it to her parents who will know her abilities ( and difficulties) best. Our son ( with a similar difficult start) had very poor fine motor control - and generally uneven development. The most useful advice we got was to support our child in developing at his own speed.

grannysyb Sat 25-Sep-21 21:29:40

My DGD2 has terrible handwriting, she is dyslexic.

Zoejory Sat 25-Sep-21 21:39:08

I'm with you sewnsew

I taught all of my 4 children how to hold a life and fork correctly. They know the lay out of silver service.

I thought it important enough to learn.

Now my greandchidren are the same

M0nica Sat 25-Sep-21 22:01:00

She could have mild dyspraxia, which affects fine motor movement. My whole school career was overhung by teachers trying to make my illegible writing legible.

It was only when DS had the same problem that both of us were finally diagnosed with dyspraxia.

Cold Sat 25-Sep-21 22:29:23


I'm with you sewnsew

I taught all of my 4 children how to hold a life and fork correctly. They know the lay out of silver service.

I thought it important enough to learn.

Now my greandchidren are the same


You would overrule the child's parents and force a young child to do something that may cause them pain or that they are unable to do because of a disability?

I have myself one of the conditions discussed above - Ehlers Danlos hypermobility syndrome - caused by a genetic collagen abnormality. Unfortunately I didn't get diagnosed until I was 54 despite being born with it which has resulted in permanent joint damage. When it is really bad trying to cut meat or write by hand causes pain through my wrist that is not unlike someone hammering a nail through my wrist.

That fact that she struggles to write means that it is likely not just a matter of teaching how to hold cutlery.

mokryna Sat 25-Sep-21 22:37:42

I was taught from a very young age as were my 3 DD but it’s another story with my 5 DGC even though they study well. My 2 AC aren’t bothered so I hold my tongue.

SewnSew Sun 26-Sep-21 10:07:45

Thank you everyone for your help and advice. As a result we now know that the problem is almost certainly a physical one - we'd never heard of dysgraphia etc. Having Googled it and dyspraxia, we suspect the latter to be the case and will just hope that her parents and the school pick up on it. We have never had any intention of criticising either her or her parents, but merely wanted to know whether her struggle with cutlery was normal for a child of her age and what - if anything - we should be doing to gently help her.

M0nica Sun 26-Sep-21 10:24:02

SewnSew, I obviously am not familiar with your family dynamic, but it is worth asking your DGS's parents whether they think her writing and knife holding skills may mean she has dyspraxia. They may not know of it, many people do not. Given her background, they are clearly loving and sensitive parents and would then hopefully investigate it.

I know I could mention something like that to my son and DiL without it causing problems, but I know not everyone can.

SewnSew Sun 26-Sep-21 10:49:24

Thank you Monica. I don't think I will bring it up directly but could drop it into the conversation at some point. Our family dynamic is good so it wouldn't cause a problem.

GagaJo Sun 26-Sep-21 10:57:01

To a certain extent, I agree. My DGS's table manners are appalling. He is slowly improving, but it takes a lot of insistence and reinforcement. I think there is too much eating going on away from the table and not enough enforcement of using utensils. Better to nip bad habits in the bud now in my view.