Despite my reminders, my young children were developing poor table manners. Elbows up, talking with mouths full, reaching across one another.

It didn’t help that my husband’s manners weren’t up to snuff either. We all tended to relax around the family table. After all, it was just us.

But sometimes manners matter. Families need to know how to be graceful, whether for restaurants, church suppers, dinner guests or that far away someday when they’d grow up and sit across the table from a boss, a client or a future mother-in-law.

I tackled the challenge by first making a small poster of family-friendly table manners and reviewing them with the crew. The poster hung near the dining room table.

Next, I created a game with a real prize. I placed $5 — all quarters — in jelly jars, one jar for each family member including mom and dad. For our family of five, it was a $25 investment in their future.

Game play started right after saying grace. If one person spotted another breaking a manners rule, they collected a quarter from the offender and placed it in their own jar. At the end of two weeks, manners were sharp!

The game suddenly ended when my practical-joking husband and our oldest son decided to break every rule just for the fun of it, donating their quarters to the younger two sisters. So despite an unusual outcome, everybody learned their manners.

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