Two of the first words a child is taught to say are “please” and “thank you”. Or at least they should be.

It is the concept of appreciation and respect that are the important factors. Not just meaningless politeness. And even if little Sally or Jeremy may simply parrot language, it is never too early to begin educating a young mind.

The same can be said and done for table manners. The upgrade from high chair to a regular dining table with mum, dad, or Nanny V, may signify freedom from the restraints or their sense of isolation, and it’s an opportunity for a child to embark on another stage of learning about behaviour and boundaries.

For most, their first instinct will be to leap out of the chair, run amok, making a game out of meal time. It can become a nightmare for all involved. A screaming, erratic toddler and a frustrated and helpless adult attempting to bring order is not a pretty picture.

A nanny, who lacks confidence and fears reprimand from an employer if junior is crying, may think the only way to get food into the tummy of a marauding child is by chasing and coaxing to eat. In my experience, the situation only escalates without the desirable outcome leaving no one happy.

Allowing a nanny to perform and teach is what Jo Macartney, from The Lady Recruits, discusses with parents in search of a care provider in their family unit.

“Whether or not this is the style the parents wish to employ, it is necessary to clarify mums and dad’s wishes, ensuring an ideal nanny match and also that everyone is in sync”.

Little Miss C was a notorious wanderer. It took tedious weeks of fidgeting and whining (her loudly, and me as inwardly contained as I could muster on the day), until eventually she realised that leaving the table meant eating was finished.

Thankfully, mum was patient and understood the necessary drama to break a bad habit. Particularly at the end of the day when exhaustion overwhelms and remaining calm is an almighty challenge.

And no matter how advanced a child’s hand/eye co-ordination, be prepared for a mess. Learning sometimes requires experimentation, particularly with a knife and fork, so even if the aftermath resembles a Jackson Pollock masterpiece, rubber gloves with an industrial strength cleaner can remedy all.

Try not to stress. Each child has their own peculiarities and even when the variables are great, consistency and a little firmness will eventually pay dividends. And smiles.

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