DEAR ABBY: I am dating a wonderful man, "Andrew," who has two sons, ages 10 and 12. Both of them have horrible table manners. Eating with them is like watching pigs at a trough. I have discussed this with Andrew, who agrees but has done nothing to correct them.
I don't know how to instill proper eating manners in the boys without coming across as though I'm better than they are. Do you have any suggestions? -- THE NAPKIN GOES ON THE LAP
DEAR NAPKIN: You can't blame the boys for not knowing something they were never taught. However, lecturing them at this point would be counterproductive and could cause a rift between you and your boyfriend.
Enlist Andrew's help and discuss with his sons the difference between "casual" table manners and those that are expected when people dine in public or at a friend's house. You and Andrew should also "mention" how good the food is at some of the local restaurants. This will give the boys an incentive when you both offer to take them if they learn what's expected in public.
Tell them you're willing to teach them, explain the rules, model the behavior and help them practice. Then reward them by taking them to the restaurants and praising them if they do well.