Dumbing Down Our Kids With Slang & Finger-Foods.

"It's the kind of place where your kid can scream and nobody cares," moms have told me.

We've eaten at those "family friendly" places that feel more like cafeterias than restaurants. You place your order, pay and then fetch your own plastic plates, napkins and flatware.

It's the perfect place for ill mannered children. They can scream, throw food, bang spoons, and even kick their feet against the wall. We saw that very thing happen this past Sunday.

I dislike these places because I expect my children to behave like civilized human beings, not wild animals.

Is it elitist of me to expect my children to drink water from water glasses and not plastic cups? Perhaps.

Is it elitist of me to expect my children to eat something other than finger foods? Perhaps.

I don't allow them to throw fits in restaurants (or anywhere, actually), use slang or rest their elbows on the table. Am I too harsh?

I don't care. Someday it's going to matter that they know the difference between a salad fork and a dinner fork. Someday it's going to matter that they use proper grammar. Someday it might mean the difference between getting the promotion or getting fired.

It's my job to make sure my children not only eat nutritious food, but that they eat it properly.

We have a long way to go. James still thinks his shirt is a perfectly fine napkin. Jewel dawdles over her vegetables. Jude is far too picky. But we're getting there.

During our spring break we took the kids to tea at a fancy-shmancy English tea house. There were no plastic plates or kids cups. Everything was fine china and linen. I was a nervous wreck. But the kids really surprised me.

Not a cup was broken, not a bit of food fell to the floor. Just to assure ourselves this wasn't a freak miracle, we took them the next day, too. Same thing.

I was shocked. All my hard work at home was paying off! We must have had six people come up to us and compliment our "lovely children." You could just see my kids' eyes lighting up. They sat a little straighter, held their tea-cups a little steadier.

Am I bragging? OK, yes. Please forgive me.

But their favorite memory of our whole trip was tea at the English tea-house! James even wrote about it when he got back to school.

To me, that's worth being called elitist.

How about you? What manners do you think are important for children to learn? I would love to hear your top two or three. Please share!