With summer vacation in full swing, our schedules may not have more free time, but there may be a bit more flexibility. With the diminishing of wake-up alarms, homework and after-school events and activities, life takes on a different pace. This may allow for some time to take on common sense family etiquette/protocol that will actually prepare you for that extra layer of success as a military family. Okay, don’t lose me here! Believe it or not, etiquette actually makes your life easier as a parent, and prepares and equips your children, while helping with overall family success. Not many things in life can you say does all that!

So, regardless of where your families fall on the etiquette spectrum, this is not about feeling overwhelmed, but rather a little inspiration. And, with so much on our military life plates, dining etiquette with its plates and forks may seem overwhelming, (like one more thing to do on that long, ever growing list.) But, here’s the thing, we already eat dinner with our children fairly regularly, and that is all you need to learn basic dining etiquette. You do not need to invest in additional resources or time, just use dinner every so often, to make it a productive & a little educational. Your family may actually like it and you will be glad you introduced them to those basic etiquette areas that help make your children more skilled and life a bit more pleasant. And use day to day events to introduce the other common sense areas of family etiquette. Trust me, you may learn some great tips along the way that you can use at both special events, family dinners and day to day life!

So, back to the basics, we like to look at etiquette as different branches (sort of like our military.) There is: basic dining etiquette, common sense etiquette and military etiquette/protocol, just for our unique, outstanding group. We have covered some of the basics of military etiquette in our past three blogs and videos (please refer back if needed.) Let’s delve into some new areas:

  • Dining Etiquette

Forks, Knives, Spoons:

This is fairly simple for anyone and everyone in your family. We often get overwhelmed by this and there is no need to! Although during a basic family dinner, we may not have three forks to choose from, we can always practice by occasionally adding a couple forks. Just work from the outside in with forks, according to the course or dish delivered. All is it takes is a salad, quick little appetizer and your dinner dish and you are good to go to practice this one! Forks are always placed on left, all others utensils on the right, unless dealing with a (rare) very formal setting where you find some utensils above the plate. But overall it is just that simple.


Your napkin goes on your lap as soon as you are seated. Place on chair if you get up and then to the right of your plate when finished. Super, super simple!

Resting/Finished Positions

This one is easy, too. Place your knife and fork at a diagonal toward the top of the plate when finished. Crossing utensils over each other when you are still eating is appropriate and easy for those out-to-dinner events!

Again, this is not to be expected every day, or even every week (our lives are too crazy for that!) but make a regular dinner, special, by adding some forks, and a napkin, and your at-home etiquette class can be that easy! Throw in the importance of chewing with your mouth closed and eating slowly and you have some royalty level etiquette-trained children of all ages! This is not just for Kate, William, George and Charlotte. Our military children are royalty, too!

  • Common Sense:

Magic Words:  Teaching our children and modeling this is really a great thing to do when at the commissary or at a military or civilian events. We have so many opportunities to model this beautifully in our day to day lives.

  1. “Please.” It changes an order to a request (and we all know a lot about “Orders”) It is a kind ways of asking for something and it usually results in a pleasant outcome.
  2. “Thank You.” It is recognizing an everyday event in a way that shows you genuinely care and appreciated the gesture.
  3. “You’re Welcome.” This is always, always… the proper response to “Thank you.”
  4. “Excuse Me.” This is used when we have inconvenienced someone or made a small error. This is like a breath of fresh air, when used properly.

Common Courtesies:

  1. Respect: Valuing each other and acknowledging that we come from different backgrounds and experiences, and never demeaning each other for different ideas and opinions.
  2. Be Considerate: Helping others and caring for others. This can be especially important in our military communities. Also, being gracious receivers of help and support, something that is hard for us as military spouses to do at times (at least it was for me!)
  3. Honesty: Having integrity, keeping our “word” and being sincere without ulterior motives. Yes, these are big shoes to fill, but we can start at home and certainly instill this in our children and our own personal lives.


Basic Military Protocol

Where to Stand: When mom or dad or even sibling or relative are in uniform, try to remember to stand on their left-hand side. If you have very little ones, latitude is certainly offered here. But start teaching this as soon as it seems age appropriate.

Anthem/Pledge:  Military families certainly excel in this area, but just as a quick review. Every abled-body person regardless of age, should always stand for the anthem, facing the flag. Hats are taken off and hand on heart is always a safe option whether indoors or outdoors. All this should be done, according to proper protocol, until the very last note is played and word is spoken. Our little-ones will need instruction and of course some patience on our part, but they learn very quickly as they see their parents model and value this so much, as military families. If you are at an event where another country’s anthem is played, (say sporting event) stand respectfully, but your hand should never go over your heart.

Ranks: Our children cannot be expected to know ranks extensively. This is even difficult for the most seasoned military spouses. It is best, though, when in regular military circles or at a special events, to prepare our child who is going to be there in attendance. Especially our tweens and teens, let them know the rank and name of someone new. For example, “General Washington will be at the promotion ceremony.” Then our children will know rank and name ahead of the time, if there is an unfamiliar face. Also, remember to use rank, not, sir or ma’am, when speaking to individuals in uniform.

We are hopeful that this helps simplify some of those areas that even we, as adults, may question at times. How great that our military children will be way ahead of their peers as they will be equipped with knowledge in some of those murky areas of etiquette and protocol. So go ahead and teach them the basics. That’s an order! “A-Uhm,” I mean, please and thank you!

Written by: © Susan A. Vernick, Etiquette Chics ™