'Elbows off!' The table manners your grandparents swear by may become a thing of the past, according to new research

Millennial parents are ditching 'old-fashioned table manners'

Family eating with their grandparents at the dinner table
(Image credit: Getty Images)

New research has revealed that the table manners grandparents instilled in their kids may not be making their way down to their grandkids as millennial parents ditch the 'old fashioned' approach to mealtimes. 

There are lots of things millennial parents have changed about parenting in recent years. As well as focusing on more gentle parenting styles, they're also making sure to teach their own kids the life lessons they were never taught as youngsters. And it's all worked to leave nearly all millennial parents thinking their approach to parenting is ‘better’ than previous generations

But while they're changing their approach and adding in new aspects to how they parent their kids, there is also one surprising thing they're ditching completely. 

New research has found that table manners are now becoming a thing of the past. After surveying a selection of Brits, restaurant chain Prezzo, report that 73% of parents believe that table manners are less important today than in the past while a separate Censuswide poll revealed the same, showing that 60% of 12 to 27 year olds thought old-fashioned table manners were irrelevant.

This means that not only are parents now no longer shouting "Elbows!" at their kids at the dinner table - a one word demand that many will recognise and likely still respond to by quickly removing their elbows from the table - but they're also answering calls or texts at the table, starting to eat before other diners' food has arrived, and chewing with open mouths. 

The new approach to dining etiquette is something that Liz Wyse, an etiquette expert at Debrett’s, believes is a signal of the 'general informality coming to all areas of life.'

She told The Telegraph, “There are traditional table etiquette elements where it’s all about different types of cutlery and place settings and what you do with your napkin and that kind of thing. Those are beginning to break down. 

"That’s part of a general informality coming to all areas of life. I see why people think that sort of thing is irrelevant to their lives.”

The biggest way that this new approach to table manners is impacting meal times is the fact that phones are always at the table, even when they're not being used. But this, according to Wyse, is something that communicates rudeness to both parents and their kids during dinner. 

“When you plonk your phone on the table, or keep having a quick look under the table, it’s rude,” she explains. “It communicates to the people you’re dining with that you’re not interested in them."

If removing your phone from the table as a parent is impossible, perhaps for work reasons, Wyse suggests to "Announce at the start of your meal that you may need to check your phone and ask them to excuse you if you’re expecting a truly important phone call. Otherwise phones should never make an appearance.” 

But dropping other table manners doesn't have as big of an impact, one expert believes. Unfortunately for grandparents who despise having elbows on the table, etiquette specialist William Hanson, like 77% of the people surveyed by Prezzo, believes that particular rule is outdated. 

He explains, “It goes back to medieval times when tables were sheets of wood laid across trestles, so if you put your elbows on them, they’d tip. Today, I’d say keep your elbows off the table while eating to make room, but at the end of a supper or kitchen party you can put your elbows on the table, especially if your host is doing so.”

But while the elbows rule may not be important, Wyse still thinks that many table manners still stand. “I would refute the idea that table manners are irrelevant,” she said. “The point of all manners is two-fold; they stop you from making a spectacle of yourself, and they allow you to avoid discomforting the people around you.” 

While they may not be learning table manners from their grandparents, kids today are still being taught a lot of important lessons by the older generation with research showing that grandparents set their grandkids up with hobbies and 'habits that last a lifetime'. But that doesn't mean grandparents don't have anything new to learn. In other family news, five categories of grandparent have been identified by psychologists - can you can identify your grandparent in the list? Plus, a child psychologist unveils 'the grandparent code', which is a list of 12 grandparenting rules that should keep family relationships strong and healthy.

News writer

Charlie Elizabeth Culverhouse is a news writer for Goodtoknow, specialising in family content. She began her freelance journalism career after graduating from Nottingham Trent University with an MA in Magazine Journalism, receiving an NCTJ diploma, and earning a First Class BA (Hons) in Journalism at the British and Irish Modern Music Institute. She has also worked with BBC Good Food and The Independent.