Are You Raising Rude Eaters?

Poor Eating Habits

Eating with His Fingers

Manners Makeover Teach your child how to use a spoon by age 2 and a fork by age 3. Start with small plastic utensils that are easy to handle, and provide lots of encouragement: "This is how big boys do it." You might also review which foods are okay for little hands (corn on the cob, pizza, fruit) and which aren't (yogurt, meat, rice).

Slurping Soup from a Bowl

Manners Makeover Sure, it's a faster way to eat, but slurping is also noisy and yucky to watch. Demonstrate how to dip the spoon into the bowl and hold it in a horizontal position when you bring it to your mouth, so soup doesn't dribble onto the table. Then let your child try it.

Wolfing Down Her Meal

Manners Makeover Shoveling food into your mouth isn't just unappetizing, it's a choking hazard. When your child does it, say, "I took a long time to prepare this meal, so let's try to make it last a little longer." You can also cut your child's meat into small pieces so she's less tempted to take huge bites. If she's old enough to use a knife (around age 5) but still finds it a challenge, offer to slice up half of her dinner, and see whether she can take care of the rest.

Playing with His Food

Manners Makeover It's beneficial for your baby to explore different textures. But once he's out of a high chair, your child shouldn't be blowing bubbles in his milk or building a mountain out of his mashed potatoes. He's probably doing it to test the boundaries or get your attention. Whatever the case, don't play along. Remove the food or drink "plaything," and let him know that if his behavior continues, he won't be allowed to eat at the table with you.

Chewing with His Mouth Open

Manners Makeover Keeping your mouth closed while eating is a learned behavior, so your child will need lots of friendly reminders. If these don't solve the problem, put a mirror in front of his face so he can see how gross it looks. When he talks with a full mouth, say, "Finish swallowing that bite first, then talk." And if he has siblings, let them be your watchdogs: If they catch him openmouthed, they can say, "No 'see food,' please."

Spitting Food onto His Plate

Manners Makeover It's fair to ask your child to take at least one bite of something -- and to swallow it. Let him know that the next time he spits, the meal, including dessert, is done.

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