Table manners for a 6 year old - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 44 Old 03-04-2010, 01:48 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Hello,

My daughter is 5 years old (well..turning 6 in a month) and, like any kid, is prone to smacking her lips/eating with her mouth open.

I've been trying to instill good table manners in her and have been reminding her not to do this for a good while now (a couple years maybe?).

I often have high expectations of her and she makes me proud by meeting them 99.9% of the time...(this is probably the only exception lol)

But my wife gets upset at me asking her to do this and tells me that she is "only five years old" and that me expecting her to not eat with her mouth open is setting too high of a standard etc...

So I'm looking for some feedback from some parents more experienced than myself...am I setting the bar too high, or no?
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#2 of 44 Old 03-04-2010, 06:41 AM
 
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Table manners are a gradual thing, in my experience. Expecting a child of five or six to eat perfectly is, in my opinion, a bit much. Is eating with her mouth open and smacking her lips the only thing she's doing "wrong?" Or are there multiple things and you're just focusing on this one?

We do expect good table manners of our DS, now 7, but it doesn't happen all at once. At the moment, we're finally gotten the wiping his hands on his clothes and using his hand as a napkin thing solved (hopefully). Now we're working on using the knife and fork instead of his hand (we live in Europe where people eat with both utensils in their hands).

I think if you overwhelm a child with everything s/he is doing "wrong" at the table, eating becomes a battle. My advice would be to focus on one thing at a time, gently, and positively.

Could your wife's response be based on an overall feeling that you expect too much, in general (not just at the table) of your daughter? That your expectations are out of sync with normal childhood development?

Obviously, I don't know your family or your situation, but I do know that my DH sometimes can come down too hard (in my opinion) on our DS and doesn't really have a good idea of what is "normal" for a kid his age. We also expect a lot of our DS, but I have to remind my DH sometimes that perfection doesn't happen overnight! and that always correcting DS sets up a negative dynamic.
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#3 of 44 Old 03-04-2010, 07:32 AM
 
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I don't see anything wrong with gentle reminders... it's how kids learn. It does take 1001 times reminding them before they get it internalized. But the key is that it's a gentle reminder that doesn't shame or belittle them in any way. Just a simple, "Chew with your lips closed, please" in an upbeat and singsong way goes much further than, "Do you ALWAYS HAVE to eat with your mouth open??? Nobody wants to see your disgusting food while you're chewing it!" (ETA: I'm not suggesting that you say things like this, I'm just giving an example of negative, hurtful comments in general.) I don't believe in putting kids down for forgetting manners that will take them a lifetime to learn and hone. Good luck and Welcome to MDC!!
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#4 of 44 Old 03-04-2010, 11:14 AM
 
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My nearly 8 year old still needs reminders to chew with his mouth shut. It's better than it was, but he still does it. And I do remind him when I hear/see it to chew with his mouth shut.

How will she learn it isn't acceptable if no one tells her? I do agree with velochic in how to phrase it though.
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#5 of 44 Old 03-04-2010, 11:56 AM
 
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I agree with everyone about gentle reminders. OP, I'm not sure what your dinner table atmosphere is like, but I know that when I was growing up, my dad was very aggressive in policing table manners. He didn't (and still doesn't, with his 8YO) see it as any problem, because I think the bad manners stressed him out more than "causing a scene" at the table, even out at a restaurant. However, my mom is a more sensitive person, and felt that his "reminders" were a little overly aggressive, and would make dinnertime very stressful. (I even remember being sent to sit in the car while parents and sister finished up a restaurant meal--ah, the carefree 70's, when you could send your kids to the car for a time-out.) So, is it possible that what you see as just "training" your daughter is coming across as something that stresses your wife out during dinner time?

Perception is tough. My DH and I deal with it, too. Many times I perceive him as being too angry/aggressive or whatever, and he thinks he's just being normal.

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#6 of 44 Old 03-04-2010, 12:03 PM
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So, is it possible that what you see as just "training" your daughter is coming across as something that stresses your wife out during dinner time?
Something worth thinking about. My ex used to make a big deal about certain things, like whether or not the kids' clothes matched perfectly or they chewed in absolute silence. It ruined a lot of our "together" time.

I'm all for good manners, but I'd rather witness a couple of mouthfuls of food than listen to someone rant and rave at the dinner table. I'm not saying that's what YOU do, Built. Just sayin', is all.
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#7 of 44 Old 03-04-2010, 01:35 PM
 
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Oops, I'm trying to get my 2 year old to chew with his mouth closed! I didn't know it took kids so long to 'get' this.
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#8 of 44 Old 03-04-2010, 04:24 PM
 
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I don't think it's too early to instill good manners at the table. A simple, "Lips closed, please," is all it takes - it doesn't have to be harsh. But a 6 year old is not going to remember all the time - I still have to remind my 8 year old sometimes.

I have an adult friend that I honestly cannot bear to share meals with, because no one ever taught her not to smack her lips while she eats. I do feel that table manners are very important, but like all things, they can be taught gently.
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#9 of 44 Old 03-04-2010, 04:42 PM
 
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DS is 9 and still does this. We usually just ask him to close his mouth/stop smacking if we notice, no big deal.

We've come a long way from the days of "NO PLAYING WITH YOUR PENIS AT THE TABLE NOW GO WASH YOUR HANDS", so I won't complain.
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#10 of 44 Old 03-04-2010, 04:54 PM
 
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I don't think it is wrong to tell a child to close their mouth when they chew, to not talk with their mouth full, and to use a silverware. My dd had these down at three and would tell people the rule and the reason behind the rule when we went out to eat. We talked about why the manner was important and established a non-verbal reminder, me pointing to my closed lips. She is also able to use a napkin rather than her shirt though that took longer to establish.
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#11 of 44 Old 03-04-2010, 05:09 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Too funny squishykitty


Yeah I admit that in general I have pretty high expectations of her, but they are always within reach and I don't set her up for failure...and FWIW she consistently meets and exceeds those expectations and makes me a very proud dad. ...and we get lots of compliments about how well behaved she is/what good manners she has etc

So I'm guess I'm just kind of bediggled as to why she has difficulty with something that seems easy compared to other "shoot for the stars expectations" I have for her...

I suppose ultimately it will be a matter of unity and consistency in having dinner as a family w/the reminders (I know I'm competing with the two meals a day where she can smack her lips freely lol) So what do y'all think about the idea of positive reinforcement? Like if she only needs reminding 2 times or less = ice cream w/gummi bears lol. I'm guessing y'all would think that's a bit much?
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#12 of 44 Old 03-04-2010, 05:45 PM
 
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Unless the sound is driving you completely insane and you just can't hold it together if you hear it again, I think you shouldn't get into rewards for chewing with your mouth closed. Maybe you could talk to your wife about working on reminding her about eating with her mouth closed at the other meals. Once the noise is gone, you will probably find that you can ignore the rest and patiently await good manners. I find that I can handle most things my dd does unless there is an annoying noise that goes with it.
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#13 of 44 Old 03-04-2010, 05:57 PM
 
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Oops, I'm trying to get my 2 year old to chew with his mouth closed! I didn't know it took kids so long to 'get' this.
I think it's great to start small! But do know that it may take many, many years.

When dd was 2, 3, even 4, she would REGULARLY still do things like wad up her napkin and put it on the table, chew with her mouth open, wipe her mouth on her sleeve, use her fingers to scoop food onto her utensils, etc. As a pp said, we've taught dd the "European" way of eating with the fork in the left hand and the knife in the right hand. We also consider it unmannerly to swap utensils from hand to hand all the time when eating and cutting food with the side of the fork. At 8, dd has all this down now, but it really did take YEARS for it to come into effect and she does still forget. But it's never too early.

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DS is 9 and still does this. We usually just ask him to close his mouth/stop smacking if we notice, no big deal.

We've come a long way from the days of "NO PLAYING WITH YOUR PENIS AT THE TABLE NOW GO WASH YOUR HANDS", so I won't complain.
This almost made me spew my water on my screen. How funny! Yes... they come a long way over the years.

For my dd, it was a journey from standing in her chair, taking off her shirt and putting spaghetti sauce on her "mama-both-sides" (her word for breasts because when she nursed, she would finish up one side and ask, "mama... both sides?" because she wanted to nurse longer).
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#14 of 44 Old 03-04-2010, 06:30 PM
 
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I think you should keep reminding her "Chew with your mouth closed.. I can hear your food".

I expect kids to be able to do this by age four. So, I don't think you are overexpecting.

My husband chews with his mouth open, and there are some days that I have to contain myself... because I want to push his mouth closed.... hard.

I think it's one of the more obnoxious bad habits there are out there, and five is old enough for this. But, it's not an "all in one day" lesson. It does take lots of gentle reminders.
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#15 of 44 Old 03-04-2010, 06:44 PM
 
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As a pp said, we've taught dd the "European" way of eating with the fork in the left hand and the knife in the right hand. We also consider it unmannerly to swap utensils from hand to hand all the time when eating and cutting food with the side of the fork.
Seriously? I'd stop eating anything that required cutting. I've never heard that before.

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#16 of 44 Old 03-04-2010, 06:47 PM
 
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I think you should keep reminding her "Chew with your mouth closed.. I can hear your food".

I expect kids to be able to do this by age four. So, I don't think you are overexpecting.

My husband chews with his mouth open, and there are some days that I have to contain myself... because I want to push his mouth closed.... hard.

I think it's one of the more obnoxious bad habits there are out there, and five is old enough for this. But, it's not an "all in one day" lesson. It does take lots of gentle reminders.
I've left behind all the "kids should be able to do this by age such-and-such" since I had ds2. DS1 and dd1 werre both wiping their mouths on their napkins, chewing with their mouths closed, etc. by about 2...maybe 3. DS2 is still routinely wiping his mouth on his clothes or hands (then wiping the hands on his clothes), even though we've been more consistent with him, and more consistent about ensuring there is always a napkin present. He just doesn't get it. I also know at least two adults who I know for a fact were taught proper table manners (okay - what I think of as proper table manners, which obviously differs from at least some other people), and don't practice them at all.

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#17 of 44 Old 03-04-2010, 06:59 PM
 
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Seriously? I'd stop eating anything that required cutting. I've never heard that before.
Yes, seriously (in our family) based on how dh and I were taught.
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#18 of 44 Old 03-04-2010, 07:09 PM
 
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OP: if it seems out of line that she can't get it and she's figured everything else out... is she congested? Maybe she does a lot of mouth breathing during the day and you don't notice as much because it's noisy.

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#19 of 44 Old 03-04-2010, 08:23 PM
 
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Reminding a child, politely, not to smack their lips or to use other table manners is not wrong.

Not in any way, IMHO.

My 5 yr old is not perfect by any means (and who is?) but he does have decent table manners. My middle child, who has Autism, sometimes needs more reminders.

Teaching table manners will help a child when he is an adult and out in the world. No one wants to see a grown man smacking his lips, or a woman slurping her soup loudly.

I disagree with your wife with the "She's only FIVE years old?" I mean, if you don't start teaching manners early, it will be a heck of a lot harder when she is older.
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#20 of 44 Old 03-04-2010, 08:35 PM
 
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OP: if it seems out of line that she can't get it and she's figured everything else out... is she congested? Maybe she does a lot of mouth breathing during the day and you don't notice as much because it's noisy.
I was thinking that too. If she isn't congested it's fine to gently remind her, but try to avoid battles at the dinner table. I remember those days in my own childhood....not fun!

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#21 of 44 Old 03-04-2010, 08:48 PM
 
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Yes, seriously (in our family) based on how dh and I were taught.
Fair enough. I'd just never come across it. I'm very grateful it's not something that's an issue around here, as I hate using a knife.

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#22 of 44 Old 03-04-2010, 10:01 PM
 
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Yes, seriously (in our family) based on how dh and I were taught.
Velochic, I'm with you. My MIL cuts things with her fork & encourages my children to do the same. It drives me NUTS. I encourage my kids to learn to use a knife as soon as they are using regular utensils instead of baby spoons.

On a related note, I was taught to twirl my spaghetti at a very young age, and despite trying to get my children to learn this, they haven't.

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Moving to Childhood Years since it's about a specific age/stage.

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#24 of 44 Old 03-05-2010, 02:39 AM
 
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On a related note, I was taught to twirl my spaghetti at a very young age, and despite trying to get my children to learn this, they haven't.

Kat
Oh, how DS loves to twirl his spaghetti! He thinks it's the coolest thing to do at the table.

DH was taught to do the left hand-knife, right hand-fork thing as a child. I wasn't, but it's generally what we do with DC. Most people are surprised they're even allowed a butter knife. Otoh, we had a 4YO over, and he couldn't use a regular-sized spoon - only a baby spoon. DD, who's 3, outgrew them ages ago, so we practiced the new skill of eating with a normal spoon.

OP, I think 5 is old enough to keep your mouth closed while you eat. I don't recall either of my kids doing that past the toddler years. Like a pp, though, I would suggest that you check to see if she has a stuffy nose.

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#25 of 44 Old 03-05-2010, 07:52 AM
 
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Velochic, I'm with you. My MIL cuts things with her fork & encourages my children to do the same. It drives me NUTS. I encourage my kids to learn to use a knife as soon as they are using regular utensils instead of baby spoons.

On a related note, I was taught to twirl my spaghetti at a very young age, and despite trying to get my children to learn this, they haven't.

Kat
Yep to the spaghetti twirling, too. Dd (8.1yo) sometimes uses a spoon and sometimes uses the side of her plate (as they do in Italy), but she finally got it down a couple of years ago. It did take her a while for her fine motor skills to be develop to dexterous enough to do this.

I want my dd to be prepared for any dining situation. We put MUCH emphasis on table manners and etiquette in general but as with all things, are gently teaching her over the years. It's a long process, but to *us*, it's necessary as we are in a variety of dining situations.
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#26 of 44 Old 03-05-2010, 08:17 AM
 
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Fair enough. I'd just never come across it. I'm very grateful it's not something that's an issue around here, as I hate using a knife.
My father was a naval officer turned civil servant and my first job out of university was at the US Embassy in Moscow. Table manners were not an option. I don't know if dd will ever be in the same situations I was in, but even if not, she'll be prepared to handle them without feeling nervous. She may never need to use all of the rules of etiquette, but she'll have them if she needs them.
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#27 of 44 Old 03-05-2010, 08:55 AM
 
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I want my dd to be prepared for any dining situation.
We tell our 4 YO princess-obsessed DD that when she grows up, the prince will want to bring her home for dinner to meet his parents, and if she has bad manners, they'll never let her marry him and become a princess. Sexist? Sure. But it gets her attention.

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#28 of 44 Old 03-05-2010, 10:50 AM - Thread Starter
 
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We tell our 4 YO princess-obsessed DD that when she grows up, the prince will want to bring her home for dinner to meet his parents, and if she has bad manners, they'll never let her marry him and become a princess. Sexist? Sure. But it gets her attention.
Y'all are too funny!
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#29 of 44 Old 03-05-2010, 10:54 AM - Thread Starter
 
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My father was a naval officer turned civil servant and my first job out of university was at the US Embassy in Moscow. Table manners were not an option. I don't know if dd will ever be in the same situations I was in, but even if not, she'll be prepared to handle them without feeling nervous. She may never need to use all of the rules of etiquette, but she'll have them if she needs them.
Hey velochic,...I remember you from the Mind&Muscle forum...it was a long while back...I just remembered the name...and that you fly whirlybirds.

Kind of cool how your good manners came about btw
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#30 of 44 Old 03-05-2010, 10:59 AM
 
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As a pp said, we've taught dd the "European" way of eating with the fork in the left hand and the knife in the right hand. We also consider it unmannerly to swap utensils from hand to hand all the time when eating and cutting food with the side of the fork. At 8, dd has all this down now, but it really did take YEARS for it to come into effect and she does still forget. But it's never too early.
Why would you teach her that the American way of doing it is "unmannerly"? It's just the American way.

Anyway, to the PP, I think that 6 is plenty old enough to be gently and very consistently reminded to use good table manners. Plenty old enough. In fact a couple of years or so past old enough IMO.
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