When should kids stop eating with their fingers? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 16 Old 08-19-2011, 06:33 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I am a newlywed and a stepmom, and I'm having a hard time adjusting. My stepson is 8 1/2, and he has the WORST habits and manners. His mom obviously doesn't care about teaching him hygiene or manners. He only bathes twice a week, and his teeth are turning yellow from never brushing them. We only get him every other weekend and try to enforce better behavior when he's with us, but the thing that drives me absolutely bonkers is that he still uses his hands to eat. I've tried teaching him not to use his fingers, but everytime I bring it up, my husband snaps at me to lay off of him. Am I nuts, or are these behaviors a little odd for kids his age? I am new to being a "mom" so I don't know what age kids grow out of these things. HELP!

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#2 of 16 Old 08-19-2011, 08:23 PM
 
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8 1/2 does seem a bit old, but I would concentrate on establishing a positive relationship with your stepson instead of fixing the habits that bug you.  This is far, far more important to your new marriage and family than any hygiene issue.  Once you establish that, you are better footing to talk about these issues.  Just don't spring this on your husband.  Talk to him, first.  


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#3 of 16 Old 08-20-2011, 03:41 AM
 
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My 8.5 year old only bathes twice a week . . . sometimes less (!) . .. . depends on the weather and how dirty he gets. In the summer when it's warm he may bath daily if he gets grungy. In the winter . .. . it is probably once a week (he doesn't play sports and isn't particularly rough and tumble). My point . . . . I don't think the bathing is necessarily a sign of bad hygiene! If he's dirty when you have him, give him a bath. End of story.

 

As for the table manners . .. I do think kids at this age shouldn't be eating with their fingers (unless it's finger food) anymore. However, I wouldn't make it a huge battle at this point. Focus on creating that positive relationship with him and modeling good table manners for him for the time being.

 

Manners are a big deal to me, so I would have a talk with your DH and maybe say, "Look, I know DSS has been through a lot with the divorce and me entering his life, etc. But it's very important to me that people address me respectfully and use 'please' 'thank you' [or whatever else it is that you need and want]. How can we work together to instill these manners in DSS?" That way you are less the evil step mother and more of a united and loving front.

 

You may want to post in the Step-parenting forum to get some BTDT.

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#4 of 16 Old 08-20-2011, 04:00 AM
 
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It sounds like he does need some help as far as manners and hygiene go, but I would work on establishing a relationship with him at this point, and I'm not sure how much you can pressure him to do what you want as you are a stepparent and not a parent. I'm not up on that dynamic, so I might suggest you cross post this in "blended families and step parents" as you might get advice on how to handle these things specifically as a step parent there. Good luck!
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#5 of 16 Old 08-20-2011, 05:15 PM
 
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My children rarely bathe more than twice a week, but I would not say it's a matter of poor hygiene. Frequent bathing is not necessary for good health, and can be counterproductive. If they aren't stinky or grimy, they don't need a bath, imo. As for the teeth brushing, though, that needs addressing. When it comes to eating with his fingers, sure, it's probably about time he start considering utensils, but is this something that really needs to be addressed so early into the relationship? You may want to come at him with an open mind and work on building a closer relationship and then start gently tackling that sort of issue. Nitpicking from the get go will only hinder building a relationship with your step son and may very well erode the relationship you've already built with your husband.

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#6 of 16 Old 08-20-2011, 06:08 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mamazee View Post

It sounds like he does need some help as far as manners and hygiene go, but I would work on establishing a relationship with him at this point, and I'm not sure how much you can pressure him to do what you want as you are a stepparent and not a parent. I'm not up on that dynamic, so I might suggest you cross post this in "blended families and step parents" as you might get advice on how to handle these things specifically as a step parent there. Good luck!


I agree with this.  I think if anyone needs to address these things it should be your husband.  My step-dad was the fun person in our lives and my mom did the parenting.  Sometimes he made suggestions to her but she always made the final decisions.  I think you should focus on being fun and have your husband get him into the bath and using silverware.

 

I sympathize with you because it is very hard to be near someone who bathes infrequently.  I had a friend with a son who don't believe in frequent baths and it was sometimes very hard to be near them because they are active enough to need more showers than they think they need.  When you live with the smell all the time you can't tell that it is there but other people definitely can.

 

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#7 of 16 Old 08-20-2011, 06:11 PM
 
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My 9yo hates bathing.  I have to be pretty firm with her to get her to take a bath every other day (less often in the cooler months).  She would never take a bath if I didn't!

 

As for the manners, bring it up with DH in private.  Talk it all over and make sure you're on the same page before DSS comes back.  My SO and I have a rule that we NEVER undermine each other in front of the children.  If we don't agree with something the other person is saying we take it up in private later.  We both feel that undermining each other is very damaging to our relationship with each other and with our children.  


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#8 of 16 Old 08-20-2011, 07:00 PM
 
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I just want to gently point out that most of the world eats with their hands! I never really became that proficient with a fork and knife until I went to college, and eat mostly with my hands at home. (indian food!)

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#9 of 16 Old 08-20-2011, 11:56 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stepmombritt View Post

My stepson is 8 1/2,

still young 

 

and he has the WORST habits and manners.

yikes!!!!

 

His mom obviously doesn't care about teaching him hygiene or manners.

this line is totally judgement.

 

He only bathes twice a week,

so does my dd.

 

and his teeth are turning yellow from never brushing them.

are you sure? does he have tooth issues. i think not brushing would lead to more stuff than just yellow teeth.

 

but the thing that drives me absolutely bonkers is that he still uses his hands to eat.

what is wrong with eating with his hands? esp. at home? when you guys go out does he do the same food thing eating elsehwere.

 

I've tried teaching him not to use his fingers, but everytime I bring it up, my husband snaps at me to lay off of him.

listen to ur dh. his words are key.

 

Am I nuts, or are these behaviors a little odd for kids his age? I am new to being a "mom" so I don't know what age kids grow out of these things. HELP!

no you are not nuts. you have been brought up under different rules. the key about blended families is learning to see things from their perspective rather than insist that your way is the best way. you are clearly asking here to help you figure things out. that is good. but just make sure your opinions about his mom is based on fact or conjecture.  
 

 


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#10 of 16 Old 08-21-2011, 09:20 AM
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My 8.5 year old still needs to be reminded to use his fork and napkin (as opposed to clothes) and chew with his mouth closed. I assure you, it's not because I don't care. It's because he doesn't care (yet). My 5 year old has wonderful table manners. They both love to take baths so they take a lot, but I think twice a week is enough for hygiene.

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#11 of 16 Old 08-21-2011, 12:54 PM
 
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Well, what is the kid eating with his fingers? Yogurt? Cereal with milk? Soup? Mashed potatoes? Juice? Ice cream? Salsa?

There are also people who think different foods are 'finger' foods. I use my hands to eat pizza, some people use a fork and knife. I also pick up quesadillas (if they don't have too much stuff in them) some people don't. Burritos I pick up (i have a friend who always cuts it and eats it). We are veg, but I have seen folks pick up chicken on the bone (bone is like a handle right?) some cut meat off and then eat it. None of these are 'right' or 'wrong' ways to eat.





Btw whenever these 'table manners' threads come up, I always want to point out that 'table manners' vary around the world and from culture to culture. It is not *wrong* to eat with ones hands. It may be outside the norm for *your* culture, but I certainly dont want my kid to out to an Ethiopian restaurant and talk about how horrid everyone's manners are because they eat with their hands!
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#12 of 16 Old 08-21-2011, 03:11 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mamazee View Post

It sounds like he does need some help as far as manners and hygiene go, but I would work on establishing a relationship with him at this point,

 

yes this!! first and foremost.

 

My oldest kids (ages 15 and 9) both went through times where baths were not a favorite thing to do and would only do them a few times per week. My 9 yr old, in fact, still only wants to take them every other night and I have to encourage her sometimes to do more often in the summer months.

 

As far as using fingers to eat, I am wondering what foods you have a problem with? If it's pizza, chicken, sandwiches then of course not a problem. But peas, corn, mashed potatoes I think I would have a problem with and would want to start encouraging the child to use a spoon. I would think that when he is in school at lunch this would be pushed on him by the teacher and he would also want to copy his peers??

 

As far as various cultures using hands to eat and others using utensils, why does that matter here? lol. This person is in a culture where using utensils IS the norm and how people are eating in other countries isn't really a factor. Nothing wrong with how each culture does things, no, but in this one situation she is asking about her child here in this culture - a culture where it is very much expected to have a certain degree of proper etiquette when eating in social situations by a certain age. :-)
 

 


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#13 of 16 Old 08-21-2011, 05:12 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mommy68 View Post

As far as various cultures using hands to eat and others using utensils, why does that matter here? lol. This person is in a culture where using utensils IS the norm and how people are eating in other countries isn't really a factor. Nothing wrong with how each culture does things, no, but in this one situation she is asking about her child here in this culture - a culture where it is very much expected to have a certain degree of proper etiquette when eating in social situations by a certain age. :-)
 

 

except that we live in a multi-cultural nation and in a global society.  And if we say to our children and to each other that it is *only* proper to eat a certain way and to not do so is "rude, disgusting, improper, horrible manners" etc than we are teaching rather bigoted ideas and behaviors.  It *is* important to realize that just because *you* think utensils are important, proper etc doesn't make it so and that any discussion about the *right* way to do things need to include the idea that different families/people/cultures do things differently and that is okay.  Otherwise you end up with kids and adults who think their way is the only *right* way.

 

If your kid went to their friends' house and that family didn't use utensils do you really want them to say that is rude?  or wrong? or "in this society/culture we use utensils" WOW! talk about rude ;)
 

 

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#14 of 16 Old 08-21-2011, 05:53 PM
 
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Want to add: I'm not saying that the kid can't be expected to use utensils but I am saying that when talking something being 'horrible manners' when some would not consider it so could backfire.

Also, as I stated in a pp even in the US people see different foods as okay to eat with ones fingers.

I also want to second (third) the pp who said that as the new stepmom, this probably is not a battle you should fight. Either have a convo with your dp when the kid isn't there and have him deal with it or drop it. It is more important now to build a positive relationship with your dss. Otherwise you are just giving him ammo to annoy you 'oh stepmom thinks I have horrid table manners, wait until she sees this!'
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#15 of 16 Old 08-22-2011, 07:51 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tbone_kneegrabber View Post

Well, what is the kid eating with his fingers? Yogurt? Cereal with milk? Soup? Mashed potatoes? Juice? Ice cream? Salsa?

There are also people who think different foods are 'finger' foods. I use my hands to eat pizza, some people use a fork and knife. I also pick up quesadillas (if they don't have too much stuff in them) some people don't. Burritos I pick up (i have a friend who always cuts it and eats it). We are veg, but I have seen folks pick up chicken on the bone (bone is like a handle right?) some cut meat off and then eat it. None of these are 'right' or 'wrong' ways to eat.





Btw whenever these 'table manners' threads come up, I always want to point out that 'table manners' vary around the world and from culture to culture. It is not *wrong* to eat with ones hands. It may be outside the norm for *your* culture, but I certainly dont want my kid to out to an Ethiopian restaurant and talk about how horrid everyone's manners are because they eat with their hands!


I agree.  what types of foods is he eating with his hands.  THAT would make the difference to me.  It drives DH nuts when my kids(12, 10 & 9) eat their yorkshire puddings with their hands, they have gravy & butter on them.    Their response to him is "well mom does" which I do.  Some chicken I eat with my hands, other stuff I don't.   On the flip side, my Dad eat doughnuts, cake, etc with a knife & fork.

 

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#16 of 16 Old 08-22-2011, 08:13 AM
 
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Rule number one, don't pick at him.  Show him what is appropriate.  Step parenting is tricky.  You are not his mother or father.  However in time you will be like a mother to him.  And even a good friend he can come to when he needs someone for support.  However the way he eats and his hygiene is not your concern just yet.  And if your husband is snapping at you when you bring it up... it's not worth the fight.  There are more important things to worry about.  Like is he coming to you guys and enjoying the time he spends with you or is he dreading the visit thinking he's always doing something wrong.  He's still little, and learning.

Quote:
Originally Posted by stepmombritt View Post

I am a newlywed and a stepmom, and I'm having a hard time adjusting. My stepson is 8 1/2, and he has the WORST habits and manners. His mom obviously doesn't care about teaching him hygiene or manners. He only bathes twice a week, and his teeth are turning yellow from never brushing them. We only get him every other weekend and try to enforce better behavior when he's with us, but the thing that drives me absolutely bonkers is that he still uses his hands to eat. I've tried teaching him not to use his fingers, but everytime I bring it up, my husband snaps at me to lay off of him. Am I nuts, or are these behaviors a little odd for kids his age? I am new to being a "mom" so I don't know what age kids grow out of these things. HELP!



 

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