One of the purposes of eating meals with your kids is to enjoy family time. Another purpose is teaching them table manners so they learn the skills of eating politely. While you might cringe when people eat with their mouths open, your child might not understand this point of etiquette. With positive instruction, your child can learn how to eat in a civil manner.
Instruct your child about your expectations for chewing with her mouth closed. A child needs parental instruction for all table manners, including chewing with her mouth closed, advises Carol Wallace, author of “Elbows Off the Table, Napkin in the Lap, No Video Games During Dinner.” Tell your child, “It’s kind of icky to see in someone’s mouth while they’re chewing food. Let’s try hard to always chew with our mouths closed when we eat, OK?”
Set the example you want your children to follow by always chewing with your mouth closed. You might even make a point to show your children that you should finish chewing before speaking, too.
Supervise and monitor your children during mealtimes to ensure that they follow the chewing with mouths closed rule.
Make a signal to remind children if they forget to chew with their mouths closed, suggests Alyson Schafer, author of “Ain’t Misbehavin’: Tactics for Tantrums, Meltdowns, Bedtime Blues and Other Perfectly Normal Kid Behaviors.” You can get your child’s attention and point to your own mouth or raise your hand about face-height as a signal that your child needs to close his mouth.
Continue to remind your children as you are teaching and reinforcing this polite habit. It will take time for children to learn this basic table manner, but be patient as they strive to remember.
Impose a consequence on children if they have trouble following the rule, suggest Ray Levy and Bill O’Hanlon, authors of “Try and Make Me!” A possible consequence might be eating alone until a child remembers the rule or missing an activity to practice chewing with his mouth closed. Have the consequence fit the infraction to ensure that your child learns the lesson effectively.
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