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Messy-Eater Makeover

Burping, slurping, shoveling in his food - do you often feel like you're dining with Shrek? By the time your kid reaches school, you should be able to say goodbye to ketchup-kissed faces and other ogrelike eating habits, says etiquette maven Maralee McKee of Manners Mentor, Inc., in Winter Park, FL. Children this age have the tactile skills to handle silverware and get food to their mouth relatively neatly and quietly, she notes.

From there, it's up to you to work on the politeness factor. McKee suggests focusing on one improvement at a time. Show your child the correct behavior, give gentle reminders when he forgets, and praise profusely when he does it right. When your child uses his new habit 50 percent of the time, move on to the next skill. Follow this checklist:


  • When you get to the table, place your napkin on your lap and wait until everyone is seated before digging in.
  • Don't put too much food on your spoon or fork: What goes into your mouth should be able to stay in it.
  • Chew and swallow before you take the next bite - and keep your mouth closed while you're doing it. Conversation should be the only noise that's heard at the table. 
  • If you'd like seconds, don't reach for them - ask someone to please pass you the serving bowl.
  • Always compliment the cook! You may not like the entire meal, or be able to finish it, but you should always thank the chef.