Help me break this habit!

We have a problem, and our best efforts have failed. So I'm turning to the interwebs for advice.

My son refuses to shut his mouth while he's chewing. I'm not talking about it comes open once or twice. I mean, if we aren't actively saying, "Shut your mouth!" or "Mouth closed while you're chewing!" then his mouth is hanging wide open or he's talking a mile a minute and you can see every gross particle of food inside of it.

Usually the mountain man stays on the alert. He has to make sure Javi takes the right sized bites (rather than either packing his mouth full or taking teeny-tiny bitty bites) that allow him to finish his meal in a normal amount of time (versus an hour or longer) without his mouth being too stuffed to close properly. But it's an overwhelming job, especially when the other parent doesn't do as great a job at paying attention (yes, that's me).

So last week we started a new policy that we hoped would result in less arguing and tension at the family table. Now Javi gets one warning to close his mouth while there's food in it. When he does it again, he must take his dinner to a tray we've set against the kitchen wall. He sits with his back to the table, facing that wall, to finish his meal. He is not to talk or at all participate in the dinner. If he speaks, we ignore him. If we're talking, he's not allowed to comment.

The "face the wall" punishment is supposed to serve two goals: Enforce to him that we refuse to look at the food in his mouth and give him incentive to keep his trap shut when there's food in it.

The problem: He gets to that wall and the open-mouthed chewing comes on full force. It's like he doesn't even bother trying to keep his mouth closed. I looked over at him this evening and I could see flakes of biscuit flying around. What the hell? This is obviously not going to work!

I need help, people. The kid doesn't have breathing problems and has been taught table manners. We didn't just spring this on him recently -- however it has reached a breaking point. Javi does have an overbite and slightly (okay, more than slightly) bucked teeth -- but we make him take bites that negate the tooth issue.



  • Melissa W

    My advice was going to be to send him to eat alone, which is what we do when there is undesirable behavior at the dinner table. If that's not working, though...I'm not sure. I am sure there is a brilliant and fabulous mom out there who can help, though! I absolutely cannot stand to see people eating with their mouth open, so I feel your pain.

  • amber_mtmc

    Oh, I wish I could give you some!! I can, at least, give you hope. Usually once kids become more socially aware they learn for themselves that chewing with your mouth open is not only gross, it is also not something people like to be around.

    Perhaps if you do some role playing? Like, you do what he is doing (I know, gross!! But, learning, right?) and see how he likes it?

    (Does he do this at school, too?)

  • Kelly Miller

    I'm sure he does it at school (when he eats -- a whole other issue). Billy says we can't fix it at home unless we sit at school with him.

  • gwenschott

    You mentioned an overbite ... have you asked the dentist if his back molars are properly aligned? He might be doing it unconsciously out of necessity.

    Of course, that wouldn't explain away the talking while eating.

  • Kelly Miller

    Gwen, the orthodontist did say that because of his plate and tooth alignment, it would be harder for him to chew a big mouthful. She said that smaller bites shouldn't be a problem at all.

    He does go in a few weeks to get his plate expander put in. Hopefully he'll have to eat differently with that thing in!

  • April

    My son (who is ADHD and Autistic) gets eating therapy from an Occupational Therapist. We don't go just for that, but he sees an Occupational Therapist & Speech Therapist once weekly & they work with him on a lot of life & social skills... eating & table manners being one small piece of it.

    I never knew there even WAS such a thing until he began therapy. They work with him on how to sit (getting a footstool so his feet don't dangle has helped tremendously) to bite size, & how to carry on a conversation at the table yet not talk with your mouth full.

  • April

    Not that your son necessarily needs therapy... but its something most people don't even know exists as an option

    Also if therapists are getting trained in this, you may be able to find some books about it.

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