That is the question…

Kids put many objects into their mouths such as fingers, pen tops, pencil erasers, but one of the most socially acceptable items found in the oral cavity is chewing gum. A popular habit from the age of the caveman, it is often used to relieve stress, freshen breath, and may even prevent plaque buildup and gum disease. Studies by The Wrigley Science Institute (dedicated to studying gum), have suggested it may have an effect on appetite and memory. Not to mention that it is most helpful providing oral-motor stimulation to a child with sensory needs (talk to your Occupational Therapist about this). According to chewinggumfacts.com, over 100,000 tons of chewing gum are being consumed every year. It clearly provides enjoyment and sensory stimulation to many people. But... While gum can be useful, gum chewing can be one of the most annoying habits to watch.

Sticky and gooey, a piece of gum can be chewed for hours, used to blow bubbles or “put it on the bedpost overnight”** to resume chewing in the morning. It can end up on the bottom of an unsuspecting shoe, stuck in someone’s hair, strategically placed under a desk or plastered all over an unsuspecting face once the bubble bursts. It is pliable enough to stretch into long strands, twist into pretzels and can be used to make hideously loud clacking noises. Mostly, it is irritating to everyone else subjected to watching the monotonous chewing motion and listening to the sound effects of repetitive mastication. Since gum is not on the verge of extinction, should gum be banned or is there etiquette to chewing the rubber?

Two problems noted by Sheryl Eberly, author of 365 Manners Kids Should Know are the visual image and what to do after it’s been chewed (known as ABC gum). The most obvious solution is not to partake in the habit which is not really a viable alternative.

Following a few simple EtiKids' guidelines can help eliminate references to “chewing like a cow” or other ruminant animals from family, friends and teachers. Basically, chewing gum should be avoided in public places such as school, houses of worship, social events (weddings, birthday parties, theater), job interviews, private classes or studios, and any other place one may talk, eat or disturb others.

· Use small pieces one at a time, not giant wads that pad the cheeks. EtiKids stresses social skills and encourages behaviors that keep food inside the mouth. This is much easier to do if the mouth is not full. Bubbles are a no-no!

· Cracking gum and blowing bubbles is not an enjoyable experience for those not chewing. To be polite, refrain from such actions. The person on the left will be quite thankful.

· While chewing, lips should remain closed. This helps to eliminate sound effects. Chomping noises are never considered good manners.

· Share with friends. If one is tempted to slip a piece of gum into the mouth, make sure a piece is offered to accompanying friends.

· To remove gum from the mouth, place in a tissue and put in the trash. Please do not throw it in the toilet or spit it out. That’s a blog for another time!

Parents can set be helpful and set guidelines. Exaggerate for children what open mouth chewing looks like and discuss how it is perceived. Explain that it is difficult to remove if it gets on one’s clothes or in hair, and it should not to be swallowed.

Most important for safety, parents should remember choking is one of the leading causes of death to children that are age three and under. In addition to the usual dangers of hot dogs, peanuts and whole grapes, chewing gum is listed as a safety hazard by the American Academy of Pediatrics and should be a concern for parents. Be prepared, learn the Heimlich maneuver!


Oh-me, oh-my, oh-you
Whatever shall I do
Hallelujah, the question is peculiar
I'd give a lot of dough
If only I could know
The answer to my question
Is it yes or is it no

Does your chewing gum lose its flavour
On the bedpost overnight
If your mother says don't chew it
Do you swallow it in spite
Can you catch it on your tonsils
Can you heave it left and right
Does your chewing gum lose its flavour
On the bedpost overnight

Based on the 1924 original by Ernest Hare & Billy Jones, "Does The Spearmint Lose Its Flavor On The Bedpost Overnight? (Marty Bloom / Ernest Breuer / Billy Rose)

Lonnie Donegan - 1958 (Also recorded by: Ding Dongs)

Through EtiKids, I recently taught an etiquette class to a Brownie Troop in Bergen County, NJ, in which the subject of napkins came up. The question had been posed to the girls, “how do you know when to put your napkin on your lap?” The vivacious group of 22 looked pensive for a (brief) moment but quickly figured out the answer. “You wait for someone else to do it!”

That was a great idea, and according to some sources, correct! It is believed that one should wait until the host/hostess unfolds his/her napkin. The situation changes when not at a dinner party: in a restaurant, if the napkin is on the plate, the diner should immediately stick the napkin on the lap. As some restaurants start pouring drinks immediately upon being seated, it is a great way to prevent accidental outfit “water-staining.”

At a less formal dining establishment: as soon as ANY food is served would be an appropriate time to put the napkin on the lap. Since the napkin is often placed underneath the fork, it should be placed on top the lap as soon as the fork is lifted.

When getting up from the table, make sure to put the napkin on the left side of the plate (gently folded). As napkins are to be used for the purpose of wiping food away from one’s mouth, they should not be on the chair, where dirty bottoms are often placed.

Finally, one should not tuck napkins into the top of their shirts (resembling a bib). Using proper table manners (elbows off the table, no licking fingers, asking people to pass, chewing with lips closed) will prevent food from winding up down the front of one's shirt. As bibs are typically used for those who cannot feed themselves, it is inappropriate for a person to tie a napkin around their neck solely for the sake of preserving an outfit (unless eating lobster). When in doubt, don’t wear white. Meaning, don’t go to a restaurant that serves tomato sauce-rich foods, wearing light colors that will get stained.

These simple techniques for appropriate napkin use will help children and grownups alike in the present and future. As etiquette is meant to prevent uncomfortable situations by teaching people how to behave in social situations, teaching children these skills at a young age will ensure that they will have the knowledge of how to behave as adults.

Those Brownies were so excited to know an actual time as to when they should put their napkin on their lap and couldn’t wait to go home and teach their grownups. Watch out parents! The word is spreading…





What is it about gossips that make them so bad? After all, it is only words that are used in gossiping (sharing a rumor or personal story belonging to someone else). Once words are spoken, they cannot be recycled, erased, collected, expunged, obliterated or changed. Passing along information spoken in confidence or that may have heard from someone else can hurt another person very badly. Sometimes it can backfire and put the person who spread the story in trouble too!

Being sensitive to the feelings of others can be a useful guide. Putting oneself in the shoes of another can help understand how it may feel! Sharing information that is personal, health or job related should be left to the individual if and when they are ready to share the information.

Some quick tips...

If the information seems too personal, keep it to yourself.
If the information is hurtful, don’t pass it along.
If the information serves a malicious purpose, break the chain.
If the information can affect someone’s livelihood, don’t repeat it.

Leticia Baldridge, author of the Complete Guide to Executive Manners cautions, “Think before you participate in gossip, either by adding to it or by reinforcing it, even if you believe it to be true.” Time is spent building self esteem and making good decisions; choose what appropriate dialogue. Emphasis is placed on doing the right thing such as refusing to listen to the idle chatter, redirecting conversation to other topics, walking away or taking a leadership role by defending the target of the gossip by saying, “I don’t think Jane or Bob would want this to be discussed”.

Parents can set an example for their children by diffusing gossip-y conversations. Change the topic to something less volatile. Explain that the information may be incorrect and should not be further transmitted. Discuss feelings regarding communication of personal information. Clarify how easily rumors begin and the damaging effects they can have on a person (consider role-playing). If this seems confusing, perhaps a class that enables children to focus on the positive development of their social skills, such as learning to converse, rather than the spread of vicious gossip is in order. Contact EtiKids for more information!

Think of your mother's words: if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything!


The dog park is a fascinating place to observe society. At first glance, the dogs are separated by size; large and small. Most people are respectful of the weight limit (installed to protect the dogs); however, there is always the owner who believes that rules don't apply. Meaning: the dogs are separated by size except for the special doberman and it's owner in the small dog run. I happen to go into the "Mighty-Mite" pen, as my 6 lb Chihuahua often seems like bait to the larger breeds.

A handful of pooches run around barking at each other, generally having a great time. They roll around, wag their tails, and genuinely look excited to have the space to run leash-free! Meanwhile, there are other dogs on the sidelines, anxiously licking their lips and waiting to be released from the torture (seriously, such an active place is not always the ideal situation for some). Attempting to bridge the gap and bring others into the game, some of the dogs run to the outskirts of the field, hoping to entice the unwilling. The world needs both kinds of dogs, and each is very much appreciated.

In terms of the owners, some notice their dog's obvious discomfort and stand by, lending their support (and open arms for the small guys!) to their "kids." And of course there are other "parents," who seem more concerned with reliving the previous night than ensuring their pooch's safety. Accidents happen because signals are misread (ie- the lip curling does not mean play!) and supervision is not provided. Of course, one can train the dog in the beginning, so it is able to respond in a favorable manner. Inappropriate behaviors need to be caught in the moment and corrected (with positive reinforcement when possible!). Seriously, the dog park is definitely a microcosm of modern society.

On a playground, there are some parents who do not seem overly concerned with what their child is doing; kids pushing their peers down the slide or jumping into a pile of unsuspecting victims (and of course never having anybody model appropriate behavior). However, some parents are too involved in their child's play and do not allow the child the opportunity to run and jump in an age-appropriate manner. The most effective parenting style is to allow children the freedom to be kids, but catch them in the act when they are not behaving in a style that is socially acceptable. Throwing sand will surely lose many friendships in the sandbox. Much like the dog park, catch the child in the act, use a quick "no" and redirect their actions. Attempt to reward for good behavior (more playtime) and leave the park if they are not getting the message. After all, everyone should feel comfortable; whether in the dog run or on the playground.

Not to mention that your child might be behaving perfectly fine, but another child is monopolizing the equipment, and the caregiver is on the cell phone, unaware of the child's actions. As mentioned in Parent.com, you can firmly remind the child that everyone is taking turns. Although it is not your place to discipline another person's child, pointing out social cues to the child will help him/her in this situation and perhaps in the future.

Of course parents need a break (it is SO hard to be on 24/7!); however, playgrounds are optimal teaching "grounds." If you can instill the values early on, so they become innate behaviors, the rewards will pay off immensely. Children can learn lessons on how to behave, respect others, wait their turn and listen to adults (and peers!), but the skills need to be taught right in the moment. Meaning, regardless of how well behaved (or not) your child is, inappropriate behaviors that are corrected, while in the actual situation, are always the most successful.