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The Competent Parent: Burping at the Dinner Table

Welcome to a new online series on parenting advice with our expert Dr. Deborah Wood.



I have a son who’s 10. Like most 10-year-olds, he thinks bodily functions are funny, and I try to teach him there’s an appropriate time to laugh at such things. The problem is when my son belches at the table, my husband laughs, even though I’ve asked him not to. How do I get my son to curb his fondness for such things when I don’t feel my husband is backing me up?

Not at the Table


Ten is a great age for your son to master some of the ins and outs of human anatomy – just ahead of “the talk” about his changing body and adult sexuality.   These talks will include: proper terminology, appropriate resources for good information, respectful behaviors toward others, and responsibility for one’s own body.  Ten is also a reasonable age to expect compliance with do’s and don’t’s at the dinner table.  So if Daddy missed this stage in his development, let’s start with him.  Suggest to your husband that there may be risks inherent in misjudging time and place for a burping contest.  He sounds like one who appreciates humor, so find out where in his schedule he could fit more father-son time to enjoy some silliness together.  (Could be that your son’s belching through dinner is an excellent way to get attention from you and his father.)  Help your husband see the relevance, as adolescence approaches, to helping your son learn discretion.

You and your husband need to come to an agreement that a) interest in the human body is something you both want to encourage as responsible parents, and that b) the family dinner is a great place for a ten-year-old to practice the etiquette skills that will serve him in good stead in his future (i.e., an irrepressible burp requires a demure apology).  The next step is for either you or your husband to become a resident expert on bodily functions.  For now, it’s burping.  Just around the corner, it’s hormones, hygiene, and human reproduction.  Do some research – the Mayo clinic website, for example, or Medicinenet.com.  If you start referring to the process of air exiting from the stomach through the esophagus as “eructation,” it makes the subject less a form of impoliteness and more a topic of science.

Try some conversations in the car . . “You know son, I was just reading up on some of the main causes of eructation.”  See if he concurs with the notion that talking excitedly while eating brings more air into the stomach.  See how many foods he can name that are known to produce more gas (some being: onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, chocolate, and carbonated drinks).  Get his observations on gum chewing as a burp stimulus.  And divulge some little known facts (the website for Guinness World Records notes the loudest burp at 107.1 decibels).  On the social impact side of the issue, recall a time you had a particularly embarrassing or hilarious release of stomach air.

At age 10, your son will respect that his parents can be approached about many important subjects.  And for good information about how the body works, they will treat him with respect and steer him the right direction.


Dr. Deborah Wood is a child development specialist in Annapolis.  She holds a doctorate in Human Development from the University of Maryland at College Park and is founding director of the Chesapeake Children’s Museum.  Long time fans and new readers can find many of her “Understanding Children” columns archived on the Chesapeake Family Magazine website. You can find her online at www.drdebbiewood.com

Do you have a parenting question for Dr. Debbie? Email us! editor@chesapeakefamily.com  

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