Burps, Farts, and Other Gross Kid Behavior

The more things are forbidden, the more popular they become.
—Mark Twain, American humorist

You’re horrified. Your child just did something disgusting. Then she discovered that it made other people laugh, so she’s doing it again. What can you do? Consider these ideas.

Tips for . . .

  • all parents
    • Take a deep breath. It’s normal for kids to discover that their bodies can burp, fart, and make noises that you never imagined. Part of this comes from curiosity, but another part comes from discovering what makes people laugh—or groan.
    • Create clear guidelines about how to act. Decide which behaviors are inappropriate all the time. Choose which ones are okay just with family and friends. Maybe you think burping and belching is okay for friends to do during playtime, but you decide that those actions are inappropriate during meals and when you’re in public.
    • Expect some gross behavior. As kids grow and learn, they sometimes accidentally do gross things, such as eating bugs, forgetting a half-eaten banana in a pocket, or smearing ketchup on the table. What matters is how you respond and how you teach your child to act.
    • Watch your reactions—and the reactions of others around you. It’s hard to teach a child not to belch loudly if other family members can’t stop laughing when it happens.
    • parents with children ages birth to 5
    • As children learn to eat by themselves, expect a mess. They don’t mean to get covered in yogurt or applesauce. It’s just what happens as they learn the skills to move a spoon from their plates to their mouths. As your children learn to eat with utensils, consider watching the Sesame Street segment of Ernie trying to teach Cookie Monster how to use a spoon, knife, and fork.
    • Keep a sense of humor. Even though it’s gross and a big mess, the first time your child sneezes with a mouthful of food, you’re better off to laugh rather than to get mad.
    • Keep tabs on where bad or gross behavior is coming from. Maybe your preschooler has learned how to belch and laugh loudly from a relative, a friend, or a neighbor. Be clear that it’s not acceptable in your home.
    • parents with children ages 6 to 9
    • Encourage kids to learn how to chew with their mouths shut. Many find it fascinating to show you what it looks like when they overchew crackers or overstuff their cheeks with too much food.
    • Watch how kids influence each other. Once one child starts making farting noises (by blowing onto their arms), soon others may try to create sounds that are even louder and more disgusting.
    • Read popular books about kids with bad behavior such as the Horrible Harry books by Suzy Kline, the Horrid Henry books by Francesca Simon, and the Junie B. Jones books by Barbara Park. Talk about how it’s funny to read about imaginary kids doing horrible things, but it’s not funny for real kids to be gross and out of control.
    • parents with children ages 10 to 15
    • Don’t despair if your child has made an art of being repulsive. Although you may not think it’s amazing that your child can burp the ABCs, your child’s friends will most likely be quite impressed.
    • Be aware that some kids may not be aware of their own body odor. This is common at this age. Teach kids how to use deodorant, to shave (when they need to start), and how not to overuse perfume or cologne. For more tips on helping kids with issues of puberty, read Parenting Teens Online’s Helping Your Preteens through Puberty.
    • Puberty can unleash new adventures into being gross. Keep an eye on what your kids are doing to gross out their friends. Be firm about what’s okay, what’s borderline, and what’s completely over the line.
    • parents with children ages 16 to 18
    • Although you expect more of older teenagers, they can still gross you out when they dump half-filled soda cans into the recycling (only to have the soft drink leak all over everything) or put their chewed gum into places where you’re horrified to find it. Try to encourage your teenagers to be more mindful of how they dispose of things.
    • Close your teenager’s door. You don’t need to see or smell what is happening in his or her bedroom (unless you suspect dangerous or illegal activity).
    • Teenagers can backslide, particularly at the end of their senior year when they begin to think “freedom, freedom, freedom.” Some start letting their smelly clothes pile up. Others leave half-eaten pizza on their bookshelves for weeks. Decide how much of this you want to confront or whether it’s better to let kids deal with their own messes.
  • Talk about how each family member’s behavior affects other family members. Teenagers are more apt to become more conscientious when they realize they don’t want their younger siblings leaving half-eaten ice cream cones on top of their favorite shirt in their rooms.

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