Written by Doctor G

That T-Shirt is NOT a Napkin!

No matter what I do, my kids use their shirt as a napkin. I put napkins on the plates, no food can be dispersed until the napkin is on the lap. They put it on their lap & forget about it. Gross.

Anonymous, on Facebook*

For any behavior change, kids need tools, skills and motivation.

OK, napkins are just as convenient as shirts when you already have one on your lap.  So you’ve given them the tools.  Now they just need the skill and the motivation.

The skill in this case is not wiping.  Clearly they have that one.  The skill they need is the habit to reach for the napkin.

Easiest way to do that with a sense of humor is shirtless dinner.  If modesty is an issue or you have girls too old to go topless, they could wear short-sleeved PJ tops (those things are so tight they couldn’t use it as a napkin if they tried) to dinner.  Or get creative and have them wear Halloween costumes to dinner, those plastic kind from the dollar store.

If you are too frustrated to take the fun route, you can make it a different game.  Whoever uses their shirt instead of the napkin needs to clear everyone’s dishes after the meal.   Then if another child does it, they need to wash the table.  Someone else?  Load the dishwasher or sweep the floor.  Look at it this way – their dirty shirts = your clean kitchen!

This way you are giving them the skill –the habit – of using their napkin.  The motivation lies in whatever game or consequence you make of it.  And remember – you are already a step ahead of most families, including mine.  My boys are not yet putting a napkin on their laps, we’re working on using the darn silverware!

*Wondering how you can be “anonymous” on Facebook?  Send me a question on Facebook www.facebook.com/AskDoctorG and then ask to be anonymous!



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8 thoughts on “That T-Shirt is NOT a Napkin!”

  1. This is a GREAT idea! I love getting them to make a choice by making it incredibly inconvenient to choose something else!
    I may be doing this at MY HOUSE this weekend! It’s brilliant!

  2. I have to remember the ‘shirtless’ meal when we come to this level. My tot just turned 3 and he’s still eating with a plastic bib/crum catcher. Luckily there is never much food around his mouth to wipe off.

    1. Way to go. I gave up on the bib the summer my first was about 2, just couldn’t be bothered to bring it along!

  3. This is a REAL problem with my gang of boys — I am just hoping when they notice girls and fall in love … they will want to show manners! Until then, I end up using a lot of stain remover. Rachel

  4. I solved this problem with my three messy boys. I make them tuck a large paper napkin in their shirt collars during meals. This way their shirts stay protected and when they go to wipe on their shirts, the paper napkin is already there in place. This household rule works perfectly and is non-negotiable. Laundry is much easier these days as there are no more stains on the boys shirts.

    1. We use napkin bib clips to secure a paper napkin around our sons necks during meal times. Basically the same idea that your dentist uses during treatment. We resorted to this because the boys were consistently either spilling or splashing food or gravy on their shirts and. Also wiping their mouths on their shirts. I decided to make that situation stop..no more stained shirts!

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