The first trick of family dinner is getting the family together. We try to eat around the same time each night, and at the same place (around our dining room table). I think consistency is key. Kids don’t eat at the kitchen counter, or up in their rooms. Even if you aren’t hungry, you still join the family at the dinner table.
This was a phrase my mother invented, and she used it often at our dinner table when I was growing up. Dinner time is sacred, and only nice things are said at the table. You may want to remind your son to clean up his room, but wait until after dinner. Siblings don’t bicker, parents don’t lecture. The table is a safe place.
For adults this means: No newspapers. No magazines. No phones. No laptops, etc. For kids: No legos or other toys. No books. No homework. If the phone rings, just let it ring. (This rule is sometimes harder for
the adults than the children!)
We use our best manners at the table. We say please and thank you. We ask for things instead of just grabbing them. Dinnertime is the perfect place to teach children the correct way to behave at meals, in fact my
mom used to read us a page from Miss Manners during dinner each night.
Granted this may not be necessary if you don’t have small children, but all four on the floor refers to the legs of your chair: All four legs need to remain on the floor at all times. It’s hard to have a conversation with someone who is rocking back and forth as they eat (and my kids need to be reminded a few times each meal).
So you don’t like broccoli, that’s okay. Forcing kids to eat food they hate is a game I don’t enjoy playing. But we do ask our kids to try a bit of everything on the table, it can just be a bite or two. I want them to learn to be polite about food, and learn to try things that seem a little scary.
The dinner table is a great place to talk about all the busy details of your day, but not the place to YELL about it. We need to remind our 5-year-old Bee about this quite frequently, as she often has exciting news to report. We’re all for talking, but it needs to be with a quiet voice.
One of the requirements of dinner at our house is “High and Low”. We take a minute to go around the table and everyone shares their high point and low point of the day. I love hearing about the kids high points, but the low points are even more interesting.. they share things I sometimes wouldn’t hear about any other way. Often someone doesn’t have a low point to share, in that case, you share two high points.
It’s hard to spend an hour making dinner and then hear a chorus of “But I don’t like shrimp!” I try to make dinners I know my kids will want to eat, but I also like to try new things, which means that every once in a while, dinner is a flop. We’re trying to teach our kids to be kind to the person who made dinner, so we ask them to keep quiet, eat the things they like at the table, and if they’re still hungry after dinner they can grab a slice of bread or some fruit to hold them over until breakfast.
The person who cooks is never left alone to clean up. The kids clear their plates as they leave the table, and everyone grabs a few more things and takes them into the kitchen. Lately we’ve been trying to wash the dishes really quickly so we have time for a walk around the neighborhood after dinner. Good motivation to get dinner cleaned up so we can get out the door.
Do you have rules at your house for dinner? I’d love to hear them, so please share.