Making Family Dinner Meaningful
It is a widely known fact that having dinner together as a family has some incredible benefits - especially as our children grow older. Just to highlight a few: higher self-esteem, better academic performance, and greater sense of resilience. That being said, at our house dinner is often loud and a bit chaotic. We have worked over the years to try and make dinner a time that we can connect and be together as family. Routines are key with children and they thrive off of it. Here are a few ideas that we have implemented to help make dinner-time a bit less chaotic and a bit more uniting.
Ask 2 questions every night at dinner: What did you do to serve someone today? What was your favorite part of today?
Remember when I said "Children thrive off of routines"? Well these two questions are a key element to our dinner EVERY. SINGLE. NIGHT. There are a few things I love about these two questions:
- This gives each member of the family a turn to talk and feel heard.
- This gives everyone else a chance to be quite and learn the skill of listening to others.
- This encourages each member of the family to look for ways to serve throughout the day as well as puts the focus on happiness in our day.
Place a small post-dinner snack by their plate. Helps kids stay focused on finishing their dinner.
Have you ever had the dinner where you felt like you were putting on a one-man-circus in an effort to get your little one to just take ONE bite? Me too - and way more frequently than I would like to admit. We have found great success in a small treat as a form of encouragement. We will place something like one sour-patch-kid or a few M&M's by their plate. We make it very clear that they are only to eat their treat when they have finished their dinner. We make a big deal about trusting them to finish their dinner before eating their treat. And then we relax and enjoy our dinner as well. Almost always, they will eat their dinner and then move onto their treat. And if not, they clearly were not hungry and I didn't have to be ten wild animals.
Sit in the same chairs every night.
Again with routines. Having "assigned" seats at the table helps take some of the pre-dinner frustration out of the game. No one gets to yell "Hey! That is my spot" because they already know where they sit.
Clean up together.
No mom likes to spend all afternoon cooking and cleaning. Take time now while they are little to teach the incredibly important phrase of "many hands make light work." Yes, sometimes their "help" isn't all that helpful. But let them do a little here and there and before you know it, they will be taking over all of the dishes!
I promise that as you make dinner a family priority, love will fill your heart and home. Not only will your children feel the benefits but so will you.