Recently my friend Sarah posted on her blog about trying to establish more pleasant mealtimes in her home. She shared her frustration of wanting dinnertime to be a peaceful, pleasant, enjoyable family time, but all too often the time at the table is anything but that! Getting everyone served, running to the kitchen for forgotten items, children excitedly all talking at once, attitudes and table manners that need correction or discipline; sometimes all of those things combine to make mealtime a real challenge! I think all of us mothers of small children have been there!
Here are three simple principles that John and I have put into practice in order to make mealtime more pleasant for everyone, and a time that we all truly enjoy together! Peaceful mealtimes are possible and we have enjoyed many since implementing these principles. Give them a try if your mealtime routine is needing a tune-up!
1. Once everyone is seated, children are not allowed to get up until the meal is over and they've asked to be excused. I take responsibility to make sure all of the needed items are on the table, and unless given specific permission the girls are responsible to sit "properly" in their chairs (feet in front, centered on the chair. Yes we have had children actually fall out of their chairs before!). No up-and-down!
2. Generally Daddy leads the mealtime conversation. He often asks the girls questions about their day and gives them opportunities to share, and then at some point (sometimes earlier, sometimes later) he says, "all right girls, I am going to talk with Mommy now. You may be quiet and focus on eating." At that point the girls must put a hand on one of our arms and wait for permission to speak. I've been amazed how well this works! And John and I can have an adult conversation at the table! Wonderful!
3. The girls are responsible to help set and clear the table. My friend Rebecca, who has an abundance of kitchen help in her six children, has specific table chores assigned to each child. In our home it's a bit more loosely organized, but the principle is the same...each one helps to set the table and then when they are excused from dinner, they each clear their own plates, cups, and silverware to the table. This might seem inconsequential, but it really makes a big difference in how much time it takes me to clean up! And they're learning that their work is valuable and helpful in the life of our family too.
If this is an area you've been struggling with, I hope these tips will help make for some delightful dinnertimes in your home! And, if you utilize other principles that I haven't mentioned, please leave a comment and share! This is by no means an exhaustive list and I'm always eager to hear others' ideas!