In case you thought it was just YOUR house, almost every parent I know reports that dinner conversation is tough at their home. And, when you think about it, why wouldn’t it be a bit daunting? At your dinner table, you have a variety of developmental levels, a mix of personalities, an array of hungry-tired-sick-chipper-funky. . . all hoping for a little nourishment.
From my point of view, it’s great that gone are the days of “children should be seen and not heard.” Family dinner, in every expert’s eyes, holds great possibility for connection, values sharing, and just plain old fun! But how to attain that lofty goal? Here are a couple of thoughts:
- First of all, make dinner together a regular event, something kids know to count on
- Do your best, along with help from the kids, to make it pleasant, attractive, side-stepping for a moment the rush and busy-ness of the day
- Create a tradition where anyone’s ideas can be expressed and listened to, where different points of view can be shared, and discussed (this is your kids’ practice at holding their own values)
- DO NOT use dinner as a time to discuss grades, poor athletic performance, or corrections. . . we want the kids to LIKE coming to the table
- Include mom and dad as participants not just as servers or draconian authorities
One family I know takes dinner time for each member to share a “rose, thorn, and bud” from their day or week. A rose is something good or exciting; a thorn is something not-so-good, disappointing, frustrating; a bud is something the individual is looking forward to. Be a gate-keeper, if necessary, so that everyone gets a chance to speak. When kids learn to give others a chance to participate, they begin to see that their own personal issue is NOT the only important thing in the world. You can already imagine how family members learn what others are hoping for, why some successes are especially sweet but also why some failures are really disappointing.
I believe that dinner time is our secret weapon to build family connections.
How about serving up some roses, thorns and buds for dinner tonight?