Setting and keeping a scheduled dinner time – and sticking to it – is a good way to:
- stay in touch with your kids
- establish good eating habits
How do you get your kids to the table?
Good question! Some parents feel they’re competing with the entertainment of television, video games, and play time. They’ve forgotten that they are the ones who set the rules. And some parents have a hard time keeping themselves on a schedule, let alone the children. So this will take some real effort and practice on your part.
Here’s what you say, “Kids, we’re having dinner at the table every night at 6pm. See you there.”
Simple, eh? The first week might be a challenge, but it’s worth the effort, and the payoff is great.
Now that you are gathered together…
So, you’ve put your “parent pants” on, and the family is sitting at the table waiting for the terrific meal you’ve promised. Just to let you know, it might be a tough audience. So, you need to make some special efforts to ensure that this time together is not a “drag.” Here are some ideas for making mealtime interesting.
Best – Worst: Getting your kids to tell you the best and worst part of their day helps children share their experiences and allows you the opportunity to observe their eating habits based on those feelings. And don’t underestimate the bond that can be created when parents share aspects of themselves. Your willingness to participate promotes an exchange of information (as opposed to parental interrogation of the children).
Food Journal: Write down meals you’ve shared, and allow each person to score the meal on a star or number system. The person who scores meals consistently “below average” can help with the cooking the following week.
Gratitude List: Each family member shares something he/she is grateful for. Another option is to have everyone share something they did “well” that day. Both encourage kids to look at the positive.
Socialite: Use dinner time to help coach each other on how to communicate graciously in a social situation. In one sentence, one family member describes a party/meeting and a host/guest at the event. Each family member has to come up with a question they could ask the host or guest in order to begin a good conversation. You’ll be surprised how handy this experience can be.
Family Plan: Make dinner time the opportunity to plan a physical activity – as a family. You might consider an after-dinner walk or plan for a weekend activity like a bike ride or hike.Whatever you do to encourage conversation at the table, make sure you present it in a matter-of-fact fashion and avoid a superficial approach that will turn your family off to the idea. Don’t ask for buy-in; just do it.
To get the family to the table, you might have to start at the farmers market or the grocery store. Get your family to pick out foods in the produce department. Then ask them for help in the kitchen while you’re preparing the meal. Cooking together is a great habit to start with your family, and statistics show that kids are more willing to try foods they’ve cooked themselves. Give your children age-appropriate assignments each night in regards to food prep, table setting, cooking, and cleanup.
Avoid the Diet Mentality
If you can teach your children how to enjoy all foods in moderation, you’ll help encourage a life-long healthy relationship with food. Portion control can help solve many of our eating problems. Use smaller dishes. Put smaller portions on your plate. Find out what proper portion sizes are for various types of foods, and don’t label any food group as “bad.” Learn everything you can about nutrition.
About the Author:
Tracy Adler is a former restaurant owner and mother of two. She created Yum Yum Dishes™ to help parents teach their children about correct portion size and is a strong advocate in the fight against childhood obesity. For more information, visit www.YumYumDish.com.