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Monday, February 20, 2012

5 Tips for Getting Your Family to the Table!

Dinner: my nemesis.

If I am screwing anything up as a parent, it's dinnertime. I have to try really, really, really hard to get everyone to the table together. Some moms seem to dance through this part of the day with grace and poise. Me? I usually time all the cooking wrong, get stressed out, and ruin the mood before we can even say grace. Sigh...

I have resolved to make this part of our family time more enjoyable and purposeful. I think we are wasting precious time with our loved ones if we're not taking full advantage of sitting down for a meal together at least once a day.

So I've put some thought into how I can bring my dinner fantasies to reality. Now, I'm telling you. I'm challenged in this area. Really challenged. I will never win an award for getting my kids to eat their vegetables or organic cooking. It's important to me that I don't set myself up for failure. I want to be realistic. The truth is, my kids are super picky. Partly because God made them that way, and partly because I've allowed them to be. I know. My bad. 


If this is an area that you struggle with too, it's important to remember that we're trying to improve the situation. NOT change it overnight. Rome wasn't built in a day, right? So stay focused on what you really want out of the time you have together. For me? These 5 tips are coming from a heart that wants to take advantage of the time. This really isn't about the menu for me.

So here they are...


1. It's not about the food. It's about the experience. 
So often I've gotten this wild hair to be the best housewife, cook gourmet meals, and have a magical dinner. But, what I've learned is that it's more important to gather together and eat macaroni and cheese and canned green beans than it is to make something only my husband and I will eat, cause me to become frustrated with picky eaters, and makes it impossible to enjoy the 30 minutes I really want to just make a memory with my kids. So, let go of trying to make something fancy, new, and different. Getting to the table is more important than what you are eating. What do your kids eat? Can your meal be easily modified to accommodate picky eaters? For example: I might make baked BBQ chicken breasts, but I will bake one breast without sauce for my oldest. It's a simple modification that goes a long way.

2. Screen-free 30 minutes prior to mealtime.
Usually when I'm cooking dinner, I don't mind if my kids entertain themselves with TV or video games. Gives me time to cook, right? Well, what I found was that turning screens off a little before dinner helps things calm down around the house. It gives the evening a chance to settle in, and it allows my kids to look forward to the family time instead of feeling like I've asked them to stop doing something they enjoy to eat dinner. It makes for a more positive transition to the table.

3. Let the kids get involved. 
Have them help you with the menu plan. Ask them for suggestions of things they like to eat, or something they would like to learn to cook. Have them help you in the cooking or preparations. Let them set the table. Get them in the kitchen! It doubles or triples the time you spend together. It gives picky eaters a chance to be a part of the meal before it's time to actually eat the food.

4. Let go of perfection!
Now some of you will gasp at this next one. But, I've done a lot of damage in the meal department, and again, I care more about the time together than actually eating the food. The other night? My youngest played with his Legos at the table, and I let him have dessert without eating his dinner. I know. Shutter! But, ya know what? He said his blessing, we all laughed and enjoyed the time together, and we have to take baby steps.

5. It doesn't have to be dinner. 
Why not breakfast or lunch? Perhaps your family doesn't have a traditional schedule? Maybe Dad isn't home at night? Whatever the case, eat one meal a day together. I realized how much more I could be taking advantage of breakfast with my boys. Even if I have coffee, one has waffles, and the other has cereal. I don't care! I just want to sit down with them. Why? Because I can. Breakfast makes for a great Bible time too.

These days we have so many distractions. Mealtime is something that everyone has to do. Why not make the effort to do it together?

How about you? What tricks of the trade do you have for making mealtimes an enjoyable experience in your home?

This post is linked up with Courtney at womenlivingwell.org


Come back every Monday for my new series, 5 Tips! Simple ways to make big changes!


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10 Comments:

At February 20, 2012 at 10:28 AM , Blogger Janet Rose said...

Great words of help for making a mealtime special and a family event instead of the dreaded dinner! :) Looking forward to more tips!

 
At February 20, 2012 at 11:12 AM , Blogger Cindi said...

Great suggestions. If I can add to your involving kids suggestion, have the kids make or color little menus for the dinner. It may distract them or keep them out of trouble and allow you time to complete baking or cooking.

 
At February 20, 2012 at 12:38 PM , Blogger ckbrylliant said...

I have to add one more to your list: They don't have to eat to be part of dinner time. My 4 year old used to be the tazmanian devil if we tried to 'make'him eat at dinner time and it was miserable for everyone. Now, he has to be at the table with us for 10-15 minutes. We let him tell jokes, even if they have 'poopy' in them and inevitably we end up having the best time. Everyone else eats and sometimes he does too but we don't force it. This is a battle we have chosen not to fight...yet. Baby steps.

 
At February 20, 2012 at 12:52 PM , Blogger Missy | Literal Mom said...

Love, love love #s 2 and 5! Exactly!

 
At February 20, 2012 at 12:52 PM , Blogger MiMi said...

We eat at the table probably 5 out of 7 times a week. The other times we laze around in front of the TV.
But number 1...tell my kids it's not about the food, lol! They'll come to the table but once they see what we're eating they're like, "NOOO!!!"

 
At February 20, 2012 at 2:03 PM , Blogger The Double Dipped Life said...

This article is just perfect! I could have written it; it's perfect for our family. Dad's not home at dinner, so I tend to be super casual. I love the idea of turning off the tv a little earlier. And, I love the commenters idea that they don't have to actually eat. I try to encourage them to all come and sit with us. *sigh* Some days are better than others! Good luck!

 
At February 20, 2012 at 3:03 PM , Anonymous Practical Parenting said...

Letting go of perfection...that's the trick, isn't it? Making it fun and stress-free will help the picky eaters long term...I have one of those too :)

 
At February 21, 2012 at 6:48 AM , Blogger Lisa @ Two Bears Farm said...

These are great tips. I actually do well getting dinner on the table the same time everynight, the problem is my husband - who is forever running late getting home!

 
At February 21, 2012 at 9:35 AM , Blogger Barbara said...

I have the same problem as Lisa. Dinner is always ready at the same time, but my husband's job never lets him be home at the same time every night!

 
At February 21, 2012 at 9:38 AM , Blogger TV's Take said...

Well kudos to you for continually trying. Also great times. We eat as a family each night but it's only 3 of us and my daughter is only 3 so my only struggles are getting her to eat what I serve.

 

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