I’m partnering with the National Milk Life Campaign’s Back-to-School program. I was compensated for writing this post, but all opinions are (as always!) my own.
“Family dinner” has a lovely ring to it. But it’s not always lovely (read: The Truth About Family Dinner). Family dinner can be especially hard when children are very young. They’re tired. You’re tired. Someone is spilling something. And someone is crying because their pizza slice is cut into pieces but they wanted it whole.
My husband and I have slogged through some tough dinners with our kids. But we kept our eyes on the prize: We were together and we were eating home-cooked food—and eventually, it had to get better. Surely, kids can’t throw tantrums over the color of their plate forever and eventually, they would learn how to pour their own milk and sit in their seat for longer than three and a half minutes.
I’m happy to say that it HAS gotten better. Here’s how:
Everyone knows the drill:
We might need an occasional refresher, but by now my boys understand our basic mealtime rules:
- No “gross” and “yuck”: It’s not polite and hurts the cook’s feelings.
- Everyone gets a veggie (or in a pinch, fruit): The veggies may differ–we may have broccoli, but dad has a salad–and that’s okay.
- Milk with meals: It’s an easy way to help ensure they get calcium they need.
- Ask to be excused and clear your plate: It’s good manners and important to help with clean-up.
I can eat dinner while my food is still hot:
Now that everyone in the house has the ability to fetch ketchup or an extra fork and even serve themselves a second helping of potatoes, I’m not jumping out of my seat every 90 seconds.
Our boys are good company:
We can have actual conversations. Sure, they’re mostly about football and video games these days, but it’s still a dialogue.
People actually eat:
My older son’s appetite has increased to the point that he’s less picky about what’s on his plate. My younger son, never a fan of dinner, still frequently eats very little—but he’s used to saving his plate for later (read more about that strategy: Coming To Peace With A Not-So-Perfect Dinnertime). Even better, he can now heat it back up in the microwave by himself! And both kids can give feedback on new recipes that’s actually helpful, such as “it’s too spicy”, or “I would like it better with more rice”.
I’m more relaxed:
Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about feeding kids. I’ve learned that dinner doesn’t make or break the day. I’ve learned that it’s my job to provide the food, it’s their job to decide whether to eat it (read more about the Division of Responsibility). I’ve learned that the “two more bites” game isn’t effective in the long term. And I’ve learned that a positive vibe at the dinner table is more important than whether anyone ate their green beans.
What’s the state of family dinner at YOUR house these days?