Sitting down to dinner is one of the happiest times on our house. The time before the sitting down to dinner is probably the busiest. Yet it is something we work hard at making happen every night. Using the piece of apple strategy each of the boys have assumed various setting the table roles; grown out of that stage and graduated to the next level. They get a little like a union if their brother does ‘their job’. We’ve had full on sit ins, throw downs and work to rules over many issues and taken it to mummy arbitration where everyone yells and gets pretty emotional about who should set the plates and how it is my turn to do the cups because…… It’s all very real. Family dinners, the gathering of everyone and the coming together is a good place to share your family values, manners and show how to use their skills.
The whole experience of setting up the table, the meal together and the clear away provide amazing experiences for the modern busy family.
As part of the MeMeTales readathon this week the book we read together was about Ditto the Butterfly who was keen on one particular food but when introduced to something new changed…eventually.
It’s a lovely character study of trying something new and developing good habits. We’ve found that to try something new it’s been best to have established routines. It’s all about the control.
Come visit our family dinner table.
Setting up the table
Everyone has a part to play in setting up the table. Currently the LO puts on the mats, the MO the cutlery and the BG the cups. The two older ones also negotiate better now over who does what. That’s come with time. If the meal is dished out onto plates then the MO will serve everyone, this is his coveted role and everyone tries to get in on this one. Mostly because he often directs where you sit. The BG is the official drink maker and the LO finds his booster seat. Most of the time it’s moving pretty fast in and out of the kitchen as everyone does their part.
Routines around family dinner
On particularly days when the emotion in the house is high, I remember or it is requested; we light a candle for the table. This has worked really well in the darker evenings. Something about the candle on that quietens and stills everyone. It makes for a calmer, quieter start to the meal and less accidents happen at the table. ( I don’t know why but it is true in our house) It helps me also if there’s been a lot of tension around the meal.
We wait for everyone to sit down before we start eating.
We say Grace.
As the family has grown it was harder to carry a few utensils to the table, especially with little hands. We have a minimum of 10 pieces, each meal, without all the extras. The frustration of dropped cutlery and fingers on the forks led to a biscuit container that now we put in the cutlery.
Enjoying the family meal
Guests are offered first pick of the mixed up cutlery from one of the boys. If no guest, I often get the first pick or the LO. I love that the boys serve others first. It comes easily to do this now because we’ve been doing it at dinner every night.
We try to encourage passing of small things like dips and sauces. The adults serve some dishes and the children get up and serve themselves to other dishes. This is probably the most chaotic moment as we’re all moving in and out and the chance of spilling, bumping etc is huge. We get to say sorry, excuse me, can you pass me? We do plate up many of our meals as well.
Sitting around a table like this we get to see what the person opposite is doing especially if we’re chatting about something. It’s easy to mention table manners like reaching across, speaking with our mouth full and double dipping. We learn through trial and lots of error how to initiate a conversation, what happens when we interrupt our brother’s story with our own before he has finished. This way of using the knowledge we have socially with our peers is essential to learn. If we can’t take our turn, listen without interrupting and banter about funny situations these become huge big deals in school or elsewhere. With the routine of each meal it becomes easier for these to become habits. It’s not smooth sailing or easy.
After the family meal
Clearing up often starts with rounding up the plates and taking them outside. It’s here most of them try to slope off abandoning their plates and food to the counter. If we work together it’s better and quicker.
Family dinner times is probably one of our richest sources of interaction during the day. We try out new recipes and catch up with each other.
This post is part of the MeMeTales readathon. We’re reading a story on my phone or online then doing an activity connected with it. Find out Why and how you can get involved by visiting all the friends. See my disclosure here.
Visit other character development activities
What do you do to encourage use of manners at your family dinner table?