Does anyone else feel that sometimes family mealtimes are chaotic, messy, loud and rushed? Lately I’ve felt to be a little more intentional about how we set up an environment around our dinner table that promotes relationship, peace, and family, and that also teaches our children to be considerate of others.
My husband and I are intentionally looking at how we can build into our family around the meal table. It’s a value I had growing up, having English parents, and I’d like us to reinforce this in our own family too.
Mealtime is a time to set aside to be together and enjoy some fantastic, nutritious food and conversation together. Will it be perfect every night? I doubt it – the kids are young and attention spans are still a work in progress. But we are growing into this!
Here’s what’s we came up with and have been doing over the last couple of months:
Our Family Mealtimes
- We are well organised before being seated.
- The table is cleared of school work and other things, and is transformed into a meal table.
- We all sit down together, and stay seated for the whole meal.
- We thank the cook for the meal, even if we don’t like everything on our plates.
- We give thanks to God for the provision and blessing of our meal.
- We don’t complain about the food, and give everything a try before leaving it on our plates.
- We use our table manners: asking to be excused, chewing with our mouths closed, and using please and thank you.
- We take turns to speak, and listen when someone else is talking.
- We are supportive, encouraging and loving towards others.
- We help clear the table and do the dishes.
Some Of The Challenges
Hopping up and down
I think the trick to the hopping up and down one is to make the meal table attractive to be at. This means that every excuse to get up is already dealt with (toilet, washing hands, table laid with everything accessible, kids have their water), and the atmosphere at the table is a place of warmth, love, and enjoyment. You want your children to so look forward to mealtimes! I think it’s possible!
If everyone gets a turn to talk, and in turn everyone feels encouraged and listened to, they’ll be less likely to wiggle and slide off their chairs. Or is that just our house?
Naturally it makes sense to plan ahead so there’s plenty of time to eat without needing to rush out the door. I’m getting tough on myself with making arrangements that fall around lunchtime especially, as it’s one of my least favourite things to do to nag the kids to hurry up and eat so we can get in the car.
I’m also learning that I can’t do everything and be there for everyone – right now at this time in my children’s lives, this is what consumes my time and energy. So the self-inflicted busyness can be dealt with if I just let some things go for now and concentrate my efforts on cultivating a peaceful home, free of rush and chaos, and take the time to just be together.
All I can say on this one is, make sure there’s at least something on your children’s plates that they enjoy. Don’t let the entire meal be groaned at! Have a plan to introduce new foods to them one at a time, and possibly get them involved in preparing it. Make it a fun and enjoyable, and not a battle of the wills. I learned the hard way on this with my eldest, who was the world’s pickiest eater and now at 8 she eats most foods.
If you’re concerned about them getting enough fruit and vegetables in their diets, get them hooked on homemade smoothies and juices. The other thing I do is gently steam and puree vegetables, and add them to sauces.
Some Of The Practical Aspects
- Keep the table clear of distractions such as toys, books and anything that isn’t to do with the meal.
- Have everything on the table so no-one has to get up to fetch anything.
- Take your time and enjoy the food and each others company
- Have everyone take turns to talk about their day, or whatever is on their heart to share.
- Make setting up and clearing the table a family affair, and be an enthusiastic role model yourself. If you haven’t already been (joyfully) involving the kids in setting the table, don’t expect them to be enthusiastic straight away but set an example yourself. Your children will soon follow your example.
- Make the table attractive and orderly. We have been setting out a tablecloth, placemats, cloth napkins, condiments, and cutlery.
- Some quiet background music, perhaps instrumental or classical, might be a nice addition to mealtimes. If you have to increase your voice to talk over it, it’s too loud.
I’m looking forward to our meal table becoming a place of joyful conversation, where everyone feels valued and heard, and where simplicity and calmness rules over chaos and rush.
Feel free to share your tips!