Monday, October 10, 2011

Fall Nesting {Day 10} - Eat Dinner as a Family

Do you eat with your family every night? If you don't, you should consider starting a new tradition; it's a good one, I promise. 

I grew up in a house where we would always sit down to dinner together, even after my brother and sisters grew up and moved away and even when it was just me and my dad for several years. I remember having to go into the other room to count to twenty if you took a bite without your napkin on your lap, watching my older siblings get quizzed on their state capitals (a dinnertime game titled "capital punishment," hardy har har) and talking about our days. 
You would think that something as simple as dinner together would be such a small part of the day, but the ritual of it, the consistency of that tradition, has caused many of my childhood memories to revolve around that time shared with my family. That's a very special thing, and I hope to pass that onto my children as well.
I think this topic works within the Fall Nesting theme because I mentioned earlier that I believe this time of year is one where we focus particularly on things like home and family, warmth and love. There's no better way to end a day than to do it with the ones you love.

Maybe you've never tried this because you figured your schedules were too busy, or maybe you got a little off course during the craziness of summer and would like to try again. Here are some tips that might help you find your way back to the dinner table:

Everyone eats
This one is pretty simple: dinner is about family togetherness. So come home, make room in your schedule, and don't plan piano lessons for 6:00 at night. Even if someone says they're not hungry, they should come to the table and spend time with the family.

Keep it simple
Dinner doesn't have to be fancy, so don't feel pressured. There are a lot of wonderful resources out there for simple, fast meals that will satisfy. I've tried and loved many recipes from the cooking blog Our Best Bites (and they do have a cookbook now!), Rachael Ray has about a bazillion quick meal cookbooks, and there is an entire genre of books dedicated to simple cooking.

No distractions at the dinner table. Put cell phones on silent and set them in a basket in another room. No television, no homework, no comic books, no toys, and no answering the home phone either. (oohhh, that last one pains me!)

Use manners
All joking aside, this is a wonderful opportunity to teach your children some basic table manners that will benefit them throughout their entire lives; is it just me or are bad table manners an epidemic? You don't have to go crazy with the manners, a la finishing-school-slash-dinner-with-royalty manners... but teach your kids how to ask for things politely, to say thank you, how to pass instead of reach, to put napkins on their laps, to use an inside voice and to resist testing their chair's balancing capabilities by rocking back onto only two of its legs.


Only kindness
Did I overcook the chicken a bit? Will being served soup absolutely and unequivocably ruin your already horrible day? Well, please keep it to yourself. And in turn, I will not talk about your messy room or how you promised to fix that squeaky hinge weeks ago and yet I still run the risk of waking the dead when I try to sneak cookies at ten o'clock thoughtfully prep the coffee machine before going to bed.

Talk about your day; try playing a game where everyone shares the high point and low point of their day, or consider getting a game like Table Topics to help nudge the conversation along.

Clean Up Time
Everyone should help out - clear your plate, do dishes together. Make this an extension of the family dinner tradition and no one will develop dinner-related grumpiness.

Do you agree with me?
Is making an effort to sit down for dinner as a family every night worth it? Do you do it?

{Click here to see the other posts in my 31 Days of Fall Nesting series...}


  1. I'm glad you included this in your 'nesting' series! I, too, grew up in a house where family dinner was sacred. Even if it was just a thrown-together "grab & growl" meal (as my mom would call it)... you still did it together. It's a tradition I'm proud to continue with my own family.

    And I'm with you about "unplugging"... the only thing we have on is light music for ambience, and always something family-friendly, usually the Christian XM station. Dinner time is the best time to recharge as a family - love it!


  2. I also think dinner together is important. My husband, unfortunately, grew up in a much more disconnected family and often stays late at work or eats in the basement. However, I do my best to made dinner a family ritual for me and my boys as often as we can.

  3. This was the way we raised our kids. (Would I be telling my age if I said it wasn't that unusual back then?) But, it was an important part of our day..a great time to share what was happening in our lives, teach table manners and just generally be together as a family. So many good memories were created around that table! (All of our kids have come back and thanked us for teaching them basic table manners, by the way) Its also a good opportunity to teach kids how to set a table correctly.. scary how many people have no clue. Our youngest daughter got extra credit in her home ec class cause she was the only one who knew what side of the plate the fork went on. LOVE it that you did this post! This is so important!!

  4. I totally agree. I grew up eating together as a family and we have done the same with our children.

  5. Hi,

    I discovered your blog today but I will be back!!
    I have 2 children (3 and 5) and we always eat together with daddy as a family. Always done as a child (and I reognize a lot of your points!) and always will do!
    I know it is hard sometimes teaching manners at the end of a long day (when you would like to be relaxing!) but it very important!

  6. Totally agree! And, a study was done that teens who eat with their families at least 5 times a week are consistently higher achievers and have fewer drug problems -- family time is important!


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