A calm dinner table? Where everyone is having nice conversations? Doesn’t seem possible? It’s not only possible, but it’s also necessary. Here’s how to achieve it.
Good, healthy food nourishes us mentally and physically. But if we can’t digest it and enjoy the time we spend at the table, then it won’t do as much for us. For the best benefits, we need to have an atmosphere at the table that is safe, loving, and calm.
This would be easy if we didn’t have children, but when we do, a lot of stuff goes on at the table. One child is complaining about the food, “I don’t like this, why did you make this again??” Another one is poking siblings, teasing, and provoking them.
“Stop!!! Make him go away!”
This is real life with children at the table.
There are all sorts of things that go on. So how do we make mealtime safe, loving, and calm? (Apart from having a glass of wine with our meal?). Let’s try a few strategies.
- Speak in a Calm Voice
We are capable of setting the atmosphere and tone at a table through our voice alone. On purpose: speak slowly and quietly. A slow and quiet, calm voice will calm everyone’s nerves. If the children are screaming and crazy, we need to respond with quiet instructions, even if there’s a threat of consequences. We can say it in calm, quiet and slow voice.
- Use Your Voice for Positive Things
Don’t use this time to direct traffic and tell everyone to “sit down” or “stop that.” Look for places where you can offer encouragement, acknowledgement, and praise. “I love the way you’re sitting so nicely…” or you can tell a toddler, “You’re doing such a good job using your fork…” Don’t direct comments to the ones that are not cooperating. Direct comments to the ones that are.
- Make dinnertime interesting.
Don’t make it a time of inquisition or criticism, complaint, or correction. Take that out of dinnertime. You don’t want to be tense or upset at the table. Rather, bring out topics that are real and pertinent. Come ready to have interesting conversations. Don’t make it a time where kids need to report to you about their lives. Rather, use the time to develop their conversation skills and share ideas, thoughts, and feelings in a natural way like you would with a friend.
This originally appeared on our Instagram series, Between Minds, where different popular Instagrammers shared tips in their areas of expertise.
Jessica B. says
Your suggestions are practical and achievable, thank you. My husband sent me this link because mealtimes usually end with me getting upset and leaving the table. My spouse, my husband, and my four girls, all come to the table with positivity and excitement; we’re all ready to share stories of our day and cut loose a bit. Our dining room is small, with hardwood floors, and without any type of sound-buffing. Within minutes, we’re overeating, displaying horrible manners (belching, etc.), yelling over each other to be heard, singing, and frequently yelling out in Tourette-like bursts of sounds. I try to calmly redirect my two oldest daughters on single, healthy portions and to slow down: really take time to experience their food. I quietly shake my head at the loud sound outbursts or singing; sometimes I often try to redirect their pseudo-tics with a particular subject. For me, dinner is wrangling the seven-year-old to bring herself back down into her chair, or politely respond to my nine-year-old as she keeps poking my arm for my attention, giving my husband my full attention with his persistent story-telling, and to calm my pacing, a geriatric terrier who’s nails haven’t been trimmed for years. Sometimes, I can make it through an entire dinner if I wear noise-canceling headphones or earplugs, both of which, make it difficult or uncomfortable to chew my food. I used to stay cool as a cucumber when working traumatic codes in the emergency room, but I cannot handle dinner with my family.