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Were you a member of the Clean Plate Club growing up? I can remember sitting at the dinner table for HOOOOOUURRRS while I (or my brother) finished eating.  I loved that my parents had family dinner every night.  Where has this gone for most familes? But I didn’t love that often the intended “bonding family time” ended at a stubborn standstill, usually someone leaving in tears. I knew I didn’t want our dinner table experience to be like this (sorry mom). Our dinner time rules are pretty simple:
  1. Manners are not optional.

    I have boys, y’all.  I mean one minute we could be talking about something that happened in Math class and the next it turns into poop talk. Unapologetic poop talk. Complete with descriptions and noises.  And don’t get me started on how often the fork lays untouched while five little fingers dive in to grab the broccoli.  While I have to accept that this is natural and normal, it doesn’t mean it is tolerated. Our job is to understand that our kids aren’t born with manners and it is our job to teach them.  And that requires patience. So, brace yourself when you arrive at the table. This is a learning experience and you are the one with your “ PhD in Chivalry”.  Teach away!
  1. This is a family not a restaurant.

    I don’t make multiple meals. I just can’t. And I don’t think you should either. * I talk to a lot of moms in therapy and they are tired. So tired. They are doing everything they can to make sure they are the best mom ever, which they have determined means that their kids don’t have to “dislike” anything. They want to provide healthy meals, so they are cooking to the preferential palate of a 7 year old (which by the way is not filled with much variety). Once someone knows that they have an OUT (aka mom will make them chicken nuggets instead of trying the lasagna) they will always choose nuggets. Its human nature. I have heard some families use the phrase “A bite to be polite” and I like that.  Use it if it helps. For us, we just serve dinner. Ranch and Ketchup have helped many a nights (personally I think brussel sprouts dipped in ketchup sounds worse, but I don’t have a 6 year old palette?!). Once someone knows that they have an OUT (aka mom will make them chicken nuggets instead of trying the lasagna) they will always choose nuggets. Its human nature.
  1. The goal of family meal time is for Community and Nourishment.

    We want mealtime to be a time where we spend time together. Afterall, I have to share my boys 7 hours of the day to school, they sleep 8 hours, you get the picture. So, put your phones away. Don’t bring your phone to the table. Talk to each other about their day. Ask your kids questions like “What was the worst part of your day?”, or “Anything funny happen at school today?”. Be prepared to tell them similar stories about your days. If you need help, buy Table Topics™and pick a question to guide discussions. Sometimes we put them on the plate when setting the table. Its so fun, y’all! If, because we know there is a big chance, your kids just aren’t hungry or really just “caaaaan’t eat (notice the dramatic flair)”, it’s okay. Very non-chalantly tell them: “No problem. We will cover your plate and you can enjoy (wink!) your meal when you are ready. But we are still going to sit at the table together to hang out until everyone is finished.” No drama. They will eat eventually. Honest. **
  *Some children have food aversions due to Sensory Processing Disorders and or Autism Spectrum Disorder. This is a diagnosable medical diagnosis that creates an exception to this opinion. If you have questions about if your son/daughter have SPD or ASD contact your pediatrician (or feel free to reach out to someone at our therapy practice: ** I don’t promote starving your children, but I am in the opinion (non-medical) that one night or so of them not eating dinner will be okay. Please consult with your medical doctor if you are concerned. I am not an M.D. but instead an LPC who really wants families to allow mealtime to be a place of connection and FUN for families.