Shared Family Dinnertime Stories

 

The Worst/Best Game

My husband and I often found talking to our children was like pulling teeth.  They would often answer our dinner time questions with, "nothing" or a shrug of the shoulders until we came up with the WORST/BEST game. Every night we gather around the table for dinner and on odd numbered days my daughter picks the sharing order while my son picks the order on even numbered days. We then share the worst part of our day. These worst parts turn into full conversations with ways to deal with our worst parts. We then share our best parts. We always end on a positive note, and often hear stories of success in the classroom that we would otherwise hear nothing about. We have started a tradition that the kids yearn for, and look forward to nightly. As parents we have learned so much about their daily events, and are so thankful for the communication this simple game has brought to us.

- Jennifer R., California

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 Truth or Fib?

Our home is no different than the typical American frenetic, crazy household. We are a busy family of six – or seven by our 12 year old Luke’s account because he’d include his Bearded Dragon, Raptor. So when dinnertime comes, it is important that I’m prepared with a healthy meal to fix – like Dream Dinners — or it would be easy to miss out on this special family time. With four children, games are always a hit and one of our favorites around the table is “truth or fib”.  We each get a turn as we go around the table and we tell something noteworthy that happened that day to us and then we tell an untruth – something did not happen.  The goal is to try to confuse the other family members as to which is the truth and which is the fib.  The ultimate "winner" is the family member who guessed correctly the most times. Not only is this game good fun with a lot of laughter and good storytelling yarns (very similar to the famous story and yarn by Dr. Seuss, "And To think It Happened On Mulberry Street"), but it also lets us share a slice of our day in a creative way with each other.  It connects us as a family over yummy nutritional food.  And the memories are unforgettable. Oftentimes, the general enjoyment of this game is so great that we’ll continue playing with different variations.  The categories are limitless: Favorite actor, the place you’d most like to vacation, the best day of your life, your most embarrassing moment, your favorite animal, color, etc.. In a world where everyone is dashing in a million different directions laughter around a healthy meal is priceless! And not only are we being nourished physically and emotionally, but we are learning the particular details, the likes and dislikes, the hopes and fears, about every individual in our unique but delightful family.

- Kristen H., California

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From roommates to a friendship

As a single mother of a senior in high school, I realized that we were functioning more like roommates than a family. I was busy as principal of a large, urban elementary school and he was busy with tennis, debate and AP classes. I knew he was going away to another state for college, so I decided that we would re-institute a consistent dinner hour. For the entire school year, we ate dinner together at least 4-5 nights a week. This gave us a chance to touch bases regularly, check in with each other and strengthened our relationship. So much so that we have been able to maintain a strong long distance mother/son relationship, which has actually evolved into a friendship. And when he's home for break, we have dinner together most nights because we both realize how precious time is!

- Robin, California

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Conversation games brought us together

With three active children, dinner time with our entire family is sporadic. However, on those rare occasions when we can sit down together, my husband and I make mealtime fun by using conversation games to get each member involved in the discussion. One idea we often use is to ask each child to share his/her "high" and "low" for the day.  A "high" is something good that has happened to the child whether at school or at home, and the "low" is his/her low point for the day. This allows each child -- and us parents -- to share a little bit of the day with the rest of the family, and it's also a great way as parents to learn more about our children's lives while getting the conversation started at dinner. Other great games we've used -- especially as the children were growing up -- was to integrate learning games with mealtime. One such idea was called The Rhyming Game. A designated member of the family would choose a starting word. Each family member would take turns saying a word rhyming with the starting word. The last person to have a word rhyming with the starting word was the winner. In our house, dinner isn't just about the food.  It's about using the time together to share our lives through conversation. What better way to bring everyone together than through a fun mealtime game!

- Carla O., Indiana

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Rules for Dinnertime

I grew up in a family of 6 children. We always had dinner together because it was the ONLY time we could all be together for my dad to quiz us about our day. We would each eat our food calmly and my father would allow each of us time to talk about the day. I now have 4 children of my own and somehow our dinnertimes are not the peaceful events I remember from my childhood. No, dinner in our house is a battleground of keeping kids in chairs, mopping up spills and bargaining, "Just try ONE bite; you might like it!" Rather than leaning back in his chair at the end of the meal to survey the brood with pride, as my father used to do, my husband finishes his dinner as quickly as possible and escapes to the quiet of the computer room! In desperation one night, I was reading one of the parenting books from my bookshelf, and it stated that children cannot keep the rules if they don’t know what the rules are.  It also suggested that children are more likely to keep the rules if they play a part in setting the rules.  "Hmm..."  I asked myself, "Could my 3 and 5 year old come up with some tangible rules that would make our dinnertimes more pleasant?" So I gathered the kids and explained the problem: We needed some rules for dinnertime so everyone would know what they are supposed to do.  I asked them what they thought the rules should be.  With a little coaching, they came up with some pretty reasonable rules that we wrote down in big orange letters on a piece of paper. I later typed up the rules and posted it on the wall near the dinner table. My children couldn’t yet read, but I read them the rules they had made and reminded them of the rules whenever they were in danger of breaking them. Soon the kids knew the rules by heart and were reminding each other about them!  Anytime we had guests for dinner, the kids would tell them about the rules for dinnertime so they could keep them too. Our dinnertime is still loud and messy, the children still complain that I haven't made their FAVORITE food tonight, and I still have to remind them about Rule number such-and-such, but it’s getting better. I anticipate they might actually have some good manners someday, and I look forward to leaning back and surveying my brood when they are older with pride and contentment.

Rules for Dinnertime:

  1. Everyone comes to the table when called.
  2. Sit quietly in the middle of chair while eating.
  3. No singing or toys at the table. No waving arms or reading books.
  4. Try a little of everything – even if you don’t think you'll like it.
  5. If there is dessert – must eat ALL food before getting dessert.
  6. Ask nicely to be excused before leaving the table.

- Holly C., Washington