Today I was speaking at Research In Motion ( RIM) in Waterloo about power struggles. During the Q&A after my talk, an attendee asked me, “How do you make them stay at the table?”
I get that question a lot. While many families no longer force their children to eat (hooray!), they might require them to stay at the table until everyone is done. Except they fail at actually getting them to stay!
Do you demand attendance at the table until the end of the meal? Do you scream at your children, “This is family time, damn it, and we are all going to sit here and love one another even if it kills us! Now get your butt back on your chair mister”?
I love the idea of family meal time, and I think it’s important to “break bread” together. But forcing children to stay at the table will not achieve that happy family time you aspire to create. Instead, you’ll get whining, moaning and other misbehavior that sabotages your efforts. We don’t want to invite power struggles.
Instead of making attendance mandatory, I suggest you excuse anyone who wants down, and then work to create a fabulous family dinner atmosphere that attracts your children to come back or to stay. Stop harping on about what they are eating and the crap that happened at school. Instead, “socialize.” It’s a dinner party!
Can you stop “parenting” long enough to just enjoy the company of your children? That is what it’s about isn’t it? Here are some ideas for questions that you can use to get the conversation rolling. I promise you’ll draw a crowd with these:
1. What is your all-time favorite movie and why does it have special meaning for you?
2. What is your favorite book? What in it has personal meaning for you?
3. What is the funniest thing that ever happened to you?
4. What is the silliest thing you have ever done?
5. What is something you hate to do? What do you hate about it?
6. If you could be a super hero or fictional hero/heroine, who would you be? Why?
7. Do you like your name? If not, what would pick instead?
8. How do you feel about nicknames? Know any good ones? What would you pick for yourself? Why?
These are just a few ideas to replace the ole, “Do you have homework tonight?” or, “When are you going to write that thank-you card to Grandma for your birthday present?” Gee, I’d be running from you too!
If you have a good dinner table vibe going, share with others what makes it happen for you.