Dinner Bell! Church Bell!

Our dinner rituals teach kids more about our values than time spent in religious services. Especially in this time when our ability to congregate is limited. Real values development happens around the table – together. Our priorities are played out. Children get it. Rituals and traditions don’t just come to us from earlier generations. We are making them now. It might be the most lasting and important influence we have on their character development.

We all want our kids to grow up to be honest, kind, courageous, industrious, empathetic – and happy. By taking a careful look at our routines, we can make sure the most important messages are getting through. 

DINNER BELL. Let’s look at something as simple as mealtime. Any messages in who prepares, serves and clears the meal? Gender lessons? At what point are the children expected to participate? Learning support vs being served? Do children learn to tend one another by passing the food around? Do you wait til all are served before eating? Standard conversations? Do you hear from everyone? Is gossip okay? By being deliberate about the outcomes we want – these mealtimes can easily embed important life principles.

What is the lesson we teach if we all wait to begin until everyone is seated? We teach that dining together is not just about the food – but about the care of each other. What is the lesson about seating – who sits where? Is it about authority and responsibility? What if people rotated positions – with the accompanying responsibility moving with it? What if one seat keeps an eye on everyone’s water glass? What if one seat is responsible for asking the first few conversational questions?

CONVERSATIONS ON THE MENU. Dinner is likely the only time all day that the family is together and paying attention to one another. So, what is on the conversation menu? Do we hear from everyone? Do we talk about others with respect? Do they witness anger? Do they hear dismissive language about others? Kids soak up these conversations as examples of how the world works. We can see it as social nutrition – learning about how humans live and work together.

Think about having a conversation bowl – filled with slips of paper with starter questions. Consider a night of the week for highest order dining etiquette – even dressing for dinner. Perhaps one night a week you come prepared to explore family history. Or a new language. 

The more attention you pay to interactions, the more kids get the message that the people matter more than the food. Enjoy. I would love to hear your ideas.

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