Does your family have an uninvited extra dinner guest at the table every night? Does this guest often dominate discussion (or lack thereof) and interfere with truly connecting to the family?
If the answer is “yes,” you are not the only family that has the uninvited cell phone or iPad dinner guest!
Technology is so prevalent at today’s tables that it’s often hard to remember what dining was like before the constant reminders to check our text messages, work email, or cell phones. If you are interested in reclaiming your family dinners, why not try these tips to encourage true family connection and conversation at your next family meal?
Putting it into practice:
1. The Cell Phone Basket - If your family struggles with members bringing cell phones to the table, create a “cell phone” basket! All family members are required to put their phones on silent and in the basket during the entire mealtime.
2. Involve the Children - Encourage children to help with dinner preparation, setting the table, cutting the veggies, and so on. The more they are involved and feel like they are helping, the less likely they will want to check their phones.
3. Encourage Conversation - Discuss with your children why it is important to have a cell phone free dinner. They will be more willing to have less screen time and engage in conversation if they are a part of the table talk. In order to avoid deathly silence during the meal, fill a “conversation” tin with printed questions that each family member can answer during the meal. Ideas include:
a. What was the highlight of your day?
b. Name three nice things you did for someone else today.
c. Did someone at school or work say anything funny?
d. Did you hear a new joke today? What was it?
e. What was the strangest thing that happened to you today?
To encourage conversation with your teenage children, why not try giving every family member a section of the newspaper in the morning? Then use dinnertime as a way to report back and share about one topic or story of the individual’s choice.
4. Zero Tolerance Rewards - Going without media at the table may be difficult at first, so why not offer incentives for those who can successfully do so? Simple dinner-associated rewards such as choosing the main meal or dessert for Friday night will go a long way in motivating children to be focused on those in the room or at the table.
Have you discovered helpful ways to eliminate media use during dinnertime? Share them with us in the comments below!
Bethany Miller is the founder and director of Doors of Success School of Etiquette. A graduate of the prestigious American School of Protocol in Atlanta, Georgia and licensed by the renowned Protocol School of Washington, Ms. Miller is a teacher passionately seeking to encourage a revival of kindness and politeness in American society. For more etiquette tips, check out her course offerings and follow Doors of Success on Facebook!