Breakfast may be the “most important meal of the day” but dinner is the most important meal in the life of most families.  At breakfast, everyone’s in a rush to get where they have to be that day. Lunch? Fuggetaboutit. Nobody’s home at the same time in the middle of the day. But dinnertime is the one recurring interlude in the day’s disarray when the whole family may be able to coordinate their calendars and gather together. Everyone’s hungry, everyone’s pausing between the frenzy of the afternoon and the sometimes equally frenzied evenings, and everyone’s tired and ready to sit down for a few minutes. When else do adults and kids have their biorhythms so synchronized?

By dinnertime, everyone in the household has accumulated a whole day’s events to share with one another. There’s good news and bad news, big developments and little developments. Every dinner is an opportunity to follow up on the discussions at dinner the night before. Look forward to dinner as a chance to reconnect with the people most important to you. Take turns telling the day’s stories. As I dragged myself in the door after work, our kids would sometimes shout, “Wait till you hear what I have to say at dinner tonight!” What a wondrous thing to hear from a child.

It may start out slowly—come to dinner prepared with specific questions, because kids need prompting. When you ask, “So, what happened today?” they will typically answer “Nothing” or “Not much.” “How was your day?” “Good.” Don’t settle for that. Prepare for your daily dinner meeting at home the way you prepare for your meetings at work—armed with an agenda of items you want to learn from your kids, and with news of your own day to share. Use what you talked about last night to start tonight’s dinner conversation: “Did your English teacher give back your essay?” “Did your friends get in trouble for gluing the stapler to the desk?” “What did Enid decide about going to camp this summer?” “How did the tryouts go?” Show your kids that you remember what’s going on in their lives and that you’re interested. Here’s a confession: I’ve even been known (only to myself, because I’ve never told this to anyone before) to make notes during the day about what I wanted to ask the kids at dinner, just to make sure I didn’t forget and let a whole day go by without hearing the latest update. No, I didn’t bring the notes to dinner . . .  but I did secretly sneak a peek at them before going to the table.

Be there for dinner. Put it on your calendar (at least your mental calendar) every day: “dinner meeting with family.” Even if you have to go back to work afterward, be there to share the day’s events with your kids—theirs and yours. Insist that everyone be at dinner every night. You’re allowed to make rules—you’re the parent! Dinner together is one of the most important rules you’ll ever make—and may be one of the hardest for you yourself to follow. But it’s worth it. While you’re making rules, make one more: no phone calls, text messages, or other interruptions during dinner (except emergencies, of course).

Soon you’ll find yourself addicted to family dinners, and upset on the very rare nights that unavoidable conflicts arise.

And…if you can’t, absolutely can’t, get everyone together for dinner because your work or their school schedule prevents it, figure out a way to be together for breakfast. It’s quicker, and everyone is rushing, but it’s still together, and that’s what No Regrets Parenting is all about.

Share your tips for getting everyone together for dinner, and share what you talk about. Use the comments box below, and if it’s not there, click on the title of this post and the comments box will magically appear beneath the post.


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