When we started buying pre-made meals, we lost our family dinner time. Since dinner is in the refrigerator, all that's required is putting it in the microwave, and everyone just eats when they're hungry.
Joe and I had a conversation about this lack of family mealtimes recently, and we decided to change it. Even if they've already eaten, the kids have to sit down with Joe and me when he gets home from work and spend 15 minutes together at the table.
As you might imagine, this new rule didn't go over very well at first.
Another rule we have in our house is no screens after 6pm. Back when our kids could use their screens all evening, we found that bedtime was an exercise in frustration. Their eyes and brains had been so overstimulated right up until the moment I made them go to bed that it was hard for them to turn off.
So implementing a no screens after 6pm rule made bedtimes much much easier. The girls don't like the rule, but they both recognize that it does help them to fall asleep easier, and they acquiesce.
Anyway, back to the mealtimes. There is so much evidence that time spent around the dinner table helps both kids and families. It creates shared experience and provides the opportunity for bonding through conversation.
Except, what do you talk about?
If your kids, like mine, react with I dunno or okay when you ask how their day was, you need some alternate questions.
I even tried What did you learn today? and they just replied nothin' or I don't know.
So instead of those boring questions, I came up with the ones in this free printable. There are over 200 questions, most of which will definitely elicit a more interesting response than nothin'.
Here are a few of the questions from the printable:
- What vegetable would you like to make disappear from earth?
- What's your favorite sandwich topping?
- What is your favorite word?
- What 3 words would you use to describe our family?
- What's the nicest thing anyone has ever said to you?
- What was the best day you've ever had?
- What was the worst day you've ever had?
- Tell me about a kindness you saw today.
- What would you do if you had an invisibility cloak?
- If you could be the president for a day, what would you do?
- How would you react if you came in second?
- How would you describe yourself in 5 words?
- What is something you don't understand about adults?
- What do you want to be famous for?
- Why do you think some kids disobey their parents?
- Would you rather be smarter or more athletic?
- What rule would you like to change at home?
- What is your favorite family tradition?
- If you could change something about Mom, what would it be?
- If you could change something about Dad, what would it be?
- What's the best thing about being you?
I called them dinner table questions, but of course, you could use these anytime. In the car when they're a captive audience would be really good too.
The idea behind the questions, even the silly ones like the vegetable you'd like to erase from the earth, is that they will give you a better picture of the hearts and minds of your kids. With that knowledge, you can respond to them with more sensitivity and care.
You will know what your kids need and what they long for. You will get an idea of their love languages and what makes them feel special. You'll be able to respond and love them in the way that will impact them most.
And isn't all that the goal of parenting? To make them feel adored before they head out into the hard, broken world? To give them a soft place to fall when the world is too much?
It is my goal. Even if it is not your goal, these questions will help you to grow closer to your kids and that is always a good thing.
I can't wait to hear what your kids have to say. Come back and share the good ones in the comments.