This post is from Parenting Expert and Author Amy McCready.
Ever feel like there should be foreboding background music playing when it comes to dealing with family dinnertime?
Trying to serve real food and have real family time – when you’re really just frazzled and overwhelmed?
I get it. I’ve been there.
But, you know how it goes – when we’re frazzled, our families are frazzled. And that’s the perfect recipe for drama, chaos, frustration and even entitlement…think kids watching us race around, simultaneously cooking a meal, picking up shoes, and answering the phone as they shout from the sofa asking, “Hey Mom, what’s for dinner?” (Sound familiar?)
Fitting in family time isn’t easy – especially when most parents are run ragged trying to balance sports practices, church activities, music lessons, school projects and somehow run a healthy, happy household. You can reverse that trend and take back dinnertime (and any other time of the day) when your family seems to get out of sorts.
Get the Magic Back in Dinner
Start by putting these four powerful tips into play:
1. Rock the Routine.
I’m ‘all in’ for spontaneous fun and adventure but when it comes to keeping drama away from your day to day…make friends with routines that keep kids on task.
Let me share a powerful tool that’s simple and effective. It’s called a When-Then Routine and it’s a parenting favorite in the Un-Entitler Toolbox. (A collection of strategies from my latest book, The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic – A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World, available for pre-order on Amazon.)
The When-Then Routine puts the ROUTINE in the role of negotiator.
Here’s how it works:
Structure your child’s less desirable tasks to occur before those things that are very desirable.
For example, “When you finish setting the table, then you can play outside with your friends.” Or, “When you’ve unloaded the dishwasher, then you may watch your show.” Then, leave the room or do whatever you have to do to block out the protests or negotiating that is sure to follow.
Eventually your kids will be pitching in without pitching fits and they’ll even get a boost of empowerment when they finish a task and access the privilege.
2. Take Time for Training.
Think about all the LITTLE steps that go into making dinner – from preparing food, to setting the table, to conversation starters, to cleaning up when you’re done. In every step of that process there are jobs even the littlest kids can do to contribute – think tearing up lettuce leaves, taking grapes off a stem, putting napkins on the table.
With a little investment of time to teach them how to properly do each task and then giving kids choices as to what jobs they’d like to do each night, you’ll get some much needed help and they’ll feel a huge sense of pride in their contributions – not to mention some serious skill development!
You’ll also send the message that “mom and dad are not your personal wait staff” and that everyone’s contributions matter – an essential theme in the “un-entitled” home.
3. Meet Weekly to Un-Frazzle.
Weekly family meetings are one of the best ways to take the frazzle out of family life.
Meet over the weekend and talk about the week ahead – brainstorm dinner ideas, figure out who’s going where and when, what needs to be accomplished, let kids pick out their family contributions for the week – you can even work as a team to do a little meal prep for the upcoming days.
Keep the pace quick, the mood light, and the meeting fun. Pick a favorite snack and end with a family fun activity everyone can enjoy like a round of dominoes, game of Uno, a family sing-a-long or movie time.
Afraid you don’t have time for family meetings?
Don’t worry. Weekly family meetings will actually help you create MORE time in your schedule, not less – and it can keep catastrophes (think babysitting mix-ups, carpool chaos) from derailing your day.
By committing to weekly family meetings EVERYONE will stress less, avoid calendar craziness and have time to actually talk and keep the family close.
4. Be Good to YOURSELF.
As a mom of two boys, I totally understand how easy it is to get caught up in the to-do lists and weighty responsibilities of raising kids, running a household and working.
Remember what they say in the airplane pre-flight speech: “Put the oxygen mask on yourself before you can help others.”
As parents, we’re better able to help our kids, emotionally, physically, and spiritually – when we take the time to care for ourselves.
Carve out time in your days to find your center. Read a few pages from a novel. Take a 15-minute nap. Exercise. Pray. Meditate.
Do whatever grounds you and helps you be happier and healthier. You’ll not only feel better, you’ll set a great example for your kids and others. Self-care is not selfish – it’s a must-do to be the best parent and person you can be.
I hope these tips make family time more fun for you and your kids. Here’s to making your un-entitled home a no-drama, no-frazzle zone!
Amy McCready is the Founder of PositiveParentingSolutions.com and the author of The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic – A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World. Available August 11, 2015 wherever books are sold.