Hamberger for dinner

Improve Dinnertime with kids who won’t stop fighting [Advice Column]

Dear Velvet,

At the end of the day, I try really hard to have everyone sit down for dinner together.  It used to be great, but now all my kids do at dinnertime is bicker.  It’s driving me crazy and then I end up yelling.  I know research shows that sitting down to eat together contributes to kids’ well-being and development, but so far in our house it’s not working.  I feel like I’m losing my mind.  What should I do?

Feel like Screaming

Dear Screaming,

Obviously, the problem is related to the food you’re serving.

If your kids can’t behave themselves at the dinner table, then maybe they shouldn’t be there.  Have you considered that?  But if you’re determined to include them, then maybe you should involve them in the food prep.  That way, they can get an idea of how much time and effort goes into making the meal and what a drag it is when they ruin the meal with their petty, annoying ways.  Put the shoe on the other foot, and all that.

You can also counter the bickering by adding structure to the conversation.  Start with something guaranteed to stimulate conversation like, “How was your day, honey?”  That is a sure way to get your kids to focus inward on themselves, rather than on each other.  Plus it’s guaranteed to get them to shut the hell up, because the next one to start an argument gets to talk about her day.  Five word minimum answers required.  So when it’s your turn, you can reciprocate by waxing on poetic about your day.  “My day was fine, thanks.”

There you go, setting a fine example.


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