Manner #2: Don’t Bring It

Manner #2: What NOT to Bring to the Table

Attention Getter: As I set the table for dinner, I added some props to the table. I put a laptop by my husband’s plate, a cell phone on mine, a toy on the high chair tray, a hat on my daughter and again my son unintentionally contributed and came to the table without a shirt. I wish I had turned the TV on in the background and been chewing gum for a little extra challenge. (This is where you can personalize the props to your family’s “issues”. I’m guessing most of you don’t have to worry about your child not wearing a shirt.) When everyone was seated, we played the game “What is wrong with this picture?” I told them there were 5 things wrong at the table and they had to find out what they were. They immediately looked at their place settings to see if a fork or knife was out of place. (This made me happy and was an unplanned review). To my surprise, my 3 year old was the first to see something “wrong”- she spied the computer. Then they soon noticed the phone, toy, hat and no shirt.

Why?: After all extras were identified, we discussed why they weren’t welcome at the table. My oldest daughter went into a lecture about eye contact and distractions and paying attention to family. She was on to something. Dinner time is a family experience not an individual one. We gather to build relationships with each other and we all want to be heard and listened to and respected. It is about collective conversation and family time. Anything that takes away from this is not welcome at the table. My youngest daughter was concerned that the computer and phone would get dirty if they were at the table. The shirtless thing had not been addressed yet so I asked my son, “Crew, why do we want you to wear a shirt at the table?” His response: “Because you don’t want to see my boobies and belly button?” (Note to self: teach my son to never use the term “boobies” again especially if he is referencing himself) We giggled as we talked about what it would be like if we all came to the table without shirts. The bottom line is we all want to be comfortable at dinner.

Practice: We put our extras away, Crew ran and put a shirt on, and we enjoyed our dinner. The rest of the week we took turns trying to test each other. Before dinner each night I pulled someone aside and told them to bring something inappropriate to the dinner table to test the other kids. They would casually read a book or play on the iPod until someone caught them. The kids enjoyed taking turns trying to trick their siblings.

Follow-Up: Towards the end of the week, we brainstormed a list of things that were not appropriate to bring to the table. Our list had expanded since our first night discussion. Here is what we came up with:

What NOT to bring to the table: a book, computer, video game, toy, cell phone, remote control, iPod, newspaper, magazine, mail, bad attitude, dirty hands, chewing gum, retainers and homework. And don’t forget to turn the TV off!

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