Attention Getter: I wrote different words on post-it notes like poo, throw-up, scabs, zits, blood, etc. (all things inappropriate for the table). Then I hid the words under their plates. I told them their was something gross under their plates, so they peeked and found the words. We read them aloud and realized they belonged in the garbage, not at the table. So I had the kids crumple them up and throw them in the garbage can.
Manner: Don’t talk about inappropriate or gross things at the dinner table.
We made a T-chart of things that are good to talk about at dinner and things that are not. The kids mentioned it was okay to talk about school, good news, compliments, work, family and friends. It is not okay to talk about any bodily function or bodily product. I also don’t think dinner should be a place to pass gossip and bash on neighbors, teachers, leaders or anyone for that matter.
Why: We filter our conversation because we don’t want to gross anyone out or have them lose their appetite because of the topics being discussed. Dinner conversation is where kids learn to respect others that are talking, take turns and carry a conversation.
Practice: We like to do “High-Low-Uh” at family dinner. Dad starts the game and says, “High-Low-Uh, Mom!” (or anybody else’s name). Then this person states the HIGH point of her day and the LOW point of her day. That person then passes it on to the next family member “High-Low-Uh, Elle”. We learn a lot about each other from this dinner ritual. And I think it is just as important to discuss the Lows as it is the Highs. This is where we learn about our family’s stresses and concerns and interests. For example, I had no idea my son loved writing so much until his low point one night was that he didn’t get to do Writing Workshop in school that day.
Follow-Up: Our local elementary school hosted a night where the kids made Family Conversation boxes. They decorated Chinese take-out boxes and filled them with conversation starter questions like “What would you do if you were President?” or “Tell us one way you want to improve your life.” You pull out one question and discuss it over dinner. You could decorate any kind of container and fill them up with your own conversation starters.