How to Make the Most of Family Dinner

As parents, most of us want to instill in our children the character attributes and soft skills they need to become successful adults. What does that mean to you and how can you put it into practice? Kids need perseverance, resilience, the understanding that failures and setbacks are part of the learning process, and a can-do attitude are all necessary attributes if you want your child to succeed. Of course, there are many factors that influence a child’s development, from personality and their environment, but parents have a large impact on how their kids react to the situations they face in their lives. Would it surprise you to learn that you can instill some of these positive character traits during ordinary activities like family dinner?

  • Give kids more responsibilities. At dinnertime, involve them in meal prep, let them take on increasingly challenging tasks, and don’t be afraid to let them make mistakes. Making mistakes is part of learning and growing; by the time your children leave your house they need to know how to cook an entire meal, and the way they’ll learn is by trying and sometimes failing when they’re young.
    • Little kids can set the table.
    • As they grow, involve them in meal planning.
    • Let your older kids be responsible for one dish, then graduate them into cooking one meal, then one meal each week.
    • Don’t forget to involve children in the clean-up, as well.
  • At dinner, discuss your day. Don’t hesitate to share stories of your own failures, setbacks, and disappointments, because it will help your kids gain perspective about how to use difficult experiences as opportunities to learn and grow. You don’t have to share your deepest regrets, but acknowledging your small mistakes and modeling a positive attitude as you overcome them will set a good example for your children.
  • Play games with your kids. During dinner, try silly challenges, like eating while balancing paper plates on your heads. Play guessing games, twenty questions, or concentration ABCs. After dinner, if you have time, you can linger at the table (after you’ve all cleared it together) with a favorite board game. By playing games with your children, you give them opportunities to “fail safely” and learn from the experience.

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