I love dinner time with my family. It is such a great opportunity to hear about everyone’s day, to joke with each other – to basically connect with each other after being apart all day. However, loving the opportunity to connect doesn’t necessarily mean that dinner time is always easy! More often than not, my children want to show me what their day was like: they want to act out what each person did, or demonstrate dance moves. They are constantly popping up and down from the table to get things or to do things, and they are excited so they are constantly interrupting others.
So, we decided to try out an innovative idea that Jo Frost taught, on the tv show Super Nanny. It is so simply: write down the rules for meal time on paper flowers, place the flowers on the table at meal time, review with everyone as necessary.
It was fun writing down the rules with my children. I loved hearing their interpretation of our meal time rules! For example, my 8 year old came up with“don’t show people what’s in your mouth by talking when you are chewing”. And my future scientist 3 year old came up with “don’t mix your food into your drink”! It took a few revisions, but eventually we came up with about 6 meal time rules, phrased in positive terms (For example, rather than “don’t show people the food in your mouth by talking when you are chewing”, we came up with “Finish chewing, then talk”).
The trick to this strategy? You must catch your kids following the rules! Remind them of the rules at each meal time, verbally acknowledge they are doing it (some praise), and give them the appropriate flower. My children love the pretty flowers we made –they are proud of their hard work. So, at meal times now, they point out their good behaviour and ask for a flower. They even notice each other’s good behaviour and point out that someone needs a flower if I have missed it!
I wonder if the key to success for this strategy was that my children partially own it – there is some empowerment here because they were a part of outlining the rules and creating the flowers. Thank you Super Nanny!
This article was originally posted on January 5 2013, to Happy Parents = Happy Kids (focusedonparenting.wordpress.com) by Susan Guttridge
Susan Guttridge is a trauma-informed Master level Counsellor with the clinical designation of Canadian Certified Counsellor (CCPA). She has 20+ years experience providing individual and group therapy.