Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Sitting around the dinner table is something we do at every meal. We try hard to limit our evening activities and so far since the kids are little that has been easy. It's very rare we are not all together for supper. Lately though, this has been a time that I dread. It had become quite loud and more than I could handle after a full day of taking care of kids, especially lately with a newborn. So one afternoon I decided that I was going to bring the sanity back to the dinner table.
I first created a list of "Table Rules". There are some things our kids do really well at the dinner table but then there are other certain things they do that drive me crazy so those were to be the rules we would work on. For instance, one rule is, "No interrupting. If you want to speak, wait your turn." With 5 speaking children who are all excited to tell you their tales of the day and a mom and dad who haven't spoken to each other all day it was getting difficult for everyone to be heard. There are only 5 rules so it's not too overwhelming for them. We figure once they master these ones, if there are more things we need to work on we can change the rules over time.
Next I created a "Rewards System". Don't get too excited, it's actually quite simple. If they obey all the rules during the meal they get to put a star on the chart for that day. At the end of the week if they earned 4 stars they get to pick a candy from the candy bowl. If they have earned 5 stars they get to pick a prize from our rewards list. We only use this system Mon-Fri. Weekends are for having fun and practicing the rules without the pressure of earning a star. Plus most weekends we're busy doing stuff and don't always eat at home.
For our prizes we came up with a list of rewards together. Some of the suggestions were vetoed such as Noah's suggestion of "doing Math for 5 hours". He's so NOT my kid, he loves Math!!! But some fun ones we kept like, "staying up 1/2 hr later then everyone else on a Fri. or Sat." and "20 mins. of Wii alone". The alone part is important because in a house full of kids it's rare anyone gets to do anything alone. Alone is a luxury! So is doing anything one on one with mom or dad so there's also "wrestling with dad" and "watching a movie with mom" as a prize.
I wasn't sure how this was going to work but I have to say that after 4 weeks of doing this it is amazing the results we are seeing. They are all so mindful of the rules and really work hard because they want to earn a prize at the end of the week. The great thing is that all of our prizes on the rewards system are at no cost to mom and dad...bonus!! I am enjoying our meal times so much more and feel like I am actually getting to have a conversation with each one about their day because we are spending less time disciplining and dealing with poor behavior at the dinner table.
In fact it has been so much fun that Ben and I wanted to get in on it too so we created a list of "rewards" for each other. Each Friday we get to pick one. The only difference is we get to pick a reward just for being mom and dad! The favorite prize for me would be the "I will do anything you want me to for 1hr"....a lot of cleaning can get done in 1hr!!! There's also fun stuff like, "I'll watch the kids for the evening" and "I'll give you a massage" and my second favorite, "I'll bring home Chinese food for supper". In a time in our lives that has been very stressful and crazy busy these rewards at the end of the week have been fun to look forward to!
So if your meal time is in need of some change or just some fun, I recommend trying what we've implemented. It's been a huge blessing to us and the kids are really loving it!