When your children become school age or go to a sitter during the day, so you can work, you aren’t going to eat lunch with them. However, any meal you can eat with your child is imperative. Lives are busy, but that does not mean you can’t set up a proper schedule.
Young children should go to bed at 8pm every night. This helps your child get the sleep they need and adjust to school schedules, where you may need to have them up and out of bed by 6:30am. Your children need at least 8 to 10 hours of sleep, according to the National Institute of Sleep.
A child that goes to bed at 8pm is well rested in the morning. As an adult you need anywhere from 7 to 9 hours of sleep to function and be healthy.
Set a schedule where you can wake up, get dressed, help your children dress, and prepare a proper breakfast. You should be sitting at your dining table for breakfast and dinner.
Show your child that eating is important, and eating a full, well-balanced meal is essential to start the day, as well as for dinner.
You have to show your children a better example than standing around in the kitchen eating. You need to show your children that skipping meals is not the way to live life.
More than Sustenance
The dining table is for more than just sustenance. It is also a place for family business, rules, and values. You should use the dinner table to discuss family business, teaching and passing values, as well as manners and rules. Even if you are not obvious about rules and manners, your child will pick up on them because you are using them at the dinner table, when their focus is on you and what they are eating.
Family mealtime should be used to communicate, sustain ideas, and help children remember the ideals they learned at the table. Your children can draw on what they get from the dinner table throughout their entire lives.
Here are a few tips regarding mealtime:
Establish a routine, even for your baby. When your baby is old enough for a baby chair have it at the table, not somewhere in the kitchen or by the couch.
As your child ages, reward good behavior at the table.
Ignore the negative because giving the negative attention means your child will keep doing it.
When your child is 3, you can start to provide basic table manners.
Be consistent in those table manners.
A Proper Meal Time Setting
Napkins should always be on the table.
Show your child where the utensils go, forks on the left, knife and spoon on the right. When your child reaches 5, have them start setting the table.
When you sit down, place your napkin in your lap. Have your child do the same.
Establish a routine for asking about everyone’s day. If you have two children, you might start with father, mother, oldest child, youngest child, and then reverse that order the next night to be fair.
You should also have your children sit in the same spot each night. Assign a seat and be consistent.
If there is family business to discuss such as a plan for the weekend, a change to someone’s job, your child going to school, etc. discuss it at the table. Make the table the place your child knows to go when there is an important family discussion.
Always have your child ask if they can be excused. Do not let your child walk away if someone is still eating. Finish as a family. If they are unable to eat all of their meal decide if they have eaten enough for the day or if they need to finish their meal.
Assign your child the task of clearing the table. Chores are extremely important as soon as your child is 5. At this age, they are able to carry a plate to the kitchen, without fear of dropping it. If you have more than one child, alternate who clears the table and who helps with the dishes.
Meal time, what you provide and the conversation are imperative, but so is the cleanup. The proper “food” time does not end just because the child is full. It ends when the cleanup has occurred. Obviously, a young child is less able to do a proper job with the dishes in the sink, but they can load the dishwasher. They can also unload it and put the dishes away in places they can reach.
Don’t ignore the chores, which are vital responsibility lessons. Fun time comes after responsibilities just like you have to serve a proper meal before you can enjoy your children in play time.