Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Making Mealtime More Pleasant: Four Easy Steps

An old post I found in my draft folder, published an entire year later (4/08/2016).

These days, one hears recommendations that families eat at least several dinners weekly together instead of being scattered at this, that, and the other activity. (See The Family Dinner Project or various journalistic pieces.) The lack of family togetherness at mealtimes is a problem in this on-the-go modern world.
Easter breakfast

But lack of togetherness isn’t the problem usually faced by homeschooling families! At least in the young years, we eat nearly all our meals together and our problems stem more from a larger-than-average number of unruly tots gracing our tables.

Our family has found mealtimes to be much more pleasant since we established four practices.

First, we taught the children to say Grace Before Meals, including snacks. We are not animals who eat any food anytime: we are Catholics grateful to God. Our family uses the traditional Catholic prayer:
“Bless us O Lord, and these thy gifts, which we are about to receive through Christ our Lord. Amen.”
Lunch at a restaurant

Second, we taught the children to say Grace After Meals. Initially, we prayed this at the end of meals, but this practice was unwieldy because young children finish eating at disparate times. Following the example much larger families gave us, we began saying Grace Before Meals and Grace After Meals back-to-back at the beginning of the meal. We use this traditional formula:
“We give Thee thanks, Almighty God, for all Thy benefits, Who livest and reignest, world without end. May the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.”
Dessert night

Third, we required the children to ask to be excused from the table. Even when our child is still in a seat with restraining buckles (ages two to three), when he begins shrieking for freedom, we imitate for him, “You want to be excused? Say, ‘May I be excused?’” By the time the child graduates to a big boy seat with no buckles, he knows how to ask to be excused.

St. Patrick's day Irish soda bread

Fourth, and most recently, we added the requirement that the child compliment or thank the cook for the meal before asking to be excused. This practice was put in place to combat typical childhood complaints about food that is ‘yucky,’ ‘gross,’ or ‘smells bad’ (talk we continue to try to banish from our table!). Now our children down to three years old know how to say automatically (and whether they mean it or not), “Thank you for the good meal, Mama. Daddy, may I be excused?” While forced, this gratitude really does make a weary mother feel better.

Picnic with friends on a field trip

These four practices were instituted one at a time as our family grew to what is now four children eight and under. We have plenty of room for improvement, but mealtime is more pleasant now! 

What practices have made your family meal time a good experience? Please share in the comments below!

No comments:

Post a Comment