If there is anything a mom wants it’s to see her family happy, connecting, and growing together. As I sit and observe my family and so many others, I’ve come to realize this one key indicator of families that are united, bonded, and truly connected and it’s simple. Really simple. Today I am breaking down what seems like a well-kept secret to bringing you the opportunity to become a power-packed mom! Dive into today’s episode and start boosting your family’s connection by implementing the one thing I know every family needs more of.
Grab your kombucha and water ladies and let’s dive in!
Listen below for the entire episode on The Systemize Your Life Podcast
This topic really stood out to me with the season it is currently. I am always observing families and the way they do things and observing our family and how we do things. I am looking at what works and what truly does provide the outcome that we are looking for. I’m always collecting data, looking at what we did and how we are functioning. All of our actions have consequences, either positive or negative, but there is always an outcome to what we do.
This was something that I saw being so powerful in our family. If you are in a position with your family and you are having a hard time looking at where in your day your family is connecting with one another, this is the topic for you. If you are only connecting with your family once a week and you are ok with that then wonderful! But if you are not ok with that, then it’s time to make a change.
This is for the mom that has kids of any and every age. What I want you to know is that the most powerful thing you can do to bring the connection to your family is to have dinner at the table. Yup. We are going there. That is the key to every family that I see that is still tight nit and has a bond with each other, and cares about each other. They have dinner at the table.
Come Together Over a Meal
They come together and connect over a meal at least once a day. If you can’t do it over dinner that is ok. Connect over breakfast. I want to talk to you about why I feel that dinner is the most important, or can be the most special and the most meaningful when it comes to connecting with your family. There is something to be said for being able to get together and talk about your day, to have reflection available. That is what happens at the end of the day, and that is what you can curate by setting the tone and setting the stage for this to happen in your family.
Here is what I have seen, just to convince you of all of this. When quarantine happened and everyone was forced to stay home, there was a massive shift in what families started talking about and the beauty they saw in being at the table with one another again and having family meals together again because their kids couldn’t go to sports, because they couldn’t go to the gym, because they couldn’t go have their activities because everyone was home working and didn’t have hour-long commutes at both ends of their job. They were just home, so they had to cook and eat at the table because everyone was there. Magical things started happening in people’s families and I’m sure they started happening in your family too. I want you to hold on to that memory.
I want you to look at the days when you do come together as a family and sit together at the table. Even if not every sibling is connecting with each other, but is someone connecting with another person in the family that day more than they would have if you had not made sure that dinner was at the table. The answer is always going to be yes unless everyone sits there and speaks not a word the whole dinner which we will talk about.
I’m going to break this down to where you know exactly how to get the kids to the table and what to do when you are at the table. I’m going to give you three specific ideas and tips to really use this as a power-play move. This should be strategic. Most families and homes have lost this.
Dinner at the Table is Powerful
Frankie just had this conversation with me the other day. She asked what TV was like when I was younger. We started talking about how you had to watch television at a certain time if you wanted to watch a specific show. There was this thing called TGIF that came on every Friday night and it was a big deal. We did not eat dinner around the table that night. We sat in the living room and watched TV together. I talked to her about what TV dinners were and what that was like as a family. Her mind was blown. All she has ever known was a life of everything being on demand and whenever she wants something there has been no reason to wait for it. She has never had to wait for anything. Cartoons are in demand. We had that whole conversation. Saturday mornings were when cartoons came on. She couldn’t believe they didn’t come on other times.
We had this whole conversation about what life used to look like and it dawned on me, our families look very different because of how immediate everything is in our lives. I want you to use this as a strategic move, a power play move as a woman who is running her ship, here is a real mighty tip for you. Get your family to the table. Feed them well, pour into them through this. Does that mean everything has to be organic? No. Does that mean everything has to be dairy-free and gluten-free? No. Feed them hot dogs and french fries. That’s cool. I’m all about feeding your family healthy and nourishing them well, yes, but do not put pressure on yourselves to be Martha Stuart or Joanna Gaines here. Although I’d love to be her!
Prioritize Eating at Home
I just think it’s so important that you begin to realize how much impact you can make on your family in just teeny tiny ways. This is one teeny tiny way that is going to have a huge impact for years to come. Do you have to do this every single night? No, you don’t. I get it. You want your kids to be in sports and extracurricular activities. Although I would really caution against doing that every night of the week. If you look at the most healthy families, the families that are most connected, the families that eat well, they are families that prioritize eating meals at home. It’s really such a huge part of what I believe we are doing wrong, constantly eating on the go.
“What I want you to know is that the most powerful thing you can do
to bring connection to your family is to have dinner at the table.”
If you are in this space with your family where you are constantly eating on the go, and you are all just sitting around the kitchen island and that is where you eat most of the time, try just getting to the dining table one night a week. A place where you can all face each other, not all lined up in a row staring at your phones or a screen, but where you can actually make eye contact with each other. That is the key to bringing connection. If you are not used to doing this it will be really awkward and you are just going to smile through the awkwardness.
How do you get your kids to the table?
First and foremost, you must have a phone basket in your kitchen. In your main living space. It needs to be somewhere it is not accessible from the kitchen table. Everyone, you, your husband, everyone, needs to drop their phone in the phone basket when you start cooking dinner as a family. If that is too soon, start with everyone dropping their phone in before they sit down to the table. I’m going to challenge you to have them drop the phone basket when you start cooking dinner. This is one of the major hacks in getting your whole family to the table for dinner.
Next, ask them to help you cook. If your kids are small, they are going to eat more of the food you put in front of them if they help you cook it. It’s been researched, studied, and proven. I’ve proven it in my house. Let your kids cook with you. Ask your older kids to help you cook. Let your kids make messes. Teach your kids how to use the stove. My nine-year-old can cook a full meal, on the stove, in the microwave, all of it because I’ve been having her cook with me since day one. My three-year-old is doing the same thing and she is learning. That is where it starts. But if you didn’t start there it’s not too late.
Ask your Kids for Help
Ask your kids. Tell them you need help. Ask them to put their phone down and come help. Then when they get in the kitchen talk to them. Ask them to tell you about their day. Anything. Start talking to them about things that they like. If they are connecting with you, they won’t need to connect to whoever or whatever is on their phone. You need to have zero electronics. Not arms reach on the table, or on silent tucked under your leg, in the phone basket.
Before all of that, ask your kids to help you plan for the meals and shop for the meals. You should be teaching them. Engage them, empower them, and let them pay for things. Let your kids pick out different things at the store, and have them help you put the meal cards up on the menu board. Get your kids involved in the process and it is going to affect how much more interested they are in actually sitting at the table because they are going to take pride in something they have created.
Give Everyone a Job
If none of that is working for you, just ask them to help set the table. Everyone in the house should have a job helping to get the table set. If your kids are younger, bring all the stuff and put it down low. Strategically set up your pantry and cupboards where things are low enough for them to reach. My three-year-old is able to grab and count the napkins, I’m teaching her how to count. “Count how many people are going to be eating, there is mom, dad, sissy, you.” Then we count our fingers, one, two, three, four. “How many napkins do we need?” Then I’m doing this while I’m cooking. We are involving our kids in the process of putting food on the table.
That’s how you get your kids to the table. You don’t sit in there and slave away over the stove and then ring the dinner bell and sit at the table. Maybe they are starving, but in this day and age they have probably been snacking all afternoon, and they don’t want to come to the table. Side note, don’t let your kids snack several hours before dinner because it is a surefire way for them to say they aren’t hungry and they don’t want to eat that. Everyone gets a job to partake in setting the table. Divide everything up between them. If someone wants to switch a job let them communicate and figure that out. This is an opportunity to connect and you need to build it as such.
At the Table
Now, let’s talk about what happens when we get to the table. I grew up in a family where I think my mom tried really hard to foster this. My dad’s family, still to this day, when they sit down, literally don’t speak. They shove food in their mouth, then they are done. There’s no talking or connecting. My mom didn’t want that for us. She had this bread box cut out with a bunch of strips of paper. On each paper was a scripture verse and she would have one of us pull out a paper and we would read it out loud. That is what she did to get us to connect at the table.
I have vivid memories of helping with dinner, setting the table, and understanding what food was and how it was prepared. A whole other aspect of that was knowing how we were nourishing ourselves. I was fortunate in that. My brother was diagnosed with type 1 Diabetes when I was six and he was eleven or twelve. We went to dietitian meetings all the time. We always had food from every food group on the table and she talked about it all the time. I always remember learning about that and it is what I teach my kids too. This allows us to invest and teach our kids just in the fundamental sense of food and what it does for us.
Three Tips Once you are at the Table
Once you get to the table, here are the three things you need to boost your family’s connection and really continue this strategic power-play move that you don’t even have to tell anyone you are doing. They just think it’s dinner. You are going to be looking for opportunities for your family to connect. You aren’t going to force it, but you are just being intentional. Open your eyes to this opportunity and you are going to help lead your family in connecting.
One thing we just started doing that I absolutely love, is we learned this from Dave Hollis, it’s called the best and the hardest. One of these things everyone has to answer, and if they don’t feel like talking that day they can always give a pass, and ask them what the best part of their day and the hardest part of their day was. Maybe you are going to have to pull things out of them, but that’s the point. To start connecting. Encourage good listening and turn-taking. Encourage good communication and start connecting on what they are bringing forth.
For those of those you that have really little ones, there are ways to tweak this. “Hey, did we have so much fun today? Tell daddy how much fun we had at the park.” Then scale it up for the older kids. If they have a hard time, they will eventually open up. When they have that hard moment they are going to know they can open up and connect and talk with you over dinner about that. The cool thing about doing it over dinner is that it makes it so easy. There is something to distract you, eating. That is why people love connecting over food. It makes it effortless. As long as you bring the intention, it can make connecting natural when you do it over food.
For the second tip, we use conversation cards. You can get them on Amazon. Everyone gets a card. Even my youngest Bailey gets a card, she can’t read it and that’s ok. She picks a card and asks what it says. We will read it for her and then she will ask every person around the table and she truly wants to hear their answer. One question she had was if you could design your ideal playground what would be in it? She has great answers and it blows my mind every time how much I get to know my three-year-old when I let her speak for herself at the dinner table. I keep the conversation cards in the kitchen and every once in a while I’ll pull them out and we use them.
The third thing, I love this one so much! Frankie Jo loves to ask Blane to tell his stories from when he was a kid. I don’t know why but she loves it. I like to call this one remember when. We just start sharing stories. It also helps the younger ones practice recall. You will be so surprised by your kids!
You Know your Family!
You know your family, you know what they need and you know who needs to connect. You can guide them there with this super easy powerful tool. Get your family to the dinner table. That is the biggest takeaway for you. Really try hard to make this a priority for your family. It is something that you can put in your paper planner, you can plug it into your google calendar. Start building this into a routine. You can start off with it as a fundamental need that eventually grows into a regular nightly routine that happens inside of your PM block.
I hope this inspires you and I can’t wait to hear your stories! When you pop into the Facebook group tell me all the ways this has helped your family connect. It warms my heart to hear your stories. You can also check out the The Systemize Your Life Academy and learn all the other systems to systemize your life.