Tip of the Week: Table Turmoil
Our six week challenge has been designed to focus on eating together as a family. But what if our family is not getting along? What if family meals together become big fights, or kids picking on each other? How fun is that?
The topic of this week’s challenge is: How do we get kids to stop picking on each other? How do we refocus as a family when we sit down at the table?
How we behave at the table starts long before we sit down at the table. If we try to correct things when we sit down it’s too late. We have to begin our planning long before we come to the table. As parents we have to develop a strategic plan for creating the environment we want at the table. This means sitting down well ahead of time and thinking about how we would like to see things go at the table. What things would you like for your kids to talk about? How exactly do you want your kids to behave?
Most times we are very good at identifying the behaviors that we don’t want to see, but have spent precious little time cultivating the behaviors we do want to see. Telling our kids to stop doing something is not nearly as effective as rehearsing what we want our kids to start doing. It’s like anything else, we have to develop the perfect practice, and then go through a mental rehearsal of that practice.
So the first thing we need to do as parents is to sit down, with pen and paper, and decide how we want things to be at the table. I call this brainstorming. It is a time in which we write down exactly how we would like things to go. This document should be as detailed as possible. In the world of psychology, this is also known as visualizing. We have to be able to imagine how things should be, and then we write them down on paper.
Once we had a good mental picture of how we want things to go, then we have to teach this to our kids. This should be done at a designated time before we come to the table. As a family we need to literally rehearse these thoughts, emotions, and behaviors before we try to perform them. It is like anything else in this life, practice makes perfect. So the key to developing a peaceful dinner time is to create the perfect practice and then … practice!
Miles Nitz, MS, LMFT, Take Charge Counseling