Topic | Meal time…again

This topic contains 12 replies, has 10 voices, and was last updated by  morgrace 5 years, 7 months ago.

Viewing 13 posts - 1 through 13 (of 13 total)
  • Author

  • LindseyD

    I think I’ve been asking mealtime questions on here since dd was 4. She’s now almost 7. **Sigh**

    My problem isn’t that I have picky eaters. I am very blessed to have children who pretty much eat whatever is served to them. Our problem lies in the actual eating of the meal…they like to talk and play too much at the table to actually eat. So, hubby and I will be finished with our dinner and the kids still have full plates. We try really hard to give everyone a time to share about their day and talk at the table because we recognize that this should be a good time of fellowship for the family. My children haven’t figured out how to talk and eat at the same time. 

    So dh and I find ourselves nagging, “Ok, it’s time to eat now.” “Please stop talking and eat your food.” “Your plate has been sitting there for a long time and you haven’t even touched it because you’ve been talking.” We eventually end up telling them that they aren’t allowed to talk for the remainder of the meal. This happens almost every evening. I feel like dh and I set a good example of leisurely talking spaced between bites of food. 

    Also, silliness and playing has always been a problem. Many of you may disagree, but we do not feel that the family meal times, especially when Daddy is home, should be a place for silliness. Laughter and good conversation, absolutely. But nonsense just makes me furious, especially when it’s the first time I’ve gotten to see my husband all day. And instead of us enjoying him, we are having to referee children. It’s frustrating!

    I remember family meals being a very pleasant time growing up. I don’t ever remember my parents having to tell us to stop talking and eat. I know we never played at the table, or we would’ve gotten back-handed (not really, but almost!). I just don’t see how dh and I ‘missed it’. Why has this become such a struggle for us for so long? And, more importantly, how do we find a balance between all-talk-no-eat and no-talking-just-eat?

    Yes, we have taken plates away and excused disobedient children from the table without eating at all. Yes, we have tried enforcing the natural consequence of you-don’t-eat-now-then-you-won’t-eat-later. Yes, we’ve set a timer, but that seems so restricting and strange to us. Any other ideas?

    We have very obedient, well-behaved kids. They are learning new habits all the time. This is the one area, however, that we can’t seem to find a happy place…




    This sounds a lot like our mealtimes!!  I have no advice to offer…some nights are worse than others, and our problem mostly revolves around our oldesrt (who is 8), but we have the same issues. Mealtime takes over an hour sometimes!! And not because they are being outright disobedient…just because they are continually distracted.  i agree, it’s frustrating.  

    Sorry I don’t have any good advice. lol


    We too have problems sometimes at the table, and it’s hard like you said to define what is good conversation, and when it crosses into foolishness.  We also have had to say no more talking for the rest of the meal, and that doesn’t feel right, but it is frustrating.  We try to really talk about foolishness, and not allow that.  We don’t allow any touching, playing games, talking about movies or sometimes even books at the table if it turns into a distraction for others.  One thing that really helped us (although it involves some training) is a book of conversation starters that I got from the library.  We did a question of the night, and it taught them all to wait their turn, and listen to the person sharing. (Ex: what is something someone could do for you that makes you feel loved?  What is one country you would want to visit and why?)  So while they are listening they eat.  That helped with keeping the meal going, and still allowing good family bonding time without frustration at the table.  I would maybe set a timer for a normal amount of time you want to spend at the table, and let them see/hear that for a few nights, then they know how long you expect them to be there.  Then just state that meal-time is over and clear the table.  We also have things like fruit, or rolls, or whatever might be a healthy treat offered once they have eaten the main part of the meal.  That also speeds things up if they know they will miss that if they don’t eat in a timely manner.  Hope you get other good suggestions too, I’ll be watching:)  Adrienne


    Same problem, here, too. Though with our youngest (dd 5), we also are trying to train obedience/attitude issues out of her as well, so that is contributing a lot to our mealtime issue as well, I think, because she can be quite distracting and is often very hilarious to the other kids when she gets going. It’s funny, we have been having MORE trouble with her since she turned 4 and 5 than when she was a baby and toddler. She was actually quite obediant, joyful and pleasant when she was younger. ??? Go figure!

    Anyway, got off on a bit of a tangent there, but other than that one differance, I feel like I could simply copy Lindsey’s post to ask the same question. Hubby is getting pretty frustrated with it and it really tires me out even further at the end of my day. So I hope there is some advice for this!



    My kids can be this way, too.  When dh and I are done, if they’re still sitting/goofing I will set a timer to finish.  I know you said you don’t like that…but I don’t do it until dh and I have left the table:)  Not sure how to handle it while you’re all eating. Maybe take turns asking a person about their day and nobody else can speak while that person is talking?  Hope you find a solution soon:)  Gina


    My first thought was that your kids don’t sound like they are very hungry.  Do they have an afternoon snack?  Are they old enough to be getting their own snacks before supper?  My kids were acting the same way, only mostly at lunch time.  It was taking forever to get them finished eating and get the little ones done for their naps so we could do some of our sit down school work.  So I stopped giving them a morning snack.  I had been in the habit, having heard that little ones should eat every 2 – 3 hours.  After we started skipping that snack, lunchtime became far easier.

    That may not be applicable in your home, but I thought I’d mention it just in case.



    They are this way at lunch time too; it’s just more annoying in the evening because I want our time with Daddy to be pleasant. Dd is slow at all three meals, ds just usually for lunch and dinner. They do not get their own snacks, although they are old enough. We don’t eat a morning snack, and I am usually starving by lunch. I do eat a good breakfast everyday. {My body is in the middle of some healing of its own, so I’ve been much hungrier than usual lately.} We usually eat an early dinner too, around 5:30. My husband is hungry as soon as he walks in the door, and because of my increased appetite, I’m right there with him. It could be possible they’re not as hungry as dh and me, but I don’t know what to do about that?? Eating separately isn’t an option.


    So, is it the not eating that is causing a problem or the talking?  My approach is to just let my kids eat what they eat at supper, and then move on with our day.  If they get to the end of mealtime and have not eaten much, then so be it.  I don’t really like the idea of a timer for the meal either, but if you have something specific happening after dinner, then you just all get up and get going (assuming a reasonable amount of time has been given for the child to eat if they had chosen to). If someone dawdled and didn’t eat much, that’s too bad.  Once they get used to that idea, they might eat better.  If not, don’t worry about it.  They won’t let themselves starve.  Serve smaller portions so you aren’t wasting food, and let it be.

    After dinner is our special “kids and daddy” time.  As soon as the meal is done and cleaned up, they get to play with daddy (usually with lego – my DH is a fanatic) while I finish some tidying up and getting the house ready for the next day.  So, no one wants to hang around after everyone else has finished eating – they would miss out on the fun. 

    On the other hand, if it’s just the talking and silliness that worries you, that’s a completely different issue.  Unfortunately, I don’t really have any advice for that, as it’s something we are working on as well!

    Good luck in figuring it out.



    Well, Joanne, it’s both because they go hand in hand. The not eating contributes to the talking/silliness, the talking/silliness contribute to the not eating. After supper is our kid/daddy time too, so it’s not like they don’t have something to look forward to. I don’t want to nag and hurry them through our meals, but I don’t want to be at the table forever either. I’m just trying to find a balance while teaching my children that it is possible to talk, laugh, and eat at the same time.


    We have had a rule for 4 or 5 years now; no singing at the table.  Not that I mind singing, because I don’t in the least, but it always seems to lead to silliness and disruptive behavior.  We also encourage talking but we try and wait until after we are done eating to talk.  My husband and I will wait till later to talk (and while that is hard for me, becuase I want to talk to him right away about everything that happened during the day, I feel that the kids should go first and someitmes what we have to talk about isn’t for little ears.)

    Thats just what we do.

    I have noticed with my own kids, it just takes time and patience. My almost 13 year old boy is very conscientious about eating correctly at the table now, as before it didn’t really matter. My younger kids are still needing reminders of course to not interrupt, eat their food properly, and not get too loud and silly.

    A couple of things that I have done that have helped: 1. As a visual aid, I printed out a short “Manners at the Table” list that I found online and keep it near the table during meals.

    2. There are lots of good books for kids about manners. If you search Amazon, you’ll see a variety of ones to choose from depending on your preference. I bought a book that is good for parents to read too about raising well mannered kids.

    3. I’ve learned to lighten up and keep the perspective that they will grow out of this. In fact, my most careless mannered child was complimented the other day on how well mannered she was at their dinner table. They wanted me to give them tips on helping them with their kids’ at the table! Ha! Really? The child I’m constantly reminding is getting compliments?? 🙂 So it just goes to show that it is sinking in, even though we parents may not realize it.

    sara p.

    I’m right there with you with the sillness and talkitive kiddos. I recently got from Queen Homeschool Supplies Manners for Mealtimes.  It is a mealtime game to practice table manners. The kiddos had a lot of fun at this and I have seen a difference in their behavior along with displaying proper manners at the table. It might help.


    I would try “removing the audience” as my mom used to say. They are silly and goof off for each other right? You or your husband are not the indended audience. So I would try separating them. At breakfast and lunch how about sitting in between them yourself, this way they cannot see or touch each other (or at least not without getting around you first!). I would not have them sit down or serve them anything until you are seated yourself, and when you are done eating, remain in your chair until the mealtime is over (breakfast or lunch) at which point everyone is finished, wether or not there is food left on the plates. (Small portions and explaining that when meal is done – it’s done, now is the time to eat… before of course.) At dinner I would do the same thing seat everyone in an alternating fashion: child, parent, child, parent. And when dad is done, the meal is over. If someone finishes early, they can sit quietly or engange in pleasant conversation while they wait for dad to finish. I would not leave them at the table alone together (not saying you do), or give them any other opprountinies to eat after the meal is done. I guess, in short, giving them little opprounity to be goofy in the first place. Maybe you can think of some other ways?

    Something else my stepmom told us about when I was a kid… when she used to start laughing or otherwise being silly at the table, she was excused from the dinnertable to finish her meal – alone – the room her family sent her to was the bathroom. (It was always clean!) As children we were amazed she ever goofed off at the table, and this tatic worked well, the simple story was a good enough warning, and it only took one time of my dad excusing one of us to the bathroom for us all to get it. If you don’t like the bathroom as the room, maybe somewhere else? I know this same idea has worked for large groups of children at a camp. The goofy child was taken discreetly from the dining hall and had to sit outside the dining hall, plate on lap, within sight through the window. Or sometimes with a counselor. 

    Hope something helps!

Viewing 13 posts - 1 through 13 (of 13 total)

You must be logged in to reply to this topic.

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!

Free basic shipping (contiguous USA) on orders over $75!