My sons had a smirk on their faces and cut knowing glances at Gary and me during last Sunday’s lunch. There's more to setting the table than the silverware. Set the table so you connect to one another. Optimize your family's mealtime together with these 3 easy rules.
They knew that I had stretched a family rule when I left the TV on mute for our guests–loyal Cowboy fans wanting to follow the game. Big mistake.

Charles just couldn’t help it.  “Whoa, did you see that pass?!” “No way, that can’t be a penalty.” My boys were smirking because they knew that it wasn’t going to last at our dinner table. Following one more outburst that interrupted conversation, I said, “Ok, Charles. Sorry, but the TV has to go.” He kindly conceded and agreed that it was best.

We turned the TV off, and the table dynamic completely changed.

It reminded me that our family rules for mealtime serve a good purpose. The smirks on my boys’ faces told me that they believed in our rules as well.

So here are the table rules in the GreenHouse (breakfast, lunch or supper—every day of the week, except for Friday night pizza and movie night)…

1. When it’s time to eat, we all eat together. Sometimes we have to make exceptions, but that’s rare. It takes work, but it’s possible and worth it.

2. Only voices from those sitting at the table are welcome—all others can wait (with occasional exceptions).

  • TV is off—not on mute (thanks, Charles, for the reminder).
  • No texting.
  • Return a call after the meal.
  • Background music is allowed if it stays in the background–not too loud to interfere with conversation. Our tastes have evolved from me putting on a Veggie Tales soundtrack to these days when my boys put on Mumford and Sons or who ever else they’ve discovered.

3. Practice good manners (we are still practicing).

  • Ask nicely for food to be passed, napkins in the lap, elbows off the table, don’t talk with your mouth full.
  • Noises from bodily functions prohibited–sorry, but I have three boys and no matter how old they are, it’s still funny. Years ago we implemented the rule that when there is an intentional eruption from either end then the source of those noises gets to put everyone’s dishes in the dishwasher. It was a nice way for us to get the dishes cleaned up—I’m not sure if it is good or bad that they don’t do it as much anymore.

My Mom was a stickler for setting the table correctly—napkins and fork on the left, knife and spoon on the right. I realize now that she was setting the table for more than her fabulous food.

When we take time to set the table for people to connect,

  • we give value to each person sitting around the table. The other voices clamoring for our attention will get their turn. For this short time, we pay attention to one another.
  • we give value to the person who has prepared the food.

Charles had plenty of time to catch the second half of the Cowboys’ game after we finished lunch—although the ending probably unsettled his enchiladas. We’ve offered to let him use some paper sacks that we used during our college days, or he could just switch now and join our Saints “Who Dat” fan club.  He hasn’t taken us up on either one. But he does keep coming back for another meal—even if the TV is off.

Do you have any mealtime rules you would add to this list?



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