Learning During Dinnertime

by : Colleen Langenfeld

Dinnertime is good for your child's learning abilities and social development. If you are concerned about your child's performance in school, declining grades or worrisome social skills, there IS something you can do to help.

Can you answer the following questions concerning your child?

* What is your child's favorite topic?

* What embarrasses your child?

* Who are your child's three closest friends?

* What would your child say if someone asked him to describe you, his parent?

* What makes your child frightened?

* What constitutes a 'good day' for your child?

* Twenty years from now, will you be happy or sad about the quality of relationship with your child based on what you have right now?

You have the power and the influence you need to build a happier and more productive relationship with your child.

A regular family dinnertime can help you do just that. It's an effective tool when used intentionally and with specific goals in mind, such as...

* discussing each family member's day around the dinnertable. What were the highlights and the lowlights?

* who did the child see and talk to today? Who are his favorite teachers? Who bothered him today? Who does he enjoy spending time with and why?

* finding out if your child got her homework done. Was it hard? What is she learning about this week in science (math, English, art, etc.)?

* praising your child for at least one positive character value you see him displaying. It may be an act of kindness he relates to you. Finishing his homework on time (persistence). Saying thank you when his mom passes the potatoes to him. The way he stands up for his friends. Find something positive and point it out to him in front of the whole family at dinnertime. (Doing this regularly will cause your kids to practically beg to have dinnertime together.)

Studies are proving that we are not as connected as we once were and the consequences of that truth. In fact, the data is so overwhelming that some communities are being proactive in supporting the role of the family. The State of Wisconsin, for example, held a "Wisconsin Family Day – A Day to Eat Dinner with Your Children" program.

But honestly, you don't need a study to tell you if you are out of relationship with your child. Your heart as a parent is telling you that. As you look for ways to improve your relationship, you may wonder how, in detail, a regular dinnertime can be good for your child's learning and social development.

Dinnertime works because

* it fosters togetherness. Your child will be more comfortable talking with you (and listening to you) when she spends time everyday with you. Dinnertime accomplishes that.

* your child wants your approval, no matter what he says. Building a relationship through a consistent, positive dinnertime means your child is drawn to you and your desire to know him better. Can you see how this can help with homework and school grades?

* the cares of the day will arise during dinnertime giving you the opportunity to help your child with guidance and problem-solving skills. Whether these are academic or social, they are important in your child's life and you need to be involved.

* it gives you, as a parent, a daily opportunity to help your child develop positive character traits by pointing out to her the myriad of ways every day she is a good person. She desperately needs to hear that from you, her parent.

* children who feel comfortable and accepted in their family structure tend to perform better in school. Period.

In summary, dinnertime is about much more than just the food on the table. (If you would like ideas on how to spice up the dinnertime hour in your home, see the author's resource box at the end of this article.) Dinnertime is VERY good for your child's learning potential, social skills development and is a terrific warm fuzzy for the whole family.

Truthfully, you don't know what you're missing until you try it. Schedule a dinnertime in your home tonight.