Every day, I make a delicious homemade meal for me and my kids (boys, 9 and 13). But every day, they sabotage our meal with a routine of stupid conversation, hilarious laughter and rude noises. And the table manners! Well... I just don't want to go down that road. We have eaten together since they were little and mealtimes have always been precious, but recently, I just want to get it over with and get rid of them. Yesterday, I sent them outside to finish their meals in the garden, I was so exasperated. How can I get my mealtimes back?
When you say stupid conversation, what kind of conversation do you mean? Are they actively rude? Do they squabble? Do they criticise your cooking? How much hilarious laughter do you think is permissible at the dinner table? Can you laugh with them?
I agree family meal times should be very special and it is a good time to take some time out together.
at these ages I am sure they are just being silly boys. But you do need to get a grip on this now.
You need to sit down with them before the meal and discuss appropriate behaviour during meal times. Explain the importance of being able to sit at table and hold an adult style conversation. It is a life skill ! Talk about what it would be like to sit down for formal dinner at a university college, wearing gowns etc. they also do this at Hogwarts if you get chance to watch any Harry Potter films.
Get them to agree this behaviour and be prepared to enforce.
Encourage them to help you prepare the meal, set the table and even make table decorations. Thank them for helping you.
Perhaps occasionally make meal times different. Eg have an Indian style meal eating with their fingers and Chapatis ! Set the table with several sets of cutlery, folded napkins etc for a fancy meal.
Have a special dessert to reward good behaviour and if they are bad do not let them have it. If they are really badly behaved send them to their rooms without electronics.
My 13 yo DS comes to the table with books, iPod etc. these are all reluctantly removed with a lot of grumbling but once the conversation starts he is quite happy to join in.
Table rules have to apply to all adults too, especially Dads ! my DH tends to come to table with laptop and newspaper and children delight in reprimanding him for this!
A little bit of fun and being silly is only natural, but if you feel it's got out of hand and to much to be acceptable, explain to them what you require and why. If one of them is unacceptably silly or does something rude, then perhaps he should go and eat his meal in another room on his own away from the rest of the family. If they both need to eat elsewhere, make sure it's separate rooms where they can't talk to eachother and mess around.
Thank you, thank you! All those who replied to me. I followed your advice and we had the first decent mealtime that we've had for ages. I talked to them about their behaviour before the meal and then waved the carrot of the tasty pud a couple of times during the meal to remind them what we had talked about and we managed to get from one end to the other without incident. Thank you. Mumsnet rocks.