Family Dinnertime Conversation – Never Too Early to Start!

3 Questions to Get your Toddler or Pre-schooler Actively Involved in a Vital Family Ritual

Family dinner conversation

It took about a month to figure out how to adapt this excellent piece of advice from Out with the Kids to fit my own family. Jeff had written that he asks his grade-school kids questions that prompt real conversation, not one-word answers that quickly end the dialogue. Instead of asking “How was your day?” which would predictably end in “fine” or “good” and nothing more, he now asks “What was the most interesting thing that happened in school today?” which often elicits a complete story and discussion.

Another blogger had turned me on to the idea of eliciting the children’s thoughts of gratitude every day. She asks the question at the dinner table: “What are you grateful for today?”

It took me some time to fit this to our family – my wife and I have a 2-1/2 year old daughter – but for the past week I’ve started dinner by asking the ladies this question: “What did someone do today to make you happy?” Amy answers first, modeling a display of being emotionally and mentally present and showing gratitude. The first two nights we tried that, I would go second, but last night our daughter jumped right in, recounting how her afternoon babysitter took her out to play in the snow. Of course we can’t understand absolutely everything a 2-1/2 year old says (even our own!) but we encourage the art of conversation and re-frame what we can, expanding on the subject.

Other questions I’ve added on include “What did you do today to make someone else happy?” or “What did you do today to make yourself happy?”

Becoming mindful of family conversation was becoming necessary as Amy and I were previously using dinnertime to rattle off our to-do list, talk about issues that were troubling us, generally going over our daughter’s head while she was getting restless (not surprisingly in retrospect). What a huge difference since we started being mindful of making dinnertime a special time for the whole family to connect on a human level. The to-dos and venting can wait until after our peanut’s bedtime.

What kind of dinner conversation do you have with the family? How old were your kids when you got them actively involved in the conversation?

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