Dinnertime Ground Rules

While visiting from out-of-town, Grandma (my mom), was having breakfast with us when her cell phone rang. This was a predicament for the kids who turned to me wondering what I’d do (knowing we don’t allow cell phones at the table). Since Grandma has disregarded our house rule before, I thought it a good time to kindly ask, “Do you mind not answering that?”  She looked at me, thought for a ring, and then answered it anyway!  We sat trying to enjoy our meal while she carried on a conversation with someone else at the table. She eventually got up and walked away.  But, by then, everyone was nearly done and our ‘quality time’ felt spoiled.

Now, Grandma LOVES her grandchildren. She didn’t realize what affect her choice had on us. No doubt, we’ve all made decisions that have been detrimental to quality mealtimes together. The point of having dinnertime ground rules is to enjoy one another.  Although unfortunate, this experience taught my kids a little lesson on why we don’t allow cell phones at the table – and I didn’t have to preach.

Since I’m making the effort of prioritizing family meals, it’s important to guard our time from unwelcome interference.  Although some meals feel like ‘eat-and-run,’ I want to make room for more: real discussion and heartwarming laughter.

When eating together, try these mealtime ground rules:

  • You already know this one, no cell phones at the table.
  • No answering the house phone. Try to mute ringers during a meal.
  • Turn the TV off.  Listen to enjoyable background music instead.
  • No homework, magazines, newspapers open at the table.
  • No negative talk, arguing, heavy discipline, or sarcasm.
  • Instead, engage, have fun, listen, joke, and enjoy each other!

In our highly stimulated, instantly connected, techy culture these ground rules might send a few into cardiac arrhythmia! But, if you stay with it, it will pay off relationally more than you can imagine.

Your time together at the table is priceless.  I hope you will guard it well. Before long, your family will be volunteering feelings and information that you would have missed otherwise.  So, tune-in, ask questions, show interest, and encourage one another.  Even Grandma might catch on!

Growing families, one meal at a time,

PS. For more conversation ideas, check out my blog posts on Conversation Skills and OWL.

For more quick tips on cell phone rules, try this site: http://www.examiner.com/article/10-rules-parents-should-enforce-about-cell-phones


olivia and stephanieStephanie Allen is Co-founder and President of Dream Dinners and a New York Times best-selling co-author of The Hour that Matters Most. Naturally a visionary and optimist, Stephanie hopes to inspire America through her nurturing voice of encouragement, assuring families…    “You’re doing a great job!”