Some ideas to lure the family to the table and keep them there long enough to enjoy a meal together?
- Cook early so the smell of whatever delicious meal you are making greets them when they first walk in the door. Crockpots are your best friend when using this technique. Smelling the pot roast all afternoon will not only have them dying to come to dinner, but likely they'll be hovering around for a half hour beforehand asking when it will be ready. You can use that time to chat and catch up on their school day as well.
- Proclaim that dessert is only for those who remain at the table until everyone else has finished eating. This not only teaches them the rules of politeness, but also extends your time together into dessert as well, rather than have everyone scatter to the wind and bolt from the table as soon as they have scarfed their meal. When they know they can't leave until everyone is done anyway, they'll tend to slow down and savor the experience more. This is better for family bonding time, and for digestion too. :-)
- Utilize carpools as often as possible, so that even if one child must be absent for a sports event or something, you can still be there making sure the rest of the family is together for dinner.
- Set the table. Use a tablecloth and have fresh flowers as a centerpiece. Fold the napkins under the forks. Make the table look appealing and it's a more pleasant experience to be there. You can buy sturdy, wash and wear cloths at Target fairly cheaply. It's a small thing that makes a big difference. Treat ordinary family dinners as special events and the kids will begin to see them that way too.
-Have fun...Don't use this time to discuss family problems or talk to kids about mistakes they've made. Keep the conversation light and fun so dinner time is seen as a comfortable happy time together.