Family style eating. This is an image of a family sitting at the dinner table.

The Family Meal

I recently taught a mom and dad a simple but powerful tool: eating using the family meal style. It was wonderful to hear that after two weeks, they had made eating family meal style a regular experience in their household. Before I go into a more detailed description, there were two comments that came from these parents that delighted my heart:

  1. The 6 year old’s prayer at dinner “Thank you God that we now say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ at the dinner table.”
  2. The father shared, that he noticed their 14 year old stayed longer at the table and talked with everyone. He said, “That alone, is worth doing more dishes.”

Here’s another friend’s experience with family style eating.

What is family meal style?

It is when you sit at a table and pass the food, allowing each person to CHOOSE the quantity of each item instead of plating the food. Does it create move dishes? Yes. Does it increase the sense of control and help kids eat more of better foods? YES! Just picture it, being handed a plate of food that you did not ask for or have any control as to what was on it – as opposed to having control. The outcome is a better experience for both parents and children.
So here are the benefits of family meal style:
  • Shared control. Kids naturally feel more in control when they get to choose. This goes for food as well.
  • Modeling. When we say “Please pass…” and “Thank you” kids learn that skill!
  • Deeper emotional connection. Eye contact is exchanged when you pass the food.
  • Mom gets to eat with the family. I have heard so many times how the mother is serving from the stove the entire meal. One mom told me she could not remember that last time she ate her food hot. Yikes, not only is hot food great, so is sending the message that MOM IS NOT THE SERVANT.

The Family Dinner Challenge

My challenge to you for this Holiday season and New Year: Try family meal style for two weeks and see what happens.  It is simple and very powerful!
PS: I understand how it happens; when your child is young you can’t place a plate in front of them. But post 2 years of age, they should be able to not throw their plate on the floor. If they do, just remove the food with a lot of empathy and sadness. They will learn, experience with calmness always teaches.

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