These are the worst family dinner habits most families have fallen into but the easy family dinner traditions to replace them take just two minutes!
Guilt and parenting unfortunately go hand-in-hand these days and I'm pretty sure that the nightly family dinner is right at the top of the list of things that most parents worry about every day.
There are just so many factors that play into it:
- What should I make for dinner?
- Will anyone even be home?
- I have no time to cook!
- Will they even like it if I make it?
- HOW WILL WE FIND THE TIME??
But one thing is absolutely sure: You and your family need to eat.
So why not take advantage of that absolute given and turn it into an opportunity to connect with your kids?
What if I told you it is possible in just 10 minutes every day?? No matter how busy you are!
Let's start with the worst family dinner habits and then I'll tell you how to change them in under 2 minutes.
- The Worst Family Dinner Habits
- 1. Stop Worrying about the Menu
- 2. Stop Worrying about the Calendar
- 3. Stop Worrying about the Table
- 4. Stop Worrying about Picky Eaters
- 5. Stop Worrying about the To Do List
- How to Make Family Dinner Better
- 1. Keep Supplies Handy (0 Minutes)
- 2. Take a Screen Break (0 Minutes)
- 3. Light a Candle (30 Seconds)
- 4. Say a Prayer (1 Minute)
- 5. Share and Listen (The Entire Goal)
The Worst Family Dinner Habits
You are NOT alone. I've struggled with these bad habits myself. Every friend I talk to worries about them, too.
These family dinner struggles are common but they are truly just bad habits we need to kick to the curb.
1. Stop Worrying about the Menu
This is the #1 worst habit when it comes to planning a family dinner every night.
In your head, when I say "family dinner," you're probably imagining a Normal Rockwell scene with plentiful dishes being passed around a pretty table with fresh flowers and candles.
But a REAL family dinner can be as simple as:
- Kraft mac and cheese and a bag of frozen peas
- A bowl of cereal
- A frozen pizza, with or without a bag of salad
- And yes, family dinner can even be a tray of take-out if it means you're carving out time to spend with your family
Stop putting the focus on the "dinner" and remember the whole point is the "family" part of this equation.
Want a list of 30 easy family dinners even for your busiest school nights? It's one of my most popular posts for a reason!
2. Stop Worrying about the Calendar
When you're in the season of parenting where it feels like everyone is running in different directions every night, it can be easy to let family dinner be the sacrificial lamb.
But this is the season where family dinner actually matters most! This is your chance to connect with your kids even if you only have a few minutes to eat.
- Maybe your dinner has to change times from night to night.
- Maybe some evenings it will have to be an on the go meal.
- Maybe some days it is easier to do a family breakfast or lunch instead of dinner.
- And in the busiest weeks? Maybe family dinner just needs to be a bigger deal on Sunday evening to make up for lost time throughout the week.
When you make family dinner a priority, you will get creative and find the time you need.
3. Stop Worrying about the Table
Does family dinner require a perfectly set table every night? NO
Does there even need to be a table? NO
Family dinner can happen:
- In the car on the way to practice
- In the bleachers of the football field
- At a restaurant (table, quick service, or even fast food)
- At a picnic bench
Remember, it's about the family, not the dinner.
4. Stop Worrying about Picky Eaters
As a mom of toddlers, this was my biggest mistake. I spent way too many meals stressing over what my kids would put into their mouths.
It's hard not to when you're worrying them about getting the nutrition they need to grow.
But as a mom of two very well-adjusted teens, let me suggest that you give yourself the gift of simply enjoying your family at dinnertime.
The picky eating can be worked on at other times of the day.
The funny thing is that the more relaxed your dinners are, the more likely your kids will eventually come around and try things you'd NEVER expect.
5. Stop Worrying about the To Do List
A parent's to-do list NEVER ends. It only grows and changes as the week goes on.
Whether it is work obligations or home necessities, it's easy to get distracted by the countless things that you need to be doing.
You and your kids all deserve 10 minutes together every day.
The to do list can wait, the kids cannot. They'll be grown and flown before you know it and you'll have all the time you need to stay on top of a to do list later.
Repeat after me:
"This is just a season in my life. We will not always be this busy."
How to Make Family Dinner Better
Once you break those bad habits, how can you make family dinner something you actually look forward to every day?
1. Keep Supplies Handy (0 Minutes)
Give yourself the fastest path towards an easy dinner possible.
Set the scene and leave the supplies in place. Shaving just a few minutes off the prep makes it more likely you'll actually stick with it!
I keep a basket filled with napkins right on the table for easy grabbing along with woven placemats that simply get shaken out over the sink at the end of the meal.
The salt and pepper shakers live on the table right next to our favorite seasonings (cayenne and a special pepper blend we love.)
You could consider adding a utensils caddy, water pitcher, and heat-proof trivets to your table if they would make things easier.
2. Take a Screen Break (0 Minutes)
We have a "no phones at the table" rule that is honestly hardest for my husband to follow more than the kids.
The social skills that are taught when screens aren't allowed around the table are absolutely invaluable and sadly too rare.
Without the default of the entertainment on the phone, your kids will learn:
- The relief of comfortable silence
- How to spark conversations when there is a lull
- How to listen to someone else carefully while giving eye contact
Don't underestimate how important those things are! They are skills quickly being lost in our technology-obsessed culture.
3. Light a Candle (30 Seconds)
You don't need fancy candlesticks or anything special at all but we've found that a simple lit candle sets the mood quickly, even if we only burn it for the few minutes at dinner.
I simply keep a jarred candle on the table and we store a gas utility lighter in the kitchen drawer: no messing with matches and it is easy to store.
The kids take turns lighting it and blowing it out for each dinner.
4. Say a Prayer (1 Minute)
Our family dinner prayer is the one that I learned when I was in kindergarten. I've been saying it nearly my whole life.
It is short and simple and sweet and helps our family focus on what matters every day.
"We fold our hands.
We bow our heads.
We thank thee Lord for Daily Bread."
Find something that resonates with your family and make it part of your dinner routine.
5. Share and Listen (The Entire Goal)
The rest of the meal is the fun part! Enjoy whatever food you've found together and talk with your family.
Some nights the conversation flows easily.
Some nights we're talked out and choose to listen to a little music instead.
We ask about each others' days, talk about the week ahead, share thoughts on current events, or talk about the books we're currently reading.
There are no rules but conversations had around the family table are ones that will bond you and your kids in a way that few other family habits can.
Ask your kids questions and listen to their answers. You don't realize what a wonderful gift this is for your children in today's too-busy world.