3 Ways to Improve Your Kids’ Dinner Conversation Skills

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A sit-down family dinner has been always been a priority in our family.  Mostly, it’s scratch-cooked homemade meals, sometimes it’s cereal or takeout, but sitting down together near the close of the day has been our ritual.

If you’ve ever eaten with children, you know that conversations can easily take an unexpected turn- silly, dramatic, or even just gross (or is that just at my house?).  Pulling some moves from my teacher toolbox, we’ve crafted a few discussion prompts that get everyone sharing. And listening.  (Well, we’re still working on the listening part.  And the taking turns part.)

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Rose, Tickle, Thorn — This prompt asks each diner to think of a good thing (rose), a funny thing (tickle), and a bad thing (thorn) that happened recently. Sometimes we start with one (i.e. rose) and go in rounds until we’ve shared all three, and sometimes it’s sharer’s choice. Other times, we also include a rosebud (something you’re looking forward to). It works best if we all get a chance to think of that we’re going to share before we start, so we can focus on listening to each other rather than planning our share.

Problem & Strategy — My personal favorite, this prompt asks us to share a problem or challenge we faced recently, how we approached it, and how things turned out. Then we usually discuss each share for a minute before moving on, celebrating perseverance, courage, and creativity. I think it’s empowering to reflect on how we meet challenges and move through them. Sometimes, someone has a problem they haven’t solved yet, and together we brainstorm strategies.

Sharing Spotlight — We came up with this one to help the kids begin to be more active listeners.  This prompt invites one person to share about something important to them, and the rest of us brainstorm questions (pretty easy) or comments (surprisingly tough) in response.  We all share our questions and comments at one, then the sharer gets to respond to whatever strikes his or her fancy.  This one is more challenging, because, well, for many people (myself included) listening is harder than talking. Never too early (or too late) to start practicing!

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The kids have come to love these dinnertime rituals.  While we don’t roll this way every night, these prompts have definitely become part of our family culture.  Many nights, the kids are the ones who start the conversation. Things have become so much more civilized.  (Well, sometimes at least.  Progress, not perfection.)

What family rituals are working for your family?

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