You pick up 5 year old Jimmy from soccer practice, 8 year old Alice gets dropped off from ballet lessons and 11 year old Zach comes in from Little League. It is 5:30 and you have to start dinner. While you are working on dinner you have to help Zach with a report on Italy and you have to help Alice with math homework. Finally at 6:15 you are ready to sit down to dinner. But are you ready to enjoy dinnertime with your family? Or are you hoping to just get through it? Just hoping to survive?

Dinner-time may be the best time of day for building relationships within your family. Dinner-time may be the only time of day that the whole family gathers together, or it may only be most of the family with a parent or older sibling not home yet. You know it is an important time, but how can you change gears from the hectic time that led up to dinner to the calm time you want dinner to be? And how do you make sure that all the kids help set the tone you want set?

Like any other time of day, you have to be very clear with your expectations at dinner-time and you have to communicate that to all the parties involved.

Firstly, you should begin dinner with a quiet moment, perhaps even a few moments of meditation. Everyone has been hectic and everyone needs to calm down a bit before the meal begins. If anyone gives you hard time about this, tell them it also improves digestion and blood pressure. In addition, you are less likely to overeat if you have calmed down and choose to focus on eating.

Secondly, since dinner is at the end of the day, it is also a good time to review your day. One excellent way to do this and to focus on the positives is for everyone to tell one thing that went well today. In my family we kick this up a notch and everyone says what they are happy and grateful for. It is also a good time to prepare for the days ahead. What meetings are coming up? What changes are coming to the normal schedule? What does everyone need to know about?

Finally, you want to minimize or eliminate the negative. You should declare dinner a “No- Complaint-Zone”. (Okay, your whole house should be a Complaint-Free-Zone 24 hours each day, but start with the dinner-table!) At dinner-time, no one is allowed to complain about their teachers, their coaches, the referee, the boss, the co-worker, etc. You get the idea. And parents have to be just as careful (or more careful). Make sure your kids help you to stop complaining.

Another challenge at dinner time is choosing foods that everyone likes. Let the kids help choose the menu. They can even help prepare dinner. The more input the kids have, the less likely that you will hear complaints.

Make dinner-time special. Your kids will remember it for the rest of their lives.

Author's Bio: 

I have been helping kids and their parents for over 30 years. I am now a parenting coach and I help parents to be happy, to be GREAT parents and to raise GREAT families. You can get my special report "The 7 Key Steps to Being A Positive Parent" at You can reach me at