Tag: teens

Teaching Meal-Time Manners

Teaching Meal-Time Manners

Opportunities to model and teach social skills and manners to our kids are everywhere. They happen naturally in everyday life, and parents can be intentional to make some happen, too. One easy place to teach manners is at the family dinner table during meal-time.

Table manners get overlooked these days because so many of us are on the go. We eat in our cars or in front of the television where it's more difficult to teach the manners and social skills that our kids need.

Meal-time manners are an absolutely essential social skill. 

Our children need to be able to handle family dinners and gatherings. The manners they learn as kids will extend to their business lunches, networking parties, and other functions involving meals when they are adults. Parents need to intentionally teach kids good table manners and how to make small talk so they are prepared for these situations.

Family dinners are the most obvious opportunity to practice and teach table manners. It's also a great time to help kids practice how to participate in conversations. Families are busy with work and kids' activities, so it's important to purposely set aside at least a couple evenings each week to eat a meal together. If dinners are impossible, maybe a breakfast or weekend brunch would be better. Regardless of which meal it is, gather the family together around the table for a family meal on a regular basis.

Sit down and eat the meal together as a family. Work on basic table manners like asking for and passing food, saying please and thank you, keeping arms off the table and napkins in the lap, chewing with mouths closed, and not talking with food in the mouth. Manners like these are generally not taught in school, so as parents we need to do it. Be intentional. Observe your kids' current manners and help them make adjustments. Make mental notes during the meal and later discuss with your kids how they can improve.

During the meal, have a good conversation. Ask each other questions. Tell stories from your day. Stick to one conversation at a time so no one is talking over other people. Try asking questions that cannot be answered with one word. Eat slowly, and make the discussion the focus of the meal. Tell a silly joke. Whatever works. Don't give up if this does not go well right away. It's a process and may take some time, but kids definitely need to know how to speak to others politely and appropriately. Teach them, help them improve, and continue to work on it.

Make the commitment to yourself and your family to teach your kids these important social skills.

If we want kids to become productive adults, we must teach them basic social skills like meal-time manners. It's absolutely essential. It takes time and some course-correction along the way. Instruct your kids, model the desired behaviors, and be encouraging. You'll be preparing them to be successful in their future adult life.

Helping Kids Resolve Conflict

Helping Kids Resolve Conflict

Conflict happens. That is a guarantee. Resolving it is a skill we all need to hone. Unfortunately, most people don't have this skill and don't make an effort to acquire it. Resolving conflict isn't always pleasant, so many times even adults shy away from it.

If adults don't resolve conflict well, how can we expect our kids to do so?

First of all, we need to stop doing it for them. Rather, we need to show them how to face it head-on.

One of our children recently reached champion tattletale status. Seriously. It got to the point that we knew we needed to purposefully teach conflict resolution skills. Tattling is a huge pet peeve of mine, and I refuse to solve my children's problems for them, so we set out to instill better conflict resolution skills in our child.

To begin, we banished tattling (with the obvious exception of telling us about dangerous situations). We taught that when you have an issue with someone, you deal directly with that person only. Bringing an outsider into the situation should only be done as a last resort (and even then the outsider should be an unbiased facilitator, who helps the parties resolve the issue without taking sides). Tattling just shirks responsibility for finding a resolution to the parents, and I don't want to be my kids' judge and jury. I want to equip them to resolve issues themselves.

Here are the steps we worked through:

1. Don't react emotionally. No one ever responds to conflict well when they are emotionally charged. It's imperative to control anger and other emotions in order to resolve conflict. Don't react or respond unless you are calm. 

2. Seek to understand. Many conflicts are created because we jump to conclusions. Ask the other person directly to explain their side of the situation. Many conflicts can be avoided or resolved simply by asking for clarity. Speak nicely, and don't make accusations.

3. Listen actively. Active listening means that we need to keep our mouths shut and ears open. Don't interrupt when the other person is talking. Don't sit there the whole time the other person is talking trying to formulate your response. Don't try to be right; just try to understand the other person's point of view.

4. Take responsibility. Even if you're right, take responsibility for your role in the conflict. Apologize that you hurt the other person's feelings. Saying "I'm sorry" goes a long way toward resolving conflict, even if the other person does not return the favor. Offer to make the situation right wherever you can.

5. Show grace. Give the benefit of the doubt whenever possible. Try to understand that everyone has bad days sometimes, and maybe something like that is at the root of the conflict. Mend fences whenever possible. Be kind. Be humble. Move on without holding a grudge.

After we walked through those steps, we did a little role playing. We talked through a few scenarios and possible ways to resolve them. We asked our child to describe what would be the best thing to do in each situation. We did our best to get this child thinking about good ways to resolve conflict. This is a journey and will take some practice.

We also needed to do a self-check on how we, as adults, are resolving conflict. We want to make sure we are modeling proper ways to resolve conflict in our own relationships. We want our kids to see how we do it, and not just hear the words we speak. Conflict resolution is a necessary life skill, and we hope we give our kids sufficient resources for the future. As a family, we can work on it together. 

Helping Kids Resolve Conflict
Setting Limits on Screen Time

Setting Limits on Screen Time

It's no surprise that many parents struggle to control the amount of time their children spend behind screens each day. Kids have access to phones, tablets, computers, and televisions both at school and at home. Setting limits on screen time can be a challenge, but it must be done if we want to promote healthy family relationships.

We all know that online relationships are not the same as face-to-face ones. Social media makes it easy to stay connected with our friends and family, but online connections can never take the place of in-person interactions. When we're face-to-face with someone we can have more meaningful conversations, utilize body language and other nonverbal cues, and experience connection on a deeper level. There is a time and place for online connections, but the importance of face-to-face interactions cannot be overlooked.

In order to have face-to-face interactions, we must teach our kids to put their phones down.

Easier said than done, I know.

If you're struggling to get your kids to put their phones down, it's imperative that you establish family guidelines, or "House Rules," regarding screen-time in your home. The following tips may help you:

1. Set a good example. This means you'll have to put your phone down, too. Your kids need to see you model the behavior you expect of them, so set aside times each day that you will stay off your phone, laptop, and tablet. Completely unplug for a few hours each day. You will probably find that you're less stressed, and you'll show your family that they are your priority.

2. Establish "House Rules" for device usage. Some families have a basket on the table by the door so everyone can deposit their devices in it each evening. Other families have designated times when devices are not allowed. For example, many families don't allow devices during meals. Others don't allow devices to be used after 7pm. Gather your family together and work as a team to set guidelines that are appropriate for your family. 

3. Use the device-free time to strengthen your relationships. Don't just sit there in awkward silence. Use your device-free time to discuss important issues, play board games, tell stories, and laugh together. This may take some practice, and that's okay. It doesn't always come naturally, but don't give up. Keep working on it.

Getting kids off their phones may not be easy, but it is important. We all need to get out from behind our screens so we can have real-life conversations with the people we care about. Over time, those face-to-face interactions will make our relationships stronger.