Turning the Tables on Dinnertime

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Gathering the five of us for dinner is priority, but Talie's manners — or lack thereof — were turning our time to reconnect and relax into nothing of the sort.

When she wasn't annoucing there was "yucky stuff" on her plate (and repeating it like a stubborn parrot), she was forever finding reasons to pop out of her chair with annoying frequency.

Caitlin and Ellie began to refuse to sit near her. Matt was about to insist on separate meals for kids and grown-ups, when a friend let me in on a promising tactic that had just turned the tables for her daughter.

I think any psychology expert would call it positive reinforcement, but I prefer "pebbles in a cup." I chose a cute blue and white tea cup and saucer from the back of the cabinet and snapped up five pebbles from under the rain gutter by the back door. (Marbles in a jar or silk flowers in a vase would work too; the goal is not to have to go buy anything.)

Then I showed them to Talie, and explained that for every night she did a good job at dinner (with emphasis on no whining and no unexcused exits), she could take a pebble from the saucer and put it in the cup. When she got all five in the cup, there would be a treat like game or movie night, or a small toy.

She was determined from the start. "I'm going to get that rock tonight," she told me. As I cut up her grilled chicken, I hoped she would, too.

Five days later, Talie had her cup full of pebbles, and dinner had become a much happier affair. As for Talie's prize? She picked a small plastic toy Dalmation dog to be a friend to her Perdita. With only 99 more to go, dinner should be peaceful for awhile yet.

How do you keep the peace at dinner? Click the comments link below to find and share ideas.

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Turning the Tables on Dinnertime

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