Slowing Down And Having Dinner

Greetings everyone!

Helle speaking today.

Do you love to travel? If you do, you’d probably agree that the world is still diverse and grand. As a Cultural Geographer (as well as a Waldorf Kindergarten Teacher) I have always been curious about the world. And I am so fortunate that I have traveled more than 50 countries as a Child Care Consultant, and I have been lucky enough to live with locals in each and every country that I’ve visited. I have shared literally hundreds of meals with hundreds of families. To me, the meal is where the culture of the family is most tangible and palpable, and it is a great place for involvement and creativity. We’ve already written about this earlier – right here.

The meal is not just about eating; it is also creating a fellowship around the meal. It is also a very important learning sphere for the young members of the family; there is so much basic learning for the child here, and I want to elaborate a little on this in a bit.

As said, there are still vast cultural differences around the globe. But I also see a global phenomenon that has increased over the last decade.

There seems to be a prevalent feeling of lack of time in families. There seems to be a higher level of stress and weariness in families than ever before. Surely, this affects the family meals too. It also affects the parents’ energy and focus to consciously see how important their own role at the dinner table is.

Slowing Down

If you recognize the feeling of constanty falling behind, the best advice I can give you is this: Please. Slow. Down. You probably know where to start. Your children will love it, and my guess is, that most likely, you need it too.

You hold a great opportunity to feel present rather than disconnected and stressed out while spending time with your children. If you decide to slow down and create more time and space around your family – you will be surprised to see how much you can do to support your children in thriving, as well as becoming self-reliant.

Manners? They Matter.

When a little child around 1 year old can sit by itself, it can often start joining a regular family dinner as well. Having enough time as well as energy to gently teach your child manners at the dinner table, is a great place to start a loving guidance into life: it’s concrete, tangible and easy to grasp.

Bringing up children is really about transferring cultural standards and values, so they can take them in, interpret them and navigate in the world as they grow up.

And yes, it takes your focus and energy. You are important. It is not about rigid control, or about monitoring your child’s every move. It is about fully understanding the impact that you have as a role model.

In my view, all upbringing is actually about self-education. It is not about commanding good behaviour. So todays advice at the dinner table is about:

Teaching (Yourself) Manners

If you think it is important that your child stays during dinner, then stay yourself. Let the phone ring, let the ‘important matter’ be, glue your lovely behind to the chair for 20 minutes. That way, it’s much easier for the child to understand this rule. It feels why it is important, rather than just being told to stay, without really knowing why.

If you want to teach the child to keep its mouth closed while eating, then do it yourself.. Then you can kindly ask the same of him or her.

If your child is stuffing its mouth full of food and talking at the same time- then look at your own ‘bad habits’, and try to change them, before asking your child to take smaller bites, chew more – and talk after swallowing the food!

If you want your child to be able to use a knife as well as a fork, you have to teach it how. It’s a technique, and it is not born to master this. And make sure you use the knife yourself, so it can sneak peak and copy you, when it gets difficult.

If you wish that the child brings good spirit to the table, and is able to say nice things about the food, well then: make it a habit yourself, especially when others cook for you! And bring your own good spirit to the table, and honour it, while you’re together.

If you would like to see some appetite at the table, put the sweet responsibility on yourself: don’t give snacks half an hour or fifteen minutes before dinner. Being hungry is not dangerous, and letting the child wait for dinner is not neglect!

If you think that your child is “too picky”, and you end up telling your child off, ask yourself this question: would I like to be a guest at this table? How would I feel to be forced to eat? So, try this strategy instead: put little portions on your child’s plate, so it can overcome it emotionally. Put a little bit of everything on the plate, including the stuff your child says it doesn’t like, and don’t monitor or force your child to taste it. That way, in time, it will likely learn to overcome the obstacle of dealing with this unwanted ‘thing’ on it’s plate, and then one day, it will probably even forget that it didn’t like it!

So, at the bottom of this long post- we hope that you’ve enjoyed reading it.

We’re curious to know: how can you use the principle of self-education in your own life- at the dinner table and elsewhere in life?

Jump straight to the comment area right below and don’t be shy to share your thoughts.

We answer everyone who writes us 🙂

With love,
Helle and Anna

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Comments (9)

  • Robin DeLamater

    What you say about the way to have lovely, slow meals is important. Acting the way you want the children to be is a conscious decision that also is helpful in schools and centers. The teachers and caregivers can play this same kind of role by slowing down to eat and converse rather than hopping about to take care of one need after another. I also prefer when restaurant servers be sensitive to the diners and not constantly interrupt or rush the lovely slow meal.

    • AnnaF


      Thank you so much for reaching out and for your comment!
      Yes, surely also teachers and caregivers can benefit from the idea of slowing down – and discover themselves, their impact and their own actions. It’s actually much harder to make unconscious choices when you slow down, because what mostly happens is that you also sort of ‘wake up’ by slowing down.

      We are always eager to hear from you and all other readers, so we know how our writing resonates with you.

      Anna and Helle

  • Helen

    My children are grown up now but when I look back, the mealtimes we spent together were some of the most important moments of our life together.
    Helping prepare meals was a joyful experience, it’s amazing to hear all the childrens news as they are doing a simple task like peeling carrots side by side.
    Everyone in the family had a role to play in mealtimes whether it was putting the plates out, setting the table with care, putting flowers on the table or a candle was a fabulous ritual and something which was done with pride and a sense of responsibility.
    Mealtimes were a time to share, a time to put across a point of view, formulate a reasonable opinion or bounce ideas around ( sometimes disagreements were discussed and sorted out ) Eating together, savouring and sharing good food was( and is still) a simple , fundamental pleasure that every family should enjoy.

    • AnnaF

      Dear Helen,
      Such an inspirational and vivid story from your own life. Thank you for that! It felt like we were almost there with you.
      All the best,
      Anna and Helle

  • Leah Vines

    I really appreciate that you have brought up this topic. It is a challenge that affects most of the families at our school.
    Speaking of our school, I would like to request the permission to post your blog link and entry text on our website. Our school is a Waldorf-inspired charter school on the Big Island of Hawaii serving students in grades K-8. We have about 230 students. It would be an honor and a privilege to have your words to share with our families.
    Mahalo Nui Loa!

    • AnnaF

      Dear Leah,

      We are so happy to hear that this topic resonates with you.

      We wish to reach out to as many families as possible. We deeply feel that modern society’s pace has increased so much, that we are in danger of missing out on the simple, but bonding little things like slowing down, spending real time together, and realising that our role is to be the guides and rolemodels for our children.

      -You most certainly have our permission to post our blog link and entry text, and all interested parents, childcare professionals and teachers are all more than welcome to sign up for themselves.

      Anna and Helle

      • Leah Vines

        Hooray! Thank you so much. Your posts are excellent!

  • SRJensen

    Thanks for this work

  • Helene @ French Foodie Baby

    A wonderful post that resonates with me wholeheartedly. Thank you so much.