Avoid Dinnertime Distractions by Engaging Children in Conversation

In the past, we’ve discussed the importance of avoiding distractions and holding device-free family meetings. If there is one question that we get over and over again, it’s: “How do we go about engaging children in conversation in a world that’s filled with distractions?”

We get it; our family is like your family and countless others — there is always something going on. Sports, extracurriculars, practices, recitals, and the list goes on and on. Oh yeah, and parents still need to go to work. And maintain the house, go shopping, prepare meals …

And what’s the one thing that often gets rushed through in our hectic daily lives? Meal times. Like many families, our clan often find ourselves eating out as we shuffle from one event to the next. There’s nothing wrong with eating out — a family meal is a family meal, regardless of where it takes place. The problem is, when you eat out, distractions abound, even when you strictly adhere to a “no phones or technology at the table” policy. That is why I like Bob Evans and other establishments like it.

Engaging Children in Conversation in a Distraction-Filled World

Let’s take a step back and reflect — what is one thing that most dining establishments have today? Did you guess TVs? Even in nicer restaurants, there are TVs in the bar area and, I don’t know about you, but my children always find a way to choose the seat at the table that gives them a view of a TV, even if they could care less what’s being aired or that they can’t hear it. Let’s be honest … if there’s a sporting event that’s on that I’m interested in, I’m watching that TV, too. Try as I might to “Be The Example,” I too find myself focusing on the next play and what the score is, and my focus drifts away from where it should be: on my family.

So how do we avoid these distractions and start engaging children in conversation? Simple, go to Bob Evans or any other establishment that doesn’t have TVs. We get enough media as it is — at home, in the car, virtually anywhere we are with our smartphones and devices — we don’t need to be glued to a screen when it’s family time. There’s always time to check the score or watch that funny video your co-worker sent you. What there’s not enough time for is all those little family moments where we engage in conversations, catch up, connect, and build a culture of communication in our families.

So the next time you’re deciding where to dine out, stop for a moment and think about the opportunity you have to connect and communicate with your family. If that’s something you truly want, then choose an establishment where there are no TVs, put away those devices, and engage in an intentional discussion with your kids.

I do this all the time and I find myself smiling, laughing, and learning about what’s going on in my kids’ lives. I hope you find the same.

Family Communication


For more helpful information and guidance on engaging children in conversation, check out our book, pocket guide, blog, and downloadable parenting resources.

Author: Dale W. Vernon
Dale, a business and investment advisor and professed imperfect father of three children, is co-author of How Imperfect Parents Lead Great Families. He is a frequent speaker about the importance of establishing family values, creating a culture of communication in your home and being an intentional parent that understands the importance of being the best example you can for your children.
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