Thursday Thoughts: Do You Make Your Kids Stay at the Table at Mealtimes?

 My husband and I have had a bit of a predicament lately which has left us with this question I’d love to ask you:

When your kids are finished eating, do you make them stay at the table until everyone is finished or do you excuse them?

We’ve always let our girls get down when they were finished eating and for the most part, are still sticking with that approach. We just naturally have done this since they were babies, figuring we can’t really expect a 2-year-old to sit through a long leisurely meal. Our kids are great eaters so it’s really never been an issue to let them get down once they’re finished. My husband and I then finish our meal and catch up on the day.

However, recently what’s been happening is that whoever finishes first, encourages the other one to hurry up or starts distracting them with all sorts of mischief which invites some pretty poor behavior at the table. And if they’re both down, chances are one of us has to get up for whatever reason. Then the entire meal is disrupted or sort of comes to a halt. Oh the joys of having two kids so close in age, a 3 and 4-year-old! I know long leisurely meals aren’t in this season of life I’m in, at least all the time. But I don’t think it’s unreasonable for me to be able to enjoy a meal without having to get up! There are pros and cons to each option. Make them stay at the table and you don’t have to get up. Yet, you might end up with fussy children and/or having to entertain them then entire time and that’s not pleasant for anyone. There was one night I attempted this and our middle child just started acting foolish doing all sorts of things she shouldn’t be doing. What else was there for her to do? She was done. Allow them to get down and who knows what they’ll get into and how many times you’ll have to get up. I know this is a phase but am I missing something or am I the only one with this dilemma? I’d love to know you and your family’s approach. Do you excuse your kids when they’re finished eating or make them stay until everyone is finished? Tips please and thank you! 

Pictured above, my fiery redhead happily staying at the table because pizza making was involved. 🙂 


Comments (18)

September 19, 2019

I think it is a phase. My 3 are now older (11,13 +15) and everyone eats at different speed but to encourage those that eat quickly to slow down we say you have to stay at the table until we’re all finished. Sometimes if we want to sit and talk for longer and someone askes to be excused (especially if we have guests) I say they can get down but they have to leave the room, so they’re not bothering those at the table. I’m sure we went through that phase of one of us needing to get down to help with something or other… x

Addie in North Carolina
September 21, 2019

Oh I like the idea of telling them to leave the dining room if they’re finished so as to not bother anyone and yes, thanks for the reminder that it’s probably a phase (hopefully ha!)

September 19, 2019

I have this exact problem! My seven year old eats super fast and then when he tries to leave the table, his little sister pushes her plate away and rushes upstairs to be with him. Honestly what I do most times is just excuse them both because my daughter has normally eaten enough by then that she’s not starving and when she settles down again later in the evening, I’ll offer her the rest of what’s on her plate. This is really just to save my sanity and let my husband and I talk in peace. It may not be a great solution for you. Perhaps you could try serving the slow ones first? Or try to keep the older one at the table longer by asking questions about their day that are lengthy to explain? The only times my son doesn’t eat fast and bolt is when he’s excited to tell us about something that happened in school (not about what he learned, more about what kid got in trouble or which kid got a new pokemon toy for his birthday). Anyway, hope that helps! If anything it’s helpful to know you’re not alone!

Addie in North Carolina
September 21, 2019

Yes-helpful to know I’m not alone!

September 19, 2019

We have a 9 year old and a 3 year old and our system is that they both can get down when they have finished their food AND my husband and I are mostly finished with our plates. If my husband and I want to sit longer or get seconds, we do, but we let the children down to play. I am not fond of people just dashing off after eating their food when others are still eating, but I realize children can’t be expected to sit as long as adults like to linger. So this is a good compromise for us now.

September 19, 2019

Hi. I am a german mother of three (6, just 4 and almost 2 years old) and we have asked them to stay at the table ever since. It`s actually not been a big thing, once they have been used to it, they sat without arguing and questioning. Needless to say we have the sweetest and funniest conversations evolving at mealtimes.
My husband and I think, that it is just so much nicer to enjoy a meal together; also we can easily take them out for dinner or have friends over, attend parties, or any other sort of social happenings, it`s just nice.
Furthermore- and very important to us is, that we want to give our kids the chance to develop gratitude and appreciation. There`s always someone who has prepared the food- actually food had to come into the house and if you take it even further- food had to be produced, veggies had to been grown and gathered, the list goes on and on, you get the picture. I would like to point out that we generally don`t put all of that into words, nor do we discuss it with the kids, we just want them to develop that certain sense of appreciation for it all; growth,production, preparation and the produce or the meal in all its beauty and delicacy. And they do (again: without explanation) while experiencing a nice eating situation together.

Addie in North Carolina
September 21, 2019

Thanks for sharing Marusha. I totally agree that it’s so nice if you can take your kids out to restaurants and social settings and they will enjoy and sit through a meal. Luckily ours do most of the time., it’s at home that it’s not always the case for whatever reason. Sounds like you are passing on some wonderful food ethos to your children 🙂

September 19, 2019

We have a 3 and 5 year old whom we let leave the table when they are finished. They sometimes get into mischief, but then, gloriously, sometimes they play on their own and my husband and I get to talk (TALK!) for 10 to 15 minutes. If we made them sit at the table until we all were done, I’m afraid I would spend the whole dinner telling them to stop whining.

Addie in North Carolina
September 21, 2019

Yes that’s similar to how I feel lately, I don’t want to have to force them to sit at the table once they are finished and then just correct behavior-no fun for anyone!

September 19, 2019

We used to do “baby tea” where we would feed the kids at 5 and sit with them until they were done and maybe eat a bite or two, but then have our proper dinner at 8, after they were in bed. Now they are 4 and 8, we all eat together, but we are inconsistent with our being excused rules… sometimes if they’re ultra fast I’ll try to encourage them to stay at the table and chat but if they’re just totally done with being at the table, I let them clear their places and move on. I figure it will evolve naturally as they get older that they will be more likely to eat at a similar pace and be more engaged in the conversation (already true for my 8 year old) so it’s a case of picking your battles and this one isn’t worth it to me.

Addie Ladner
September 21, 2019

I really like this approach and it’s something my husband has suggested we do until they get older, maybe we will try! Thanks for sharing. Xx

September 20, 2019

Argh the joys of mealtimes with young children!! By 6 or so I would expect them to be able to sit at the table politely and wait for everyone to be finished. It always seems to help that anyone in our family who would like dessert is expected to stay in their chairs and wait for it. Even if it’s just a little yoghurt or piece of fruit that normally seems to be enough bait for a few extra minutes good behaviour. My two year old struggles to comply but I keep drilling it in and I think she’s starting to get the picture!

Addie in North Carolina
September 21, 2019

Ha-sounds like there’s hope and you are doing something right 🙂

September 20, 2019

Our rule is that kids wait for kids and adults wait for adults to be finished. Our kids are 6 and 3 and it works pretty well, also when guest kids are visiting. Older guest kids around 10 often stay longer at the table, proud to be taken seriously and to participate at the “grownup conversation”.

September 21, 2019

I let my three year old be excused from table once he’s eaten. He’s asked to go take his plate into the kitchen, scape and put in the sink – which gives us another two minutes and I encourage him to go find a book (or a few) to read until we are finished. Once my husband and I are both done one of us (usually my husband) cleans up and I read the books to him. It seems to work so far (most days)!

Courtney Adamo
September 23, 2019

I’ve always been strict about mealtimes. I think it’s because that’s how I was raised. (I was raised in a catholic family and we prayed before eating and we prayed after dinner, and we weren’t allowed down from the table until we had said our final prayer!) Growing up, we didn’t even question this rule — it was just the way it was.
I do look back at our family dinners very fondly. There is something really nice about everyone sitting around the table, and I think when you start young, and when younger children see the older children doing it, it just becomes normal.

We are not a religious family, so we don’t pray at the table, but we do have a rule that all of our kids have to stay seated at the table until everyone is finished. We usually all enjoy a small square of dark chocolate (from the chocolate tin!) after dinner, so perhaps this is a little bit of incentive for kids to remain at the table. I would find it so disruptive if some of my kids got down from the table during mealtimes. But again, this is just because it’s all I really know.
Of course it’s not always easy when they are young to keep them seated, but I think it’s one of those things that later pays off.

Esther in Amsterdam
September 24, 2019

We’re a bit in between both worlds. We do sit at the table as a family both for breakfast as for dinner, and we do expect our children to take their time enjoying the food which we have cooked. (I feel similar as Marusha does — it has to do with respect for the food we serve, for the effort it has taken to prepare it, etc.). I also like the time we spend together — we discuss our day, we chat about what we have experienced and learned. I love our time at the table! But some days I am a bit more relaxed, and I will let the children leave the table and Tamar and I stay for a bit longer. Also, Bram obviously has no clue about sitting at the table. The younger they are, the more relaxed I am (but from the age of 4 or so, I think they should definitely be able to stay seated and engage in the conversation). So interesting to read everyone’s thoughts! x

September 24, 2019

Esther, I am totally with you!
I think the older they get, the more you can expect from them.
We‘re doing it the same way; sometimes relaxed and sometimes a little stricter. But it really depends on the situation.
My kids (5, 3 and 1 y.o.) are pretty good eaters and so far it works for us 🙂

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