“I miss daddy,” a young girl says.
“I know. We all miss him,” her mom comforts.
“I miss him more,” her older sister echoes.
As the camera pans out, we see Dad sitting at the dinner table, deeply entrenched in his cell phone. The dad character, Will Ferrell, was guilty of a crime all modern dads have committed. They are there, but they are not present. When a comedian like Will Ferrell takes to the airwaves to warn us about technology’s dangers, it signals just how mainstream this issue is.
So how can we better engage our families at dinnertime? For many dads, the three hours between dinnertime and bedtime are the “game-time” hours for dads on weekdays. So, here are three ways to take your dinnertime to the next level.
1 – Involve your kids in meal prep
It’s messier and slower, but involving kids in meal preparation is good for developing their character and perhaps even better for developing your character. As Andrew writes, “If the only focus is on getting to the destination (that is, the culinary outcome) as quickly and cleanly as possible, you will miss a lot of fun along the way. In all likelihood, some not fun is created instead. Don’t stress – be ready for a little mess, a few mistakes, some confusion about the difference between tablespoons and teaspoons, and some laughter. Encourage this, actually … you and your chefs-in-training will be better for it.”
2 – Keep your phone in its parking spot
Simple in theory; difficult in practice. But, great dads choose to honor their families above their virtual friends. As Andy Crouch outlines in Tech-Wise Family, keeping phones and laptops in their proper parking spots. “Unless we are actively using them, that’s where they go. There are good reasons why I may need to use the device, but having a place for that device when I’m not using it—which is not my pocket—is a good start.”
3 – Ask good questions
We believe it’s our responsibility as dads to initiate meaningful conversation with our kids. Great conversation often happens on-the-go-on commutes and while working on projects together. But some of them can happen around the table. Erik offers a few conversation starters if you’re lacking in ideas.
P.S. If you want to take a step farther in creating better boundaries for technology in your family, start with Tech-Wise Family.