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6 Rules For Family Night

Aug30

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If there were a parenting handbook that was given out when you gave birth to your child, there would be a section on having fun as family. You might think this would come easily, but trust me, what you think is fun and what your children think is fun are often worlds apart.

My children range in age from five to fifteen. During the week their various activities pull our family in ten different directions. Dinner ends up being served in shifts, the younger children frequently are in bed before the older ones are even home from their after school activities.

Spending time as a family was so much easier when they were younger. While I am still a huge proponent of the nightly family meal, as my children have grown older I have come to realize that it just isn’t going to happen most nights. I have learned to see the advantages of this arrangement for my particular family. Well, it was either look on the bright side or drive myself crazy with guilt.

I figure that I am the constant. I sit down with all of them at dinnertime. It is important for me to spend time with them and talk to them, not necessarily for them to spend time with each other. I am able to talk to the little kids about little kid things, without the older kids rolling their eyes. I am able to discuss things with the older kids that might not be appropriate for younger ears. I am able to give undivided attention because I am not being pulled in different directions. Of course this also means that dinner hour in my house stretches on and on, like labor.

Sunday night has become our Family Night. It is the only night that I can be guaranteed there will not be any school or sports activities, no parties, no sleepovers, no one extra, just our family. It is a time for all of us to reconnect and just enjoy each others company. I guard this slice of time with a protective ferocity. All the kids know 5:30pm Sunday night, they must be home.

Rules For Family Night:

1) There will be dessert.

Even if dinner is not eaten. Even if the behavior of certain smallish people has been horrendous. Dessert makes everything better. On family night all is forgiven. We have ice cream sundaes, root beer floats, smores made by roasting marshmallows over the dying embers of the grill.

a) don’t use this night to test out a new recipe.
b) especially if this recipe has any sort of green vegetables in it.

2) There will be fun, gosh darn it all, fun! FUN, I say! Or we will die/kill each other trying!

If it isn’t fun for everyone, including you as the parent, it is time to step back and reevaluate.

My favorite family nights are the spontaneous ones, when we sit outside on the patio with a fire burning in the chiminea. My sons will play their guitars. The younger kids will play freeze tag or something similar in the grass. We all eat smores until we simply can not eat anymore.

We laugh. We tell stories. We relax.

3) Keep it simple. Don’t feel that Family Night has to be an involved or elaborate affair.

I know that there are some people who plan Family Nights, complete with themes– Movie Night, Game Night, Juggling Circus Animals Night. And while I love the idea, I know the perfectionist in me would never be able to do it without stressing myself and my children out. To me that would defeat the purpose.

My theme every week is simple, family fun. There are some Sundays when I order pizza and we eat picnic style in front of the tv while catching up with Zach and Cody, Hannah Montana, or those Wizards of Waverly Place, Or, like this past Sunday, we have breakfast for dinner.

4) Leave the rest of the week behind.

For us, Sunday night marks a fresh start. The slate is wiped clean. This isn’t the time to bring up chores that haven’t yet been done, tests that received less than stellar grades, or behavior issues that have already been dealt with. You want Family Night to be a time that you all look forward to sharing. A time when you can reconnect and feel energized about the week ahead.

5) Know when to talk and when to shut-up.

When you are talking with your children, especially older ones, allow there to be silent pauses. I have found that they will fill the silence with talking. They open up in ways that they might not if you are so busy filling the silence with your own voice. Tell them stories about the Dark Ages when you were a kid. They particularly like to hear stories about things you did wrong, ways you were embarrassed, mistakes you made. When they tell you their stories, resist the urge to turn it into a life lesson.  Oh, this will behard.  Resist.

6) Find games to play that span the ages.

Nothing is worse than being over the age of 5 and being forced to play Candyland. Likewise, watching your family play Monopoly because you are not yet able to read well enough to join them is less exciting than watching paint dry. We love playing charades, 20 questions, hangman, Wii. I have never been a huge fan of video games, but the Wii levels the playing field so that your 4 yr old will be beating the pants off of you in golf.

You know what other game my younger kids love?  The quiet game. Just like it sounds, you have to be quiet.  The person who goes the longest without making any noise or talking wins.  I know it sounds too good to be true, but my uber-competitive children will turn anything into a competition.   Not surprisingly, this is my favorite game.  Sometimes we will play this one several times in a row.

I wish that we had the sort of simple laid back life that afforded us the opportunity to have every night be Family Night. And I will admit that a part of me misses the days when all of my children were small and the evenings after dinner were spent reading a chapter from a book, all of us snuggled together on the couch. But children have this annoying habit of growing up and having lives of their own, as parents we have to take the time to spend together with them wherever we can get it. Having one special night set aside every week to spend as a family has been transformative for my family. When you have your teenagers putting in requests for the next Family Night and happily coming home on time, you know that you are doing something right.

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About the author

Chris Jordan

http://notesfromthetrenches.com
Chris Jordan began blogging at Notes From the Trenches in 2004 where she writes about her life raising her children in Austin, Texas.

Oh, she has seven of them. Yes, children.

Yes, they are all hers.

No she's not Catholic or Mormon. Though she wouldn’t mind having a sister-wife because holy hell the laundry never stops.

Yes, she finally figured out what causes it. That's why her youngest is almost 6.

Yes, she has a television.

She enjoys referring to herself in the third person.

If you would like to submit a question for Chris to answer publicly, please do so to adviceforparentsoftweens[at]gmail[dot]com.


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9 Responses to “6 Rules For Family Night”

  1. Amy Sep 01 at 9:33 am Reply Reply

    This is great! I have an 8 yr span between oldest and youngest right now and loved the line ‘I figure that I am the constant. I sit down with all of them at dinnertime. It is important for me to spend time with them and talk to them, not necessarily for them to spend time with each other.’

    I will have to keep that in mind when my older 2 are in the teenage stage while the younger is entering elementary school. And we don’t have time for ‘family night’ like we do now.

    A great post!!

    Amy http://worshipwhileiwait.blogspot.com

  2. Jaymee Sep 01 at 4:36 pm Reply Reply

    I love this!!! Family night is my favorite time of the week!! I wish we could do it more than once a week, schedules just don’t allow it though.

  3. Jessica Sep 01 at 8:08 pm Reply Reply

    YES! And another fantastic activity? WIPEOUT ON TV. Every single age loves it.

  4. Katherine @ Grass Stains Sep 03 at 11:18 am Reply Reply

    Our kids are still young (7, 5 and 2), and already we have a hard time sitting down together to eat. Our boys CRAVE more time with us, though, since we’re a two-working-parent home, so we’re lucky that they actually want to play games and talk to us (most of the time). ;)

  5. Jane Sep 03 at 2:04 pm Reply Reply

    That sounds like a great way to spend Sunday evenings; they can be a bit gloomy sometimes with the thought of the school/working week ahead!

  6. Mary McDonald Sep 03 at 8:37 pm Reply Reply

    Hey Chris, 
    As always lots of good advice! You guys should try playing Apples to Apples as soon as Miles can read. It is the most fun game ever. My kids now range from 16 to 27 – they still like the game and i still like reading your blog to see what the youngsters are up to.

  7. Ann Sep 04 at 10:55 am Reply Reply

    Great advice. We used to play the quiet game in the car. Guess who loved that game the most!

  8. Courtenay Sep 04 at 12:49 pm Reply Reply

    “resist the urge to turn their stories into life lessons. oh, this will be hard.” i LOVE IT. laughed out loud…. i have to constantly tell myself silently to shut up when they are talking. great advice, all of it.

  9. LIB Sep 10 at 1:13 pm Reply Reply

    WE love the quiet game – me MOST of all. Driving 10 hours tomorrow and it’s on my mental list to play SEVERAL times.

    I really appreciate you suggestion/reminder that Sunday night is a fresh start. Time to have dessert and laugh and chat, not go over (ad naseum) all the checklists that are constantly hovering…

    Hope this Sunday night is the best ever!

    *Blessings*

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