A well-known Louisiana chef recently devoted his new cookbook to the tradition of families cooking together. Titled My Family Table, the book is dedicated to getting all family members participating in meal preparation. Regardless of age, each child is involved in some aspect of the meal. And as you know, there are plenty of tasks surrounding a meal from start to finish. Consider viewing this process as a family teamwork opportunity.
Assign members preparation and cleaning tasks that fit their level of skill. Rotate these daily or weekly to keep things even. The length of time that it takes to complete a task can help balance things out. Cleaning the table and the dishes and putting up leftovers is an activity that everyone can join and share at the same time. Make sure to involve younger kids in safe tasks. For example, helping you with handling certain foods or making sandwiches.
As with most efforts of this type, plan to model, coach, and supervise at first. Likewise, plan to tolerate negative feedback at times. Setting criticism aside, keep the process going. For example, you might reply to critics with: "I'm sorry you feel that way, but let's keep going. " If a child has a legitimate conflict, offer to help them out as a way to model teamwork: "Let me do that for you tonight so you can get dressed."
Helping each other establishes the right attitude for your family efforts. And it represents the crux of teamwork. Perhaps best of all, it's the opposite of conflict and arguments, frustration and anger, and pouting.Manipulation is lessened in such settings and everyone benefits. The right atmosphere can include chatter and laughter, as well as kidding each other. Fellowship and bonding can follow, as everyone shares in the work effort. You may be able to enlist your older children to help maintain this momentum in the younger family members.
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