Want to have more memorable family meals? These rules will liven up the mood and the conversation -- and keep your table full and friendly.
1. It's a Date!
Set a regular time. This will save you the monotony of having to repeatedly answer the question "When's dinner?"
2. Friends and Family Welcome
"The more the merrier" really puts everyone in a happy mood, with all on their best behavior. When there are guests, dinner becomes an event, the evening's activity! Manners improve, conversation ramps up, people linger later.
3. No Phones
Do not answer the phone at dinner. Do not allow any cellphones at the table. No ringing, vibrating, answering, or texting allowed.
4. One Meal, No Substitutions
You're not doing your kids any favors by allowing them not to eat what's served. Be prepared for initial stubbornness and a few uneaten meals—that phase won't last long.
5. Everyone Helps Clean Up
Cleanup is faster when everyone chips in -- and it's more fun, too. "Many hands make light work," as they say. Rotate the duties so nobody gets stuck always taking out the trash or washing pots and pans.
Excerpted from "The Family Dinner" (thefamilydinnerbook.com) by Laurie David, with recipes by Kirstin Uhrenholdt. Copyright 2010 by Hybrid Nation, Inc. Reprinted by permission of Grand Central Publishing.