Last week we started talking about how to get husbands more involved with the children, and some of you left comments saying you had basically given up. He wasn’t interested, and there wasn’t anything you could do.

I found that really heartbreaking, but I also know that this is probably a very common feeling–probably MORE common than women who feel that their husbands are involved with the kids. Having a family that functions well is not that common an occurrence these days.

So what can we do to form a family that is cohesive, and where everyone does enjoy being with each other?

First, I think so much depends on how we organize after dinner times.

If you cook dinner, but then leave it up to everyone how they will spend their evening, chances are they will scatter (or he will, anyway), and family time won’t happen.

If, instead, you make plans so that EVERYONE will do something together, then chances are it WILL happen.

Let’s look at a scenario. You make dinner haphazardly, and try to get everyone to the table. Everyone arrives one at a time, and some of them start eating without waiting for others. As soon as people are done, they get up. Your husband goes and watches TV. Your little ones go and play video games, except for the smallest, who clings to your leg. You start cleaning up. The whole episode took about 8 minutes, 6 of which you spent getting up and down fetching things for the kids.

Now, let’s look at another option.

Be intentional with dinner times.

Dinner is ready. You call one of your kids, who is over 5, to set the table. You put candles on the table. You use nice napkins. You call everyone together, and don’t let them eat until you’re all seated. You sing grace, or say grace, or do something fun to start the meal (holding hands is good, because it prevents others from digging in). Now dinner has an atmosphere, so it’s an event, not just something that one eats.

While you’re eating, you have a trivia book that you ask your oldest one to read from, or a joke book for your 8-year-old, or a list of conversation starters for older kids. You play a game, like Stump the Dad, where everyone has to think of a question he doesn’t know, or you have to make him laugh. You talk about your day, or homework. Everyone has to share one thing that was good about the day, and one thing they hated (even dad).

Dinner is now something where people connect, and you can start this with kids as young as toddlers.

Dad can even get involved. Now you’re bonding.

You have a schedule as to who does the dishes, who puts the dishes in the dishwasher, and who clears the table. Everyone pitches in (including Dad). Those that aren’t on the schedule are excused, but the others work. After dinner you play a game, or go for a walk together, or go kick the soccer ball around outside. You ALL do this. It becomes an evening routine.

What you’ll find is that if dinner is more of an event, and the kids are involved in cleaning up, and you go outside after dinner, Dad will start developing more of a relationship with the kids.

But notice that you’re not making him do anything on his own; you’re just organizing the family so that you all spend time together.

This won’t happen overnight. You may have to push through their resentment or their complaints. But if you want a different sort of family life, don’t let them ruin it for you! You’re the mom. You set the tone for the house. You are not helpless! Talk to your husband about it, and tell him that kids do better in school when they eat dinner together and talk at the dinner table. Tell him it’s important to you that you all get exercise. Show him that you’re working for everyone’s best interests, and make it fun! Don’t get mad at people if they don’t jump on the bandwagon at first; keep pushing, and they’ll join in.

Deep down, people want to connect. They want to do family things. But if it hasn’t been a habit, there may be resistance. But that doesn’t mean they won’t enjoy it, or won’t do it eventually.

So tell your husband what’s important to you, and set it up. Don’t wait for him to do it. Make dinner an event, and plan something together afterwards, and you’ll find your husband laughing more with the children.