My wife and I have very different views on how our kids should behave at our Shabbos meals and we would welcome your opinion.
She comes from a more rigid home than mine and my in-laws have 2-3 hour meals with everyone sitting in their seats. My parents were more laid back and gave us a great deal of freedom to be excused from the table.
Our oldest is a 12-year-old boy and his behavior (or lack thereof) at our meals caused friction in our home over Pesach. We both look forward to your comments about this issue.
We have a similar issue – kids like to disappear into the living room.
In response, we have the following policies:
– kids must get permission to leave the table,
– they must come back when we sing and/or say Divrei Torah (age appropriate: I won’t expect a 6-year old to sit through a drasha),
– no dessert if a child didn’t eat solid food (we don’t force them to eat, but they must have a carb, a protein, and a fruit/vegetable – at any time; if the food was already cleared, they can fill their plate at the kitchen counter),
– they must help serve / clean.
(This way, the parents are in charge, but the kids still have their freedom to escape.
We didn’t specifically develop these rules, they just evolved over the years).
Hope it helps.