(SCROLL DOWN TO READ TIPS 1-4 BEFORE READING TIP 5)
If there has not been a rule in place around an issue—or there has been a rule but it has never had any teeth—expect things to get worse before they get better. Face it. None of us really like policy change unless the previous policy was so bad that we are desperate for any change at all. If dinner has been a free for all with each family member doing what he wants, no one is going to want to put down his video game or book in favor of polite family conversation. Things WILL get worse before they get better, so before you make a big announcement, spend a lot of time thinking through your responses to as many unexpected situations as possible.
How can you structure things so that no distractions even come to the table? What are your consequences going to be for texting under the table? What is your consequence going to be for yelling, crying or talking back when you take the phone away? What consequences will you be able to absolutely follow through on consistently? What if your children sit tight lipped and stony faced every night for a week?
Role play if you need to practice staying calm: Have one spouse be the recalcitrant child and the other be the enforcer. You know your partner’s week points: Will Dad give in if his little girl starts to cry? Is Mom so uncomfortable with swearing that she will just lose her temper completely? Practice, practice, practice. This is a new part you are playing. It will not feel automatic. It will be uncomfortable. Support each other in whatever way you need to.