Like Moths To A Flame

Screenshots of tik toks explaining the candle at dinner hack for kids.

Lighting A Candle At Dinner Will Keep Your Kids At The Table, TikTok Says

Time to up your candle budget.

Getting your children to sit still at the dinner table and eat a satisfactory portion of their meal should, in all honesty, be an Olympic sport. Some of us turn to TV to transfix our kids enough to get them to sit still and eat — maybe they’ll absentmindedly sample a vegetable today, who knows! — while others nobly go without and just constantly remind their kids to sit down and chew. But a parenting hack circulating on TikTok right now suggests that lighting a candle at the dinner table is all it takes to make your children sit still and eat (and parents online are saying it actually works).

If you’re on parenting TikTok, you’ve probably seen POV videos or moms raving about their success with “the candle thing.” For context, the hack is this: simply light some candles of any shape or size and place them on the dinner table. Whether it’s because kids love to watch things burn and will gladly sit, eat, and stare at the flame, or because a candlelit dinner just feels more special, a lot of parents online seem to swear by it.

The trick seems to have originated in August 2023 with U.K. mum influencer Tessie Heeter, according to reporting from The Sun and The Mirror. In the caption of a video shared to her Instagram, Heeter explains that dinnertime had been a real battle with her kids, but she came up with a little process that turned their evenings around: sit down to eat together, light a candle and explain that everyone must be seated while its lit, and then blow it out as a family at the end of the meal.

It’s hard to say exactly why the hack is surging in popularity and finding its way onto parents’ For You pages nearly a year later. In any case, countless parents are saying lighting a candle at dinner has been a game-changer for their families. Their kids ate more (even veggies) and really talked about their days, or at the very least, just sat the heck down without a scene. Mom Isabel (@auticorrect), who posts videos about parenting with autism and ADHD, shared a video after three nights of trying the candlelit dinner. She recommends it for parents with young kids or neurodivergent kids, saying those were the first three nights in a month her son came to dinner without getting upset and was able to finish his meal peacefully.

Of course, no parenting hack works for everyone (as this hilarious video illustrates), but if you’ve been struggling with meal times in your house, plunking a candle onto the dinner table is certainly worth a shot. If you really want your kids to buy into this, let them help you pick out some fun taper candles, birthday cake candles, or candle holders for the table. Brass candle holders are a dime a dozen at most thrift stores, or you might happen across some ceramic ones you and the kids can paint together. Who knows: the TikTok gods may have just provided an answer to your pleas to eat a meal in peace.