Those who track stats say only ten percent of American families eat together twice a week, around a dinner table. What does that mean for our families? Less talk for sure.
Our family is certainly not Cleaver’s “Leave It to Beaver”, but when my children were growing up we did eat our meals together. Now that they are grown and have children of their own, I find it is a little harder to have “meaningful discussions” at the dinner table when my grandchildren come to visit. First of all, I don’t know all the friends of my grandchildren or what they are doing at school like I did my children’s friends and activities. I bet you don’t either. In spite of that, we know it’s vital to have meaningful conversations with them. What are some things we can ask that opens them up and makes them talk to us?
For starters, let’s get them to thinking about life from their point of view, not ours. Things like: What is the funniest thing you can think of about your family? What is the hardest part (or easiest part) about school? What makes you happier, your dog or riding your 4-wheeler? What would you say if someone offered you a cigarette or alcohol?
I recently asked my grandchild who is in third grade, “What is the most difficult thing about school?” I expected her to say, Math or Science, but was surprised to hear her say, “When I come home from school, I am always sad.”
“Why?” I asked.
With a great display of drama she answered, “Because (a boy at school) always bullies me and he says I have a disease and he wishes I was dead. He said he wished the stars would fall on my head and kill me!”
Angry, I asked more questions and promised to talk to the teacher with her mom and dad. But, after thinking about it, I saw a lesson that could help her for the rest of her life. I explained why kids bully and why she should not. I explained that sometimes people just can’t get along with certain people and it was up to her to control the time she spent around him. The most important thing, for her, was to have other good friends in class and to always be nice to even that little boy who bullies all the kids.
Had we been watching television while eating, we would never have had that conversation The initial question gave me an opportunity to explain that there will always be difficult people in her life. There was always be people who hurt our feelings, but the Bible says, “Be ye kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32). That’s the only way to make the hurt go away.
So is family-time, mealtime, important? Experts tell us that eating together builds better kids who have better communication skills and stronger relationships. I’m reminded of what Timothy taught in the Bible about personal progress. He said, “Take care of any widow who has no one else to take care of her. But, if she has children or grandchildren, their first responsibility is to show godliness at home and repay their parents by taking care of them. This is something that pleases God (1 Tim. 5: 3-4 NLT). That tells us we, as parents, are expected to display, and teach, godly conduct at home in front of our children. How else will they learn? Who will teach them if you don’t?
Our family household is the training ground for our churches and schools. And, the church is the household of God and is the training ground for what we do and say in the world. Everything links together. If we could only realize that, how much kinder would we be? Life is full of stepping stones and they all take us somewhere. Are we headed in the right direction?
© KPI 2013