Meaningful mealtime connection:
In the first post in this series we talked about how family meals are an effective “vaccine” for your kids against all sorts of harmful choices. Research also shows that although family meals get harder to schedule as your kids become teens, they become even more important to their well-being!
So once you figure out a schedule for meals together and get the kiddos corralled at the table, how can you maximize the value of those times together? How can you pass the values and faith while you pass the veggies and fruit? These are important questions. Technology has brought media and your kids’ peers virtually into your home and your kids’ pockets nearly 24-7. If you aren’t thoughtful about how to be the strongest, clearest “voice” in this barrage of influences, someone else will raise your kids. And they probably won’t share your values.
Family meals together provide the perfect opportunity to share experiences and discuss values with your children. Here are three practical tips for meaningful mealtime connection:
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Dr. Bill Doherty, Director of the Marriage and Family Therapy program, U of MN, has identified a key factor for kids’ well being:
“Research shows that the most important thing a child can do to assure long-term well being is eat meals with his or her family. The more meals together, the better!”
Based on this research, the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse report makes this bold statement:
“A revival of the family dinner in America will do more to curb kids from smoking, drinking and using drugs than any law or public health campaign.”
These conclusions speak to what the forefathers of our faith already knew: It is around the table that our most important values are passed from generation to generation. The Passover feast was for centuries a seven day celebration that culminated in the Seder, or grand remembrance of the Passover. Then, during the last week of his life, Jesus established the Passover meal as the time and place he would be remembered. During this famous “Last Supper” he said, “Do this often, in remembrance of me!”
So how, in today’s age of numerous activities and busy lifestyles that we want to maintain, can we honor this age-old principle for passing faith and values over a meal? How can we “do this often?”
We recently got the following email from a loving, caring parent. We believe others among you might have similar questions, so we thought we’d share! Hope this conversation answers questions you might have and sparks a few new ones:
Dear Jim and Lynne,
Thank you so much for your recent article on discipline. I hear advice like, “You should disciple your children, not discipline.” or “Don’t get angry with your children.” But I am always asking myself, “Well, what does that sound like? What do I say in certain situations? When I say this am I disciplining or discipling?”
I love your real life situation example. One that could take place in my home. Now, what about when I tell my daughter to go brush her teeth to get ready for bed and 15 minutes later she still has not brushed her teeth. I’m just not one to say, “Now honey, I know you don’t want to brush your teeth, but we really need to. Can you please go brush your teeth?” My goal is obedience the first time, right away. Delayed obedience equals disobedience. So there should be consequences, right? What should those consequences be?
Thank you for the help you give to us parents trying our best to raise godly children.
Researchers have told us that American parents are too child-centered. Is making our kids happy eclipsing our determination to teach them responsibility? According to the cited study, “Parents intend to develop their children’s independence, yet raise them to be relatively dependent, even when the kids have the skills to act on their own.” (Wall Street Journal, 3/13/2012). As a result, kids generally are growing up less prepared to take care of themselves and others than ever before. We call this problem “entitlement,” meaning kids who do not feel inclined to be responsible and helpful as part of daily life. Lynne and I have encountered this issue time and again in our own work coaching families.
Not so long ago it was different. For all of human history, until the last 60 years or so, kids were expected at young ages to do what they could do to help their family survive. In other words, their contributions were necessary to keep others afloat. Faith and values were passed naturally through this process as children and parents shared in the responsibilities of day to day life. Every child was an asset because every child was another worker in the labor force of the family/clan. Kids felt significant not just because parents said ‘I love you’ at bedtime or sent notes in their lunchbox, but because they knew that if they didn’t do their part others would suffer.
This concept of being needed is absent in most American homes. Instead of growing up to believe they are here for others, kids grow up to believe that others are here for them. Add to the mix a child’s selfish, sinful nature, and we’ve got a real problem on our hands.