Posts tagged battle for the family

How to make the family meal the norm



This is the final post of two about how to combat electronic isolation and bring the family together by making the dinner table a priority. “Capturing the elusive family meal” made the case for how pivotal the meal can be in strengthening family relationships. This post gives you suggestions on how to ease into family meals without a lot of hassle.

Mind your manners

The social graces used to be a part of everyone’s education. Today many children have no clue about proper table etiquette or why it even matters. In our house the dinner table is Manners 101. Occasionally we get objections, especially from the older children, about how the rules are old fashioned or too restrictive. That’s often a great opportunity to remind them that manners are not so much about rules as they are about showing consideration for others.

From time to time, though, I’m the one who needs the reminder that manners aren’t just about rules. Sometimes in my desire to teach my children good behavior, I’ve found myself so overbearing in my correction that the atmosphere at the meal becomes unpleasant. What is supposed to be an enjoyable time can become anything but. These interactions at the dinner table give everyone, even us adults, a chance to grow and show grace.

The dinner table is an opportunity to remind each person that he or she is a valued member of the family, and that the actions of one person can affect everyone in the family. It assures children that they belong to a group of people who genuinely care for them.

Setting your family table
Recent family fun at our dinner table.

Recent family fun at our dinner table.

After nearly 30 years of gathering daily for meals, Ellie and I are convinced that we’ve truly benefited by making the family table a priority. Maybe you agree in principle, but you can’t see how you will ever get past all the obstacles to make the family meal a regular part of your schedule. Maybe you feel you don’t have time to do the cooking. Maybe dinner is the worst time of the day when it comes to family schedules. Maybe having meals together is such a foreign idea you don’t know where to start.

Here are a few tips that may set you on your way to making your dining room one of the most special rooms in the house.

Enlist the family’s help. Kids can help shop, prepare the food, set the table, serve the drinks and food, and clean up after the meal. In our home, we have assigned responsibilities that rotate every week. Dads, you need to make it a priority to come home from work on time.

Set reasonable goals. If you’re not eating together at all, start off with one or two simple meals, then gradually increase the number of meals and how elaborate they are. Set a goal for the number of meals you want to eat each week as a family and require everyone to be there. Children, especially the older ones, may resist at first. After a while, though, children actually become the greatest advocates for spending time around the dinner table.

Minimize your time in the kitchen. If you’re spending hours preparing and cleaning up for a 15-minute meal, chances are you’ll give up on family meals before very long. Enlist all your servants like the microwave, crock-pot, and pressure cooker. When you fix meals, prepare double or triple portions, then freeze or refrigerate for later meals.

To focus on each other, you need to ban the electronics. Turn off the television and computer, and don’t answer the phone.

Focus on being together rather than creating a full course meal. If you have to, serve heat-and-eat foods and just add a pre-mixed salad for health and to dress up the meal. You can bet that King Solomon saw his share of elaborate feasts, yet he declared, “Better a dish of vegetables where love is than a fattened ox served with hatred” (Proverbs 15:17).

Create some memorable meals. Every once in a while, you might want to make it really special. A fancy meal is a great way to focus on manners, and a special treat for the girls. It helps emphasize the holy nature of family gatherings. Candles, flowers, and the nice tableware add a special touch.

Make the family table an outreach for friends. If your children are of dating/courting age, it’s a good opportunity to get to know their special friends, a girlfriend or boyfriend. It also lets that person better understand your child within the context of his or her family, as they see the interaction with their siblings and parents.

Think of discussion topics ahead of time. A verse of Scripture, the latest news, a new joke. I recently got each family member to jot down their favorite color, flower, food, etc. on a piece of paper. I collected them and read them aloud while everyone tried to guess the family member.

Find ways to make it positive. Reward a child’s good behavior with an extra serving of dessert or the privilege of planning an upcoming menu.

However you choose to organize your family meals, make them a special part of who you are as a family. You can bet that in years to come, your children will look back at those daily times as some of the most influential moments in their lives. Who knows? In a generation, they may be sitting down with their children, creating special moments of their own.

© FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “How to make the family meal the norm” on the Stepping Up men’s blog. Don’t forget part 1.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistAs leader of your home, what will you do to help your family connect in this digital and individualistic age? 

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistJust Add Family is a fun resource from FamilyLife designed to connect family members and build memories.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistShare these articles with a friend. If you have encouraging insights on family meals, share them with us.

Capturing the elusive family meal



Does it seem like meaningful daily interaction in your family is getting more and more rare? Busy schedules and personal electronics tend to do that.

The other day, I was lamenting how much scarcer our family time has gotten in recent years. Then I remembered an article I had written a decade earlier about the importance of family time, and especially the family dinner table. When I found it and re-read it, it seemed so timely and helpful, so I’ve decided to revive it here on Stepping Up in two posts. The first makes the case for making the effort. The second will give some tips for making family time at the dinner table the new norm around your house.

Recently, one of our teenage children invited a friend over for dinner. For us it was a typical meal around the dinner table. For him, it was a unique experience. He told us that both his parents work long hours, and his family of four only eats together for special occasions like Thanksgiving and Christmas. He didn’t seem to mind squeezing in to an already crowded table of eight. In fact, he remarked more than once how great it was.

My wife, Ellie, and I both grew up in families where mealtime was family time, so early in our marriage we decided to continue the tradition. With only two of our seven children still living at home, it has become more difficult than ever to keep family meals a priority. But we know it’s worth the effort, especially in this age of frenetic schedules. Esteemed universities and scholarly journals agree—study after study shows the nutritional, social, emotional, and spiritual benefits of the family dinner table. For example, children who eat regularly with their family:

  • have fewer behavior problems in school and are significantly less likely to get involved with drugs, alcohol, and early sexual behavior;
  • are significantly more likely to have a healthy balanced diet and less likely to be overweight;
  • are likely to have higher test scores relative to the amount of time spent with family;
  • have higher communication skills and greater vocabulary;
  • teenage girls are particularly less likely to suffer from depression or attempt suicide, and less prone to develop eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia.

Unfortunately, few families are enjoying this important part of life. Recent research suggests that between 10 and 40 percent of children never or seldom eat together with their family. On average a family shares only 3-5 meals together a week, and even that average drops considerably as children become teens.

Living in the real world

50s Dinner TableThe cohesive family unit of 50 years ago is fast becoming ancient history. Today, each family member is more individualistic and isolated from the others in the family. Dad (and often, Mom) goes off to work and spends at least eight hours with other adults. Children spend the large portion of the day in class and most of the interactions they do have are strictly with those their own age.

The dinner table offers the opportunity to bring adults, teens, and younger children together to share their individual experiences of the day. It becomes the place where life issues are raised, discussed, and resolved. Rather than each family member continuing to drift into his or her own individual world, the interaction during mealtime strengthens family bonds and enriches the daily experience of life.

Throughout Scripture, when the word table is used, it often connotes more than just the piece of furniture where the food is served. It is often a place of special honor, acceptance, care, and fellowship. The cup and bread that we share in remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice for us, we often refer to as the Lord’s Table. In Psalm 23:5, King David declares to God, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” We see numerous passages where close associates of a king are referred to as those who ate at his table (2 Samuel 9:11; 1 Kings 18:19; Luke 22:27-30).

In the book of Deuteronomy, God commands parents to teach their children throughout the routine activities of the day (6:4-7; 11:18-20). Children learn best not in the school classroom, but in the classroom of life. At the Williams dinner table, often someone will bring up a current event topic and others will chime in with their perspectives. While the conversation is usually between the teens and adults, our younger children take it all in and learn things that wouldn’t have otherwise entered their minds.

A wise parent not only monitors the conversation at the table but looks for ways to direct it. Often seeing how siblings act and react toward each other at the table can be a cue to parents to teach the importance of honor, acceptance, and graciousness. Sharing wisdom that comes from a verse of Scripture or from a life experience becomes a natural part of the conversation as we face new experiences or address issues that are hampering family unity. With all family members there at one time, we as parents have a captive audience for revealing that God is still guiding us in our own maturing process.

Read the second post, “How to make the family meal the norm,” which will give you some tips on how to ease into family meals without a lot of hassle.

© FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “Capturing the elusive family meal” on the Stepping Up men’s blog. Don’t forget part 2.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistAs leader of your home, what will you do to help your family connect in this digital  and individualistic age? 

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistAlso consider connecting in the car with “10 Ideas for Non-Digital Family Fun on Road Trips.” 

STEPPass - 10-point checklistSit down with your wife to figure out how you can build a strong family table without putting extra pressure on her.

Irreplaceable



Last week I had the pleasure of sitting in on the one-time showing of the Focus on the Family documentary film Irreplaceable. Even if you missed the premiere, encore presentations of Irreplaceable are being added at other theaters around the country.

You may have seen the trailer for the film. If not, here it is.

YouTube Preview Image

http://www.irreplaceablethemovie.com/

The movie is just an introduction to a new series that seeks to look at the family from a number of different angles in an attempt to “recover, renew and reclaim the cultural conversation about the family.” It is also the launch of a new initiative by Focus called Gen3, challenging individuals to commit to building a thriving, divorce-free legacy for three generations.

After watching the first film in the series, I’m inclined to believe that Focus on the Family is going about it the right way. As you can see in the trailer, the film itself is a journey to find the cause of family (and thus) cultural decline. But the journey actually finds its answer in an unexpected place—back at home.

The film starts off looking at the history and ideology that’s led to family decline, and the far-reaching impact it’s had. Starting with modern views on sexuality (which really aren’t new at all), the questions move in a progression toward marriage, then parenting, then children, to the meaning of life itself. It becomes obvious that there is not just one cause for cultural decline, but many. It reveals that individuals, not social issues, are at the heart of the problem … and of the solution.

The documentary starts with the notion that cultural decline is inevitable when families become unstable, because the family is irreplaceable. But it ends by recognizing that what is truly irreplaceable is each person within a family.

The narrator’s search for answers to the general problem of family fracture leads him to reflect on his own personal struggles growing up in a family where the father was not faithful to the family. This leads him to recognize his own importance to his own family and how much his active presence is needed by his wife and his children. He realizes that it’s he who is irreplaceable.

Truth be known, everyone is irreplaceable in their family, if you believe in God as Sovereign. I’m often impressed at how differently God has made each of the members in my own family, and how their strengths and personalities have a unique and vital place in the health of the family as a whole, as well as in the life of each individual. Add to that the unique roles we each have as husband and wife, mother and father, son and daughter, brother and sister, oldest, youngest, and middle. God has placed each member in the family to be a blessing and to be blessed.

How about you? How often do you think of yourself as irreplaceable as a man, as husband of your wife, and father of your children? How often do you recognize your wife’s unique fit as your partner and helpmeet, and as the nurturer and center of the family? And how often do you recognize each child and his or her irreplaceable part in your home now, and the irreplaceable part they will have in the family they will begin when their time comes?

The first step in rebuilding a crumbling culture is to create a strong culture in your own family. They, in turn can carry that legacy to the next generation, and the next.

A tribute to Daddy Fish



I believe the battle for the family today begins with how men behave.  As men step up and man up, they will have an incredible impact on their wives and on their children.  And that impact will be felt for many years to come.  We need a movement of men stepping up.

A number of years ago on FamilyLife Today, we interviewed RV Brown, who heads up an outreach to youth.  RV was one of 17 children, and at the end of our interview I asked him to give a tribute to his father — to honor him for what he had done well.

RV-Brown-Sunday

I’ll never forget what he said to his dad, Willie Fish:

“Daddy Fish, I just want to thank you, from the bottom of my heart, first of all, for loving my Mama, and then secondly, for loving me, and kissing me, and rubbing my little round head, and telling me to go to school, and everything was going to be okay.  And then, Dad, I want to thank you for taking me fishing — July the sixth, 1959, for the first time.  

“And Dad, I want to just tell you what an awesome leader you was.  With no education, Dad, you taught me.  You educated me how to love.  Dad, thank you!  I’m the kind of man I am today because of who you are.  Thank you for loving Mama.  Thank you for the leadership and authority in which you raised us.  Thank you for the discipline; and most of all, father, I want to thank you for that hug and that kiss, and that little rub on my little, round head, and you’d say, ‘You’re going to be okay, son.’  Dad, I love you.”

What a great illustration of a man who was courageous in stepping up to love and lead his family.

It doesn’t get much better than this.  This is the type of impact we long to have as men.  Men Stepping Up means a culture that will begin to change for the better.

Men Stepping Up

To listen to the FamilyLife Today program where RV Brown’s tribute is shared, click below:

Subscribe via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.