Making Dinner a Priority

I love to sit down to a meal with my family. It might be the only time all day that we’re all gathered together in a place where we can talk and laugh together. I truly believe that dinnertime fosters communication within a family.

Yet, too often, dinner takes a back seat to activities, whether it’s the girls’ activities or ours. When school starts, so do all of our activities. Dinner becomes a rushed affair with everyone grabbing something different on their way to someplace else.

The dinner table should provide our family with an opportunity to recharge and reconnect. It should be a time to share our days and our thoughts. Whether your family likes to tell funny jokes, discuss the day or play dinner games, fostering conversation and joy around the table is an important part of keeping the members of our family in touch with each other.

I know a family meal every night is tough. Both my girls practice their sports twice a week. I have meetings that I attend in the evenings, and so does my husband. On top of that, we have church, homework and music lessons. Squeezing in dinner when everyone can attend is tough.

Yet, studies show that families that make the effort to sit down to an evening meal together have better adjusted kids — kids who are less likely to get into serious trouble. Our dinners don’t have to be elaborate. Proverbs 15:17 says, “Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred.” They simply have to be intentional.

We have to intentionally set out to make dinner a priority in our homes. We have to make the effort to set aside the time for our families to sit down together, eat a meal, communicate and love each other. And sometimes that’s harder than it sounds. It takes work. It takes planning. But it is so worth it.

If you struggle to gather your family for dinner every night, try some of these tips to make dinner an important time in your home:

Set the expectation. Let everyone know that dinnertime is changing. Make sure all the members of your household know that their presence is expected at dinner.

Be flexible. Busy schedules require flexibility. Be prepared to move dinner time to a time when everyone can be there. If that means you eat at 4 or at 9, then so be it. The important thing is to get everyone to the table, not to have a set, formal dinnertime. There are a lot of nights around here when dinner is at an odd time. Pick the time that day when the most people in your family can be around the table at the same time.

Remove distractions. We have a rule at our house that no toys can be at the table. I try to put the newspaper away before dinner. The only thing that’s on our dinner table is food and napkins, which creates the opportunity for conversations.

Create a routine. Figure out what your family most enjoys doing at the dinner table. Some families like to share their days with each other. Have a set of questions that everyone has to answer: What’s the funniest thing that happened today? What’s the best thing that happened today? What’s the worst thing that happened today? Other families like to discuss current events. Some families enjoy playing games. If you’re stumped for things to talk about at dinner, check out our free Dinner Discussions to get the conversational ball rolling. You can find new ones every month on our Free Stuff page.

Avoid using dinnertime to air disputes. Make dinnertime sacred. Leave arguments and disagreements alone. There’s nothing less pleasant than a dinner table filled with strife. Declare the dinner table to be a temporary peace zone when members of your family are unhappy with one another.

Dinner can be one of the best times of the day for your busy family. It can foster community and joy. We just have to make the extra effort to get everyone to the table together.

Linking up today with Denise in Bloom.

July Dinner Discussions

I’m sitting in my newly rearranged living room. I got a new desk and bookshelf yesterday, and I love it. In the past month, we’ve bought more furniture than we’ve bought in the entire 16 years we’ve been married. Up until this point, we’ve made do with a lot of hand-me downs and discount store furniture. And we’re still using a lot of it.

As I sit in my chair, I’m looking at my couch and chair. We are the third generation of my family to use this furniture. Neither is super comfortable, but I look at those pieces of furniture, and I’m always reminded of the connection to my family. It helps to make me content.

My new desk and bookshelf don’t match the older furniture all that well. They definitely give the room an eclectic look. And as happy as I am with them, I know that at some point in the near future, I’ll walk into someone else’s house, see someone else’s living room and lose my contentment with what I have. It won’t matter that my furniture reminds me of family. It won’t matter that my bookshelf and desk are perfect for my needs. All that will matter is that my living room doesn’t look like it came out of a Pottery Barn catalog. Contentment is that easy to lose.

All last week, we talked about contentment in our Learning to Be Content series. Because contentment is something that I don’t think we ever completely learn, this month’s dinner discussions are all about contentment, envy and joy. My prayer is that as you use these questions to spark your dinnertime conversations that your family will take to heart Paul’s words in Philippians 4:11-13: “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

By keeping the focus on contentment for an entire month, we can learn the roots of jealousy, the desires of our hearts and how to learn to be content. It’s not an easy process, and it’s always an ongoing one. But contentment is something we can learn and teach to our children. And the first step is getting the conversation started.

Linking up today with Time-Warp Wife, Growing Home, and A Pause on the Path.

June Dinner Discussions

The calendar in my kitchen still says May. That must be why the beginning of the month slipped right by me.

We’re in the process of finishing our basement and between that and my daughter’s birthday, I completely forgot about June’s dinner discussions. So, here they are, just a bit late. I hope your dinnertime conversations are lively and your discussions thought-provoking this month.

Because summertime is often the season for travel, this month’s Dinner Discussions focus on travel. Based around Matthew 28:19-20: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age,” this month’s dinner discussions talk about going places and sharing the good news of Jesus.

Jesus set the example for us. He traveled from place to place, bringing the good news that He was the long-awaited Messiah. Then, He sent His disciples out to share the good news after He returned to heaven. Jesus wants us to share the good news about Him with others. He tells us to “go.” That may mean we go to our neighbor or it may mean we go to Africa. But for all of us, it means go and share.

Use your dinner discussions this month to reminisce about family vacations, to learn the places that others in your family want to go and to talk about how no matter where we go there are opportunities to share Jesus with others. So, get talking around the table, then get moving to go and share Jesus.

Linking up today with Women Living Well , A Wise Woman Builds Her Home and Word Filled Wednesday.

Getting Ready for Summer (May Dinner Discussions)

May Dinner Discussions

My girls are counting down the days until school gets out. We have 17 days left.

My girls dream of days of sleeping in, hanging out with friends and spending time at the pool.

Summer is a precious gift. It’s time to relax without the constant schedules of hockey and soccer pulling at our time. It’s time that I get to be the main influence on my kids’ lives. I’m not shipping them out the door every morning and letting someone else teach them for eight hours of the day. All of that time is mine to pour into them. I have more opportunity to really live out the words of Deuteronomy 6:6-9, simply because we are together so much more often.

Every summer, I try to make the most of the time we’re given. We spend time learning and exploring and trying new things. My kids are always wondering what new thing I’m going to think of next. Ecclesiastes 3:1 says “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Summer is our time to learn together, laugh together and grow together.

Summer is a great time to work with your kids on character qualities you want them to have. It’s a great time to introduce them to new foods, new experiences and new ideas. But it won’t happen unless you plan for it. Many of the blog posts this month are going to focus on getting ready for summer. They’re going to help you plan to be intentional with your summer, and May’s Dinner Discussion questions are the starting point.

Use these questions to get your kids talking about what they love about summer. Get them to tell you the things that they want their summer to include. Then, when you get down to the planning stage, you’ll already have a list of ideas. You might want to jot down your kids’ answers to some of these questions to give you a starting point.

Starting on Monday, I’ll be doing a series on the blog about how to plan for your summer. We’ll have lots of freebies along the way, we’ll make a summer planning binder, and by the end of the month you’ll have everything you need to make this the best summer ever. Be sure to get started with May’s Dinner Discussion questions and start thinking about the things you want your summer to include.

With a little planning, this will be the best summer ever for you and your kids.

Linking up today with Time-Warp Wife, Growing Home, and A Pause on the Path.

Dinner Discussions (and a Freebie!)

Dinnertime in our house can be a rushed affair. We often head out the door for one of the girls’ practices right after the meal or we eat late because we went to practice before dinner. Some nights we eat in shifts. On rare occasions, we declare a movie night and eat in front of the TV.

On any night, it’s easy to rush through dinner and not get into much discussion. Some nights I’m tired. Some nights the girls are in a bad mood. Some nights all my husband wants to do is read the paper while we eat. But I’ve found when we make a concerted effort to sit down to a meal together and create conversation, we enjoy each others’ company and we often leave the table knowing something we didn’t know before.

In our house, sometimes the standard “What did you do today?” question doesn’t elicit much in the way of information. “Went to school” or “the same thing we normally do” are the standard answers from my girls. Unless something really exciting happened during the day, that question doesn’t offer much in the way of return. However, when we get creative with our questions — “What was the best thing that happened to you today?” “Did you help anyone today?” “What made you happy today?” — we start to get results.

Our kids need us to be involved in their lives. They need to know that we care about them. Even when they don’t act like they want to talk with us, they really do want us to know what’s going on. Sometimes attacking the conversation from a different direction yields better results. Sometimes a fun conversation can turn serious, giving us great insight into how our kids think. Sometimes a little laughter is all that is needed to get your kids to begin to open up. Different tactics can often give us better results. Colossians 4:6 says “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

What does it mean to have graceful conversation, seasoned with salt? And how does that affect how we relate to our kids? It means our words should offer grace, not judgment. We should be wise and offer love and understanding when we speak. Yet, we should speak the truth, even when it’s difficult. The salt is the tough things that we need to talk about — confronting others when needed and offering correction. When we have this type of conversation with our kids, we are helping them to know that we love them, and we are helping them to grow to be more like Jesus.

Creating avenues to have important conversations with your kids isn’t always easy, so today I’m starting a new feature on the blog called “Dinner Discussions.” Each month, I’ll post enough discussion questions for your family to use one each night during the month. Some months they will be themed around a topic. Other months, they’ll simply be random questions. Some questions will be funny, some serious and some completely random. The goal is to get your family talking. You may be surprised at the path some of your conversations take.

So, let’s get started. Click this link and print out your Dinner Discussion cards. Cut them apart, stick them in a jar, a bowl or even a hat and leave them on your kitchen table. Each night, pull out a new card and start your dinner discussion. Check back on the first of every month for a new set of cards.

I’d love to hear how your dinner discussions are going, so be sure to pop back in and let me know about where your conversations are taking your family. I’ll be checking in with you during the month via our Facebook page, offering some insights from our own dinner discussions.

Happy discussing!

Linking up today with Raising Mighty Arrows.