Family Dinner Conversation
Sharing family dinner
Is there anything more delightful than sitting down to dinner with family? Even if you’re having something as pedestrian as grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup, the company and conversation can be joyous and memorable. And as children grow up, the family dinner table is sometimes one of the only times you can be with everyone at once, so family dinner is priceless.
Peace and fellowship
One of the goals I had as our boys grew up was to make our dinner table a place of peace and fellowship. Not just because unpleasantness is bad for digestion, but because part of the job of parenting is to civilize our children and teach them how to be pleasant and interesting to be around. This can begin with guiding the conversation toward interesting topics in which most of the boys could participate. These were fairly limited when they were small, but the range of topics increased dramatically when the oldest two started reading.
With malice toward none
It was important to us to teach them not to speak ill of others, so we focused on discussing ideas, rather than people. This opened the door to many interesting conversations about history, literature, art, music, faith, and other things that matter, and kept minds away from pettiness and foolish talk. It helped a lot that our oldest son was fascinated by history and classical music, and could contribute a lot of interesting knowledge to our discussions.
One day at a time
Our dinner-time conversations were far from ideal at times, but because we consistently tried to cultivate kindness, civility, and good manners, the atmosphere was definitely better than it could have been. With no squabbling allowed at the table, they had to either learn to communicate courteously or be quiet! Now that they are grown, we still enjoy dinner table conversations that are interesting and generally respectful of one another. Although there were times when they were small when I wondered whether it would ever happen, I have reached the point where I’d rather have them around my table than anyone else in the world!
You might find Miriam Weinstein’s book “The Surprising Power of Family Meals” interesting.
Here’s my review:
That sounds like a terrific resource, Henry. Thank you for sharing it. As I look back, I can see where we could have done more in so many areas, but at least we have many happy dinners to recall. There won’t be good conversations every time you sit down, but when you come together with a purpose, there’s a good chance of it happening. Thanks again!
Excellent post. Homeschooling makes it so easy to have great conversations with kids – at the dinner table, in the car, anywhere. A friend from college complained a year or so ago that she was so looking forward to getting to discuss ideas and books with her boys when they got to high school (they are in public school), but they are never interested in talking about this stuff at home. You have great ideas to help us facilitate these conversations and help our kids grow up as thinkers. Thanks!
The book says it isn’t important to have elegant dinners, or sparkling conversation. The important thing is getting together, often.
It sounds like you have been doing just fine.
Great article! When you have many young children at the table like I do, it is inspiring to hear that your dinnertime conversations helped shape your children into fine young adults. Thank you for sharing. At this point in time, I like to ask my family “What was your favorite part about today?” They come up with really interesting answers that usually require telling a story about an event that took place. Dinner around the table is one of my favorite times of the day.