What is the most important family hour of the day? Well for the Christian family, our first thoughts would be devotions or bible reading. Certainly, you wouldn’t be wrong to assume that. After all what could be more important than prioritizing our time with the Lord – no argument here!
But Dr. Les and Leslie Parrot in their book, “The Hour That Matters Most” offer a different answer to our question. They suggest it lies in the surprising power of the family meal. While we would never suggest our physical nourishment is MORE important than our spiritual nourishment, we agree with the absolute importance family meals play in the overall health of a family.
A Special Christmas Family Meal
In fact when a family comes to us struggling to make family “work”, we almost always start with the question, “Are you eating any meals together?” Something Holy takes place when we break bread together. The research is overwhelming; kids that grow up in families that share regular meals together:
- Are less likely to pick up bad habits like drinking, smoking, drugs etc.
- Do better in school
- Are healthier physically
- And the list goes on.
We understand in today’s busy culture it’s nearly impossible to share a family meal together. Here is our suggestion – DO IT ANYWAY! When our family was at the peak of kid’s athletic events we had multiple seasons with over 100 basketball games and over 100 baseball games. We know busy! Get creative. Find a way. It wasn’t uncommon for us to eat dinner at 8:30 in the evening. But it was worth it.
The principle is to share time together around a meal. Here are five specific practices we’d offer you to help get the most out of your family meals. Use these to help get you started. We know you’ll think of even better ideas for your family.
1) It’s about the family not the food. Make sure you remember the point of the family meal is relationship. Try hard to not focus on finishing everything on your plate or even eating at all. If one of our kids wasn’t hungry we still asked them to sit with the family and participate. Obviously some discernment is needed here.
2) Make sure everyone participates in the meal – large or small. Even your youngest kids can be encouraged to help carry forks to the table. Share the load of set up and clean up – it adds to the dynamic of belonging to something. In our home no one leaves the kitchen until mom leaves the kitchen. We attack clean up as a family.
3) Train self-control. We would argue the most important character quality for us to train into our kids is self-control. The family meal is a great place to do that. Expecting them to use manners at the table, to sit quietly and have a conversation, or to wait their turn for “good things (see #5)” all teach our kids to be self-governing. Try to be age appropriate. The younger kids learn to sit through the meal… as they get older we add sitting through “good things”… as they get older still maybe sit and visit with us for a few minutes.
4) Model Kindness. Dads, you have the opportunity to model a thankful attitude. Saying “Thank-you. That was delicious”, to your wife teaches your kids to appreciate what they have.
5) Do “Good Things”. In our house “Good Things” is a noun, an activity we do. From youngest to oldest we go around the table and share one good thing from that day… and no repeats! Everyone can come up with one positive thing from their day.
Did you eat family meals together growing up? How often is your family doing that today?