It’s a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the – modern world, especially for parents raising children today. Hardly a week goes by without the news warning of yet another threat to a child’s wellbeing. Everything is dangerous: the crib, bicycles, the paint on toys, the park. Even worse is parental paranoia for their teens! Modern parents have more to fear than their own parents did: internet porn, AIDs, date rape, rampant campus drinking, drug usage. What's a mother (or dad) to do!!!
As a parent of teens (three currently, some done, more to come), I find this is easier said than done. It’s one thing to have a consistent family dinner when children are young and mom and dad can pretty much dictate the family schedule, it’s quite another to fight for it when sports, and music lessons, and jobs and friends, and… begin to fill the imaginations and the schedules of our teenage children. I chose the word “fight” intentionally. Keeping to regular family dinner won’t come naturally in a house full of teens.
Make dinner a
Getting to the dinner table together (whether it be at 5:15 or 8:00) is half the battle. Now let’s talk about the other half. What do we do when we get there?
Here Are a Few
A dinner that’s worth doing together requires a bit of order. Perhaps it goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway (because teens often have a remarkable ability to forget the 12 previous years of training), we should expect some basic manners at the dinner table. You know, things like sitting down at the same time, saying please and thank you, waiting to eat until everyone is served, keeping to one conversation at a time, passing food rather than tossing it, refraining from eating before grace, not leaving the table during the meal without permission, ending together.
These basic manners go a long way in creating at least an opportunity for some healthy family interaction around the dinner table. Expect a certain amount of order. But avoid the temptation to approach the dinner as mainly a time to enforce order and manners. Here again we need some patience and flexibility. If our teens experience us as mainly correcting (I think they might use the term “nagging”) them about behavior at the dinner table, they likely will develop a negative attitude towards the family meal.
Not every meal needs to be a profound personal encounter with other family members or a deep profound conversation. Sometimes we just laugh. More often just spending the time basically well goes a long way.
Eat dinner together. It’s one of the most effective elements in raising great children and a better alternative than being afraid or watching TV.
Hints from God?
[Gordy DeMarais is the Executive
Director for St. Paul's Outreach
(SPO) and a coordinator of the Community
of Christ the Redeemer in St. Paul, Minnesota, USA. Gordy and his
wife Teresa have six children.]
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