Note from Mark Timm, Ziglar Family CEO: Today’s post is from guest blogger Julie S., an Australian wife (of 22 years) and mother of 7 beautiful children ranging in age from 21 down to 3 years old. Julie reached out to us in response to the Day 2: Communication challenge from the 7-Day Family Challenge. My team and I enjoyed her comments so much that we decided to invite her to share them with the entire Ziglar Family community! Julie’s family is her very high priority, and she loves and lives by the Robert Louis Stevenson quote: Judge each day not by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant. Enjoy!
A few weeks ago, my family and I joined the 7-Day Family Challenge from Ziglar Family. The idea of 7 experts sharing their best piece of advice for families was intriguing, and the Challenge did not disappoint!
My family found value in each of the 7 challenges, and the experts were interesting and inviting. Day 2, especially, struck a chord with us: Michael and Gail Hyatt sharing their thoughts on the importance of communication, with some specific suggestions about how to make the most of family meal time.
The reason this resonated so strongly with us is that being intentional about our meal time is indeed one of the best things we have ever done with our family. Years ago, after reading Nancy Campbell’s The Family Meal Table and Hospitality, we felt strongly convicted to use that precious time with purpose, and have been blessed by this practice ever since.
Looking back, our family dinner table has been—and still is—one of the most important things for our family. My husband has remarked to me before that one of the single biggest things that has benefitted our family over the years is the family meal table.
And it is.
We have a particular rule: no negative conversations at the table. Debates and/or discussions, yes, but no negativity.
Every member of our household knows that the evening meal time is a high priority—mostly not negotiable—unless you have a very special reason. And it must be very special to be more special than our family meal together! Everything else is worked around it.
Of course, there are those rare, mixed-up days or nights where it simply doesn’t work out, but generally, each night, we get to face each other around the table and hear one another. Our kids are 21 years down to 3 years, so it has been priceless over the years to bring everyone together in such a positive, valuable way.
Without actually giving it a name, as the Hyatts did, we also have the “one-conversation” rule.
We ask every member of the table, including any visitors, what they were thankful for that day. It gives the quieter ones a chance to be heard, and everyone must stop talking and listen, right down to the little ones.
Our little ones sometimes go through a stage of just saying, “Everything,” or, “My dinner” —stock standard answer every night, but that is ok. We smile, and they gradually learn what it means to participate.
To be able to look each other in the eyes, to really notice your children and have them feel heard and important is a big thing.
We also bring other ideas to the table from time to time to keep it interesting. It makes the conversations deliberate and conscious. Some of these have included:
- Everyone taking turns saying what they like about the person on their left (or right)
- Share one thing we’d love to do if we could
- Recall our favorite holiday memories
- Everyone writes just one word on a piece of paper, and all of the words are put in a hat. Each person takes out a word, and has to stand-up and talk about that topic, non-stop, entirely impromptu, for 1 minute, avoiding the word “um.” It causes lots of laughs, and it’s amazing what the kids come up with!
The family meal table has also been a huge source of fellowship and blessing with all the guests we have shared our table with over time. We’ve formed so, so many fond memories.
It is not easy to discipline yourself to intentionally direct family meal time, but once it is a habit and you no longer think about it as an option, you really look forward to the warmth and fellowship.
Even if all you’re eating is toast and baked beans, meal time can be incredibly meaningful by having it together at the family table!