The Family Meal

I recently taught a mom and dad a simple but powerful tool: eating using the family meal style. It was wonderful to hear that after two weeks, they had made eating family meal style a regular experience in their household. Before I go into a more detailed description, there were two comments that came from these parents that delighted my heart:

  1. The 6 year old’s prayer at dinner “Thank you God that we now say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ at the dinner table.”
  2. The father shared, that he noticed their 14 year old stayed longer at the table and talked with everyone. He said, “That alone, is worth doing more dishes.”

Here’s another friend’s experience with family style eating.

What is family meal style?

It is when you sit at a table and pass the food, allowing each person to CHOOSE the quantity of each item instead of plating the food. Does it create move dishes? Yes. Does it increase the sense of control and help kids eat more of better foods? YES! Just picture it, being handed a plate of food that you did not ask for or have any control as to what was on it – as opposed to having control. The outcome is a better experience for both parents and children.
So here are the benefits of family meal style:
  • Shared control. Kids naturally feel more in control when they get to choose. This goes for food as well.
  • Modeling. When we say “Please pass…” and “Thank you” kids learn that skill!
  • Deeper emotional connection. Eye contact is exchanged when you pass the food.
  • Mom gets to eat with the family. I have heard so many times how the mother is serving from the stove the entire meal. One mom told me she could not remember that last time she ate her food hot. Yikes, not only is hot food great, so is sending the message that MOM IS NOT THE SERVANT.

The Family Dinner Challenge

My challenge to you for this Holiday season and New Year: Try family meal style for two weeks and see what happens.  It is simple and very powerful!
PS: I understand how it happens; when your child is young you can’t place a plate in front of them. But post 2 years of age, they should be able to not throw their plate on the floor. If they do, just remove the food with a lot of empathy and sadness. They will learn, experience with calmness always teaches.

Kids are Empowered when they Give

I work at a great children, family and community support agency in my small town. It is a privilege to be a part of an organization that helps so many in my community. Recently, I received an email from our community support manager asking if any of my clients in need would be interested in having their child participate in a shopping spree sponsored by a real estate company.

The criteria for the shopping spree was simple, one child per family, between 6 and 12 years of age, and available on Saturday. Each child was given $175.00 for their child to shop for their family, then paired with an agent to be their shopping buddy. Also, another agent would be shopping for the child, so they too would have special gifts under the tree. All of the gifts would be wrapped and given to the child to bring home.

Needless to say, I was all in. I was able to connect 8 of my current and past clients with this great event. So fun! When I thanked our community manager for giving this opportunity to me, she shared that she wished more people were as excited about the opportunity as I was. Apparently some complained about parents not being able to shop with their children with this money, but the fact is – our children need to give, not just receive.

Parenting Challenge

Think of how you can involve your children in the gift giving. Just be sure they are involved in the whole process. As a result, your children will grow in their character; self-esteem, and have less of an attitude of entitlement. Here are some ideas:

  1. Put a list of jobs to earn money on the refrigerator, see what happens.
  2. Participate in a community gift activity. They are out there. Each item is usually less than a dollar.
  3. Set time aside to go shopping with your child. If you have more than one child, it is difficult. But remember you are teaching a great life skill, thinking of others. Be sure the child does more work than you in this activity. It is THEIR gift they are giving. The child needs to earn the money, budget, choose the gifts, wrap them and last but not least, watch their loved one open it.
  4. Teach your child how to make a craft item. Be sure it is age appropriate. Remember it is THEIR gift. I have a friend who has grandchildren. At the age of 5 she helps them make gifts for their family. This year, her 9 year old granddaughter sewed pillowcases for her whole family. She was so proud of her work and so excited to give.

Please share your ideas to help kids contribute.

Here is a good resource from Love and Logic® that outlines how to build character in your kids:

Great Parents Resist Stubbornness

Have you ever experience a lack of motivation to adjust your parenting strategy? Have you ever just been fed up? Is there any hope/point to working on this relationship with my child/step-child?

Legitimate Parenting Concerns

Overcome them. It’s worth it.

Parenting Story #1

In the book “Cure for the Common Life” Max Lucado shares a story of Ulrich Zwingli. Zwingli promoted unity during Europe’s great Reformation. At one point he found himself at odds with Martin Luther. He was struggling to know how to handle the conflict and more so, know how to resolve his internal desire to push away from Luther. He found his answer one day while hiking on a Swiss mountain. He watched two goats traversing a narrow path from opposite directions, one ascending, and the other descending. At one point the narrow trail prevented them from passing each other. When they saw each other they backed up and lowered their heads, ready to lunge. But a wonderful thing happened. The ascending goat lay down on the path. The other stepped over his back. The first animal then arose and continued his climb to the top. Zwingli observed that the goat made it higher because he was willing to bend lower.

Parenting Story #2

I recently was talking with a parent about some homework I had given. It was to go for ice cream two times over their vacation with her stepson. Ice cream is sort of a bonding agent.  Great, right! She admitted that she simply did not want to do the bonding homework. She just didn’t FEEL like connecting to her stepson, there were too many hard feelings. But because she KNEW it was the best thing, she tried. She set her feelings of discontent aside and did the homework.

It was not easy. Her teenage stepson did everything possible to not connect with her over their vacation. But as she kept inviting him to go for ice cream, by the end of the week, they had connected two times. She was amazed at they difference the first connection made, mainly that the next time she asked, he accepted. Was their relationship healed? Not yet, but it is going the right direction.

So What?

Great parents at times lower themselves so that their family will ascend higher.

Here are some good resources for great parenting from from Love and Logic®: