Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Mother's Priorities - Table Manners and Meals

My biggest priority as a wife and mother is a happy household. That breaks down into a lot of little things. So in this post I'm going to focus on table manners and meals because meals make up such a large portion of each day. (At least they should. If you aren't making mealtime a family event you are missing a great blessing as well as teaching opportunities.) Many of life's battles can be fought and won at the family meal table. 

Food and nourishment 

Food is all tied up together with security, acceptance, provision and unconditional love to a child. So mealtime should be used as a wonderful opportunity to commune and love on your family.

To begin with, meals should be a pleasant experience and God has given wives and mothers the job of encouraging pleasantness at the table. Smiling is easy. You don't smile because everything went well that day or because life is a bowl of cherries. You smile because God is on the throne and has given you another day to live. 

Harried and stressful meals are no fun and actually disturb digestion. Kids learn to be thankful eaters or picky eaters in the highchair, so teach them right from the start to be thankful for whatever food is put in front of them.  Be an enthusiastic, but firm, promoter of whatever food they are about to eat. I would ask my children to take at least one or two bites of a food they didn't like. There was no anger, threats or frowning. They would take the bites because they knew that I had nothing but their good in mind.  Kindness is a great motivator.

The hardest job kids face today is learning good manners without ever seeing any.  

When our children were little, they never had problem behaviors when we dined out because we practiced good table manners at home.  Every snack and meal was an opportunity to reinforce good habits.  Meal time is a wonderful time to show your children many things:

  • cleanliness before and after a meal
  • how to carry on a pleasant conversation (and turning answers back into questions) 
  • chewing with your mouth closed 
  • placing their napkin in their lap
  • speaking in turn
  • putting others first
  • saying please, thank-you, excuse me and "my pleasure"

Coming from very little ones, these phrases sound absolutely adorable. But you will be amazed at how honored you will feel 
when it comes from your older children. And it will bring great honor to your husband, too, so teach them while they're young! Every day is an opportunity. 

A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband: but she that maketh ashamed is as rottenness in his bones. Proverbs 12:4

Speaking When Spoken To

In modern families, children have taken an "all-important" place of prominence in the home - their desires, their wishes, their schedules, their demands, their moods, their troubles, their thoughts - and it's tearing families apart. Children are definitely precious to us. They're our reward and blessing from the Lord. But parents have mistakenly given them the idea that they are #1.  

Many parents often give children precedence in conversations as though they have some kind of wisdom to share. But the truth is, children don't have much, if any, wisdom to share. They must learn wisdom. And they must learn restraint.  God's judgment on Eli concerning his two sons is very sobering.

1 Samuel 3:13  - For I have told him that I will judge his house for ever for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not.

Eli knew about his sons iniquity and he spoke to them about it. But God judged him because he did not do anything about it. 

Dear reader, it is not enough to say things like, "I don't like it when you do that."  It's not enough to say, "That makes me sad when you act like that."  When your child does something wrong, he needs swift retribution. You need to be ready to calmly walk over to them, lovingly give them some biblical chastisement and correct their behavior. 

Whatever they was attempting to gain through the wrong behavior, give them the opposite.  For example if they whine, beg, cry or  demand something, a quick switch on the rear might be necessary. Never let it make YOU whine or even ruffle your feathers. (In some families, whatever gets a rise out of mommy can be entertaining.)  Just calmly tell the child he cannot have anything that he whines for.  He will catch on quickly and learn right behavior. 

Do your kids dominate the conversation at meal time?  Or maybe they just dominate the day?  Begin at the table. Practice times when they are to be quiet at the table and only speak when they are spoken to. When they are quiet, they will get to hear dad and mom more. What a wonderful opportunity for them to hear more of their dad's wisdom. 

In bygone times, meals were a pleasant time where children enjoyed listening to their mother and father conversing.  This protocol is just as needful today.  Kids need to see that their mom and dad are a romantic, happy couple.  (Your husband needs it even more than they.) 

Kids need to hear their father talk about HIS day. They need to see their mother's eyes shine with admiration at their dad's accomplishments.  What better view for this than close up and seated at a table together?

If your kids take over the conversation at the table, and speak whenever they feel like it, you need to start teaching them these skills.  If this is something new, then start slowly and make a game of it at breakfast and lunch when your husband's at work. Make it fun. 

You will be amazed as meals become a joy and a pleasure to your hard working man and not a loud, annoying strain filled with constant messes, interruptions, spills, chaos and chatter. And you and your husband will enjoy carrying on a serene conversation at dinner time.  Don't forget to teach the children that after meal time is also clean up time. They should NEVER be allowed to leave and go play. Give them jobs. Clearing the table, rinsing the dishes, loading the dishes, wiping the table/counters, putting food away, etc.

It is YOUR home. You are making it what you want it to be. Do you like what you see? Pray for strength and wisdom to carry out a plan to bring honor to your husband and teach (example) wisdom to your children. 

Simple, understated acknowledgements of a child's growing capabilities is all that's necessary. 

Contrary to modern psychology, giving kids constant praise is not a good thing. Praise is different than encouragement. Overused phrases like, "Good job, buddy!" doesn't do much to encourage.  Besides, the term "buddy" is overused. The only households I've seen this term used are ones with problem children. 

Instead, try saying things like:

"You carried the dishes to the sink so carefully."
"You are a good helper to mommy in the kitchen, Jane. I like having you around."
"Look how Joey didn't spill any crumbs from the dust pan! He is a good helper".
"Your smile makes me so happy. We are a good team when we're working beside each other."

Be honest in your encouragement. If your praise is over-enthusiastic it will feel non-genuine to the child. Not only that, but over-enthusiasm is exhausting on the emotions.  It's wearisome to constantly be a cheerleader. I would rather a calm smile and hear genuine compliment than empty, repetitive praise. Seek balance in being relaxed yet merry. 

It's important to note that kids should help with whatever aspect of mealtime that you require. As soon as they can walk, they can clean up their place, sweep up their crumbs, clear the table and help with washing dishes. 

Whatever you want your home to be later on, starts right now.  If you want happy, obedient children, sow those seeds right now. Stay sweet and remember, you are laying the foundation that will reap immense results when they are older - for the good or the bad. 

Here is some "food for thought" on the benefits of teaching our children to listen more:

James 1:19 - Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:

Proverbs 18:13 - He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.

Proverbs 25:12 - As an earring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold, so is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear.

Proverbs 19:27 - Cease, my son, to hear the instruction that causeth to err from the words of knowledge.

1 Thessalonians 2:13 - For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.

Proverbs 22:6 - Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

Remember, your home is what you make it!


Roxanne said...

I just found your blog. I loved the mid-century pictures and background and then I came across this post and immediately signed up to "follow"!

I have one child who is 11 and we're struggling with many things you mentioned in this post. Looking forward to applying these things and reading more wisdom from you to make some changes around here!


Simply Keeping Home said...

Hello and welcome Roxanne! I'm so glad you found me and enjoyed this post. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment and may God bless your efforts with your daughter!

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