Now that my 5 year old has started kindergarten, family dinners have become more important to me than ever. Where I was once privy to just about every nanosecond of his day, I now find myself coming to the dinner table eager to hear about his day. And I know that as he gets older, those little tid bits may become harder to pry out of him.
We still eat dinner together as a family almost every night. As a stay at home mother with young kids, this is not much of a feat to brag about as I know most families have far busier schedules than I do, but I do consider these family meals important and I’ve been thinking recently about ways I can make those dinners even better – better food, better conversation, better experiences each night as the kids get older.
So when I was offered a copy of The Hour That Matters Most: The Surprising Power of the Family Meal by Les & Leslie Parrott, Stephanie Allen & Tina Kuna, I jumped at the chance to check it out. Here’s a description of the book from Amazon.com:
The facts are on the table. Dinnertime is truly the most important hour in a day that a family can spend together. Focusing on the family meal, this book will help strengthen families by showing them how to reclaim this important time in order to build relationships, draw closer to one another, and restore a sense of peace in their homes. Millions of parents in America can picture the kind of home life they want but don’t know how to make it a reality. The Hour That Matters Most will help readers strengthen and transform their own families—specifically around the dinner table.
I have to say, I got even more out of this book than I was expecting to. Walking in, I had that swagger of “we already eat meals as a family almost every night. Why doesn’t everyone?”
But reading this book not only opened my eyes to some of the realities of why a lot of families don’t get to the table together, it also confirmed a growing suspicion I’d been having that just because we all sit at a table together doesn’t mean my job is done. It doesn’t mean we’re having meaningful conversations and creating the kind of warm, inviting family atmosphere that I envision for us. We all have more to learn as parents, always. And this book taught me a few lessons worth sharing.
Things I learned or took away from this book:
- The real goal here is not about food, it’s about making our home a safe haven – a place of comfort, compassion and empathy for all who enter it, where you can speak honestly and find people who care, always.
- Don’t just listen to your children, hear them. This might seem obvious, but sometimes we get busy and realize we aren’t listening like we mean it.
- Get your kids involved – have them set the table if they are old enough or help out with what they can.
- Their section on the difference between being the “tapper or the listener” I found really interesting. I won’t go into details here, you’ll just need to read the book to find out more about this one!
- Need a conversation starter? Try asking your kids something that made them mad, sad or glad that day. I tried this with my son, first by making sure he understood the terms. We went through each one, explaining that mad meant angry or upset ; glad meant happy, etc. He really liked this and wanted to know all the things that made Dan and I mad, sad or glad, too.
- Give your kids your confidence – this is a hard one for me. If your child tells you something in confidence, don’t tell other people about it necessarily, especially in front of them – they might be embarrassed and not want to talk to you about things like that next time.
I really enjoyed this book and found myself taking notes and sharing passages with my husband, trying their tips and bookmarking the recipes included in the book. I recommend this to any parents trying to get their family to eat dinner together – or trying to improve upon the dinners you are already having. It’s a short, easy read and one I got a lot out of.
Does your family eat dinner together regularly?