Lifelong Lessons from the Supper Table
Ten Things Your Children Will Always Remember!
My wife and I raised a large family. Our home is much quieter now as Karen and I are empty-nesters. I think back to our family gathering around a big dining room table with lots of food, laughter, and wiggling youngsters being helped by older children. More than once I prayed with one eye open and watched to make sure that all hands stayed folded and out of the food! Those were great times.
It seems that the supper table is being neglected by more and more families today. Parents that work longer hours and children that are involved in sports, gymnastics, and a dozen other extra-curricular activities are robbing the family of a great opportunity. The most important thing is not the food. (I know that healthy, balanced, nutritious meals that taste good are extremely important. Karen always served these! But that’s not what I am speaking about in this article.) The importance of the supper table is seen in what the family does in the time spent together. The lifelong lessons that are developed at the supper table, according to the New York Daily Times Health, May 2005, actually contribute to teenagers being less likely to smoke, drink alcohol, and abuse drugs. We believers knew this all along; however, it is interesting to see secular authorities discovering the same truth.
The supper table is a great place for families to slow down, meet together, speak and listen, learn and laugh, and start traditions that they will carry out with their families many years later. Here are ten wonderful lifelong lessons that are learned at the supper table.
1. Appreciation. The supper table is a great place for entire families to develop an attitude of gratitude–thanks to Mom and Dad who work to provide the food, as well as thankfulness to the Lord God Who provides for us.
2. Association. Here a sense of ‘family’ grows. The table is where families play games together, work on school projects together, and gather to eat together. Why is this? It’s because they are a family. They are an association of people that are related to each other in a special way that can only be shared within a ‘family.’ A sense of family is developed at the table.
3. Attention. Sin begins with selfishness. Lucifer had selfish intentions and still does. Adam and Eve had selfish intentions when they ate the fruit. Cain had selfish intentions when he deliberately brought the wrong type of sacrifice. From generation to generation, parents experience the result of sin being passed to their children. Some of the earliest words from our little darlings are “MINE!” and “I WANT!” Learning to share can be difficult. The supper table is a great place to begin learning to turn the attention away from self and to the needs of others. Here children learn not to let the food stop at their place. Here they learn to look outwardly to see if someone needs something else. Here they learn to graciously share (that’s a lifelong lesson in itself!)
4. Affection. Every once in a while it is important for Dad to call a halt to all conversation and eating. Once everyone is listening, a very brief reminder from Dad stating, “I just want each of you to know how much I love you. Ok, now back to eating,” communicates affection. Teens may roll their eyes at the time, but in their hearts, they will never forget this. Younger children are very quick to tell of their love. I often remember seeing our youngest daughter whispering, “I love you,” to her older sisters and brothers. I saw the smiles and knew what they were whispering back to her.
5. Affirmation. The supper table provides a wonderful place to affirm each other. Affirmation is a confident statement declaring something to be true. Family members affirm each other by expressing how much the others mean to them personally because of who they are as well as what they do. Affirmation begins with the parents expressing this to each other as well as to the children. The supper table is a great place to practice the art of affirming each other.
6. Aggravation. Most supper tables where children are seated in close proximity are a place where annoyances and aggravations must be worked out. Here children learn to share. They learn how to overcome annoying actions. They practice, “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).
7. Addition. Healthy families find time to spend together and enjoy eating a meal around the table, but few invite other families or friends to come and enjoy a meal with them. It is so important for families to be hospitable. It is a wonderful blessing to children to invite the pastor, the family’s deacon, or other families from church to share a meal around the supper table. Amazing lessons are learned by children in such settings.
8. Admonition. Children learn by reminders, warnings, and instruction. Only the most serious issues should result in discipline in which the parent and child would leave the table and meet privately. Family gatherings for meals should be happy times. They should be a time of enjoyment. Admonition comes through setting an example, making it a positive and enjoyable place. Here family members listen to each other. They laugh at each other’s jokes and humorous stories. Parents do a lot of teaching and instructing through thirty-second sentences, not by long, harsh lectures.
9. Application. Around the supper table families put into practice the things they must do out in public. Children remember to chew with their mouths shut. They learn to share. They learn not to grab. They learn not to reach across the table, spilling two or more waters. They learn manners. All of this is learned in a light, laughing, and happy setting.
10. Adoration. The supper table is a fun place. It is a great place for family. It is also a great place to remember the Lord God. His presence is celebrated even around the supper table. Families learn to love God more and more as He becomes a very real part of the family. Families listen to JOY Club verses. They talk about what those verses mean. They remember how good God is to them. They make Him a part of the conversation.
These are not a legalistic list of things to hold over your family. They are the signs of a healthy family atmosphere around the supper table. In Deuteronomy 6:7 Moses strongly charged fathers by saying, “And thou shalt teach them (statutes) diligently unto your children.” He explains that some of the places these wonderful principles should be taught are when children are sitting in the house, walking by the way, lying down, and getting up! The supper table certainly fits that description. It provides a tremendous opportunity to put these principles into practice. Make the most of your meal together!