Meal time with young children around the table is often less than peaceful to most families. Whining, whinging, misbehaving, and tiredness (especially at dinner time) of the children do not seem to answer the expectations of exhausted parents. This could be worse when there is more than one child under five years old.
However, the family gathering around a meal is probably the best opportunity for building a close family and ultimately nurturing our offspring in the ways of God. We have three children aged six, two, and one. I'd like to share how we cope with this challenging time and turn it to a blessed family time.
1. Grateful attitude toward God’s blessing of children
‘’ Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, The fruit of the womb is a reward” (Psalm 127:3)
Children are a blessing from God and God loves them. When we have the right understanding of this, are wiser in the way we treat them. Preparing our heart by saying a prayer to God as we approach dinner table could be useful at this time. Then, we will realise the more that prayer is indeed the breath of God’s people’s lives.
2. Focus more on God’s patience to us so we can be patient with our family
"The Lord is merciful and gracious; slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. He will not always strive with us, nor will He keep His anger forever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities" (Psalm 103:8-10)
The holy God shows His patience to us while we are still sinful. Our weak little ones need our love and big hearts to help them grow in the right ways. It is not easy to tolerate tantrums around the dinner table. But when we realise that we also live by the grace of God, we become more patient dealing with our children's misbehaviour.
3. Be living testimonies of the fruit of the spirits
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (Galatians 5:22-23a)
As humans, we are often impatient with others. Parents sometimes misuse the authority they have over their children and are not so patient with them. But if we want our children to consider the gospel and the way of life of God's people, we need to be the living testimony of it. Therefore parents have great need to pray to God to ask for wisdom and patience. God answers prayers and will enable us to be better parents in His strength.
4. Gospel-centred conversation around the table
"In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace" (Ephesians 1:7)
We all need forgiveness, we all need grace. Our interaction around the dinner table should show this. How would we react when one of our young ones spills a glass of water or their food? Is it more serious than our sins to God? We all make mistakes but God is gracious to us. These chances could be good opportunities to explain God's love to us. Though, we still need to remind them to be better, just like repentance following God's forgiveness. Unfortunately we often share the gospel to them in words but forget that living the gospel speaks more to them. Let us not to become hypocrite parents but grasp the spirit of the gospel in our parenting.
5. Instruct our children in a gentle voice
"A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger" (Proverbs 15:1)
Everybody likes a gentle voice. So do our children. When it comes to instructing them, a gentle tone is more effective and less annoying to others around the dinner table. Moreover, these young souls need parents who could give them care, instructions, and directions in loving ways. The younger ones might need more time, but we need to persevere because if we raise the children in the way of God, they won’t be far from it as they grow older.
6. Bible reading and family prayer to close up the meal time
"All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
The word of God is powerful. It is the food for our soul. Faith in Jesus will only come from the hearing of God's word. Let's ensure the physical care we give to our children does not take the important place of the spiritual food. As parents we love to see our offspring accept Jesus as their saviour and live for His glory. After reading God's word, we ensure that family meal time is wrapped up with prayer. We thank God for all His blessing for the day or pray for families and friends. Children could also say their prayers.
To end a hectic and chaotic day, what else do we want more than an enjoyable time with our loved ones, celebrating God’s blessings around the dining table?
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