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6 Ways to Cultivate a Happier Family Around the Dinner Table

“There is more happiness in the godly dinner of herbs than in the stalled ox of profane rioters.” Charles Spurgeon

Social science and common sense agree on one thing: The family that eats together stays together. But how? Here are some helpful tips I’ve picked up along the way.

1. Maximize the number. Yes, we have conflicting schedules, shift work, overtime, etc. Yes, there are college assignments to be done, email to be answered, books to be read, chores to be completed. But just because you can’t get everybody together all of the time doesn’t mean we can’t get some together some of the time.

2. Maximize involvement. Don’t let the loudest or oldest voice dominate. Work to ensure that everybody gets a shot at telling about their day, their joys and trials, successes and failures.

3. Maximize listening. Encourage careful, appreciative and interactive listening. Ban cellphones and sarcasm. No rising from the table while someone is speaking.

4. Maximize positives. It can be tempting for some people and for some families to just dwell on the negatives at work, at college or even in the national situation. Sometimes it can be helpful to ask each person to list three positives from their day until that becomes more of a natural instinct. Humor and laughter are also tasty side-dishes.

5. Maximize food. If teenagers know that they’re going to miss out on some really great food, and even better deserts, they’ll be much more likely to organize their schedule around your mealtimes. They can get microwave dinners anywhere. It’s worth putting extra money and effort into enticing them to the family table. Yes, godly herbs are better than ungodly steak. But godly steak is best of all.

6. Maximize worship. Start the meal with prayer, turn the conversation toward God at opportune moments, and close the meal with prayer and a short Bible reading.

“Better is a dinner of herbs where love is,
than a fatted calf with hatred.”
(Proverbs 15:17) 

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Dr. David Murray is Professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Seminary. He is also Pastor of Grand Rapids Free Reformed Church. David is the author of Christians get depressed too, How Sermons Work, and Jesus on Every Page. You can read his blog at HeadHeartHand.org/blog or follow him on Twitter @davidpmurray. David is married to Shona and they have five children ranging from 4 months to 17 years old, and they love camping, fishing, boating, and skiing in the Lake Michigan area.