Meredith, twelve years old, was chatting with her pal over snacks when Meredith’s mom overheard the girls using snarky voices to make fun of another girl in their social circle. The chatting gave way to gossip and the girls speculated, fabricated about the absent friend. The more Meredith’s mom thought about it, the more troubled she became about the conversation by two supposed “friends!” Still, the mom didn’t want to embarrass her daughter by calling out their behavior. Lucky for that mother that she had a secret key to approach her daughter: dinner!
A day or so later, at dinner, Mom asked the family what they valued most in a good friend. Answers varied: 14 year old brother said, “A good sense of humor.” Meredith replied, “She has to be fun.” Older sister said, “Has my back.” Dad offered, “Honesty.” Right off the bat, Mom had helped offer a not-too-pointed lesson on friendship. Turning hopefully to the older sister, Mom queried further, “What do you mean, ‘has my back’?
“Well,” said the older girl, “Girls sometimes act catty, gossipy…you know, mean to one another. I need to know that my friend will defend me, speak up on my behalf or at least, refuse to go along with bashing me!” She sighed.
Mom pushed a bit more, asking, “Have you noticed that if you’re in a group of girls who gossip about one person today, tomorrow it could be you they’re gossiping about?”
Meredith listened attentively as her older sister replied, “Well, I hadn’t exactly thought about it that way but yes, I’d say that would be likely. If they’d bad-mouth one friend, why not bad-mouth me?”
Then Dad offered, “You know, what I’ve learned over the years is that whatever you put into the world of friendship is likely to be what comes back around to you. If you’re kind, kindness. If you’re a jerk, that’s what comes back to you. It’s that old saying, ‘What goes ’round, comes ’round!’ I try to think of that before I act badly. How would I like it if this guy did this or said this about me?”
“Like the Golden Rule, right Dad?” asked Meredith’s brother.
“Yup, that’s it.” Dad agreed.
Gently but clearly, the family spoke of the values they believed. They each added the way they practiced those values. Mom could have followed up later with Meredith. But family conversations, one short dinner-sized installment at a time, allow kids to hear, learn, absorb, practice the values of their families.
Great family dinner topics might include
- How we treat a stranger, like welcoming the new kid at school
- What does “fair” mean and where do our lives fit on the continuum of fair
- How to think ahead before “doing good” to be sure it’ll feel good to the recipient
- How to be a gracious loser; how to treat others when you’re the winner
- How to choose a good gift
The list is endless. All we have to do is. . . . you guessed it, have dinner together.
And we listen and care for our kids’ growth in all their particularity.
Remember, dinner can be your key to great values conversations!