Table Talk: Questions to Make It Work

Table talk in a family is the conversation that happens around a meal whether it’s breakfast or dinner, fancy or plain, fast food or gourmet. The food is important, but not as important as the relationships built and values explored.

The Day Mom Got New Glasses

 Jackson put down his fork. “But Mom, what about when you were a kid? Did you ever have someone pick on you?”

Diane laughed and looked around the table. “Let me tell you guys about when I got glasses. I was a third-grader and sat at the front of the class because we were in alphabetical order. Until the doctor fitted me in glasses, I didn’t know I couldn’t see like everyone else. That Monday morning after an entire weekend exploring my new world, I was pretty excited about seeing things I’d missed for nine years.

New glasses sometimes cause bullying

“Greg met me at the classroom door. ‘Whoa, Four-Eyes! Are you a new kid?’

“Other boys surrounded Greg and began to taunt me. ‘Four-Eyes, can you see me?’ ‘My dear, what big eyes you have.’

“The balloon of my excitement burst with their comments. I wanted to crawl into a hole somewhere.

“Mrs. Barton walked up to the crowd. ‘Stop that right now and go to your seats. Diane, come on in. I like your glasses. I bet you’ll love them.’

“I hung my head and trudged to my seat. So yes, Jackson, I was picked on.”

Jackson shook his head as he reached to pat his mom’s hand. “Poor Mom. How’d you get them to stop?”

The above snippet of conversation happened because Dad had asked the kids about bullying at their schools. After Mom shared her story, the family talked about the definition of bullying, how to handle it if it happened to them, and what to do if they saw someone else being bullied.

One of the most important benefits of family meals is the opportunity for conversation. Parents can find out about their children’s lives, pass on values, and hammer out problems their kids face. Sitting around a table with nothing to say won’t go far toward reaching those goals. Therefore, it’s important for parents to learn how to get their kids to talk.

General guidelines to make table talk fun and fruitful

Rules for Discussion: No discipline. Respect everyone’s opinion. Use courteous language. Give each the right to “pass” on a question.

Topics: Faith, School, Relationships, Politics, Science, Manners, Books, History, and the list goes on.

Starter Questions: Cannot be answered with “yes” or “no.” Has the possibility of two sides to the answer. Taps into impactful issues.

Empowering Approach: Begin comments with “So what would you do?” “I bet…” “How did you handle that?”

Helpful Idea: Begin by relating a story about a current issue that is relevant to what kids might face.

Table Talk Example Questions

I bet it’s hard to be in the Christian minority at school.

How would you advise a friend who had been falsely accused of cheating?

What would you do if you saw a student surrounded by kids making fun of her?

What would be a good way to approach a teacher who made a mistake on your grade?

How is being a kid today different from what you think it was like when we were kids?

Sometimes kids think their parents are clueless about what it’s like to be a teen. What could you tell us that would make us more “teen savvy”?

A Sure Way to Stop Table Talk

There are some questions that end, rather than start, table talk with kids. One that parents often use is “How was school today?” The answer about 100% of the time is, “Fine.” And that’s a definite conversation stopper.

Is It Working?

A good sign that kids are tuned into your family’s table talk is that they linger after they finish their meal. Don’t expect that to happen when you first begin. Before they start talking, kids need to learn they can trust you.

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