Making the most of teachable moments with your children
Something happened this week that I didn’t anticipate, which isn’t unusual in life, is it? While driving my daughter to a Saturday-morning art camp, we heard a news story on the radio about a young girl who was collecting teddy bears for police officers. They carry them in their cars to give comfort to children during tragic and emotional times.
The little girl’s story began innocently enough when she heard that her friend’s daddy had run out of stuffed animals. Normally, that would make me smirk because most guys I know are way past collecting stuffed rabbits and the like. Yet, this man was a police officer, and he knew, in tough circumstances, something like a toy could provide relief to a little one who might feel scared.
The story ended, the radio music started, and her questions began. “Mom, do you think it’s nice to give something you really love to someone else who really needs it?” I knew before she finished her question, this was going to be a teachable moment.
Teachable moments are those brief windows of time where an opportunity arises to talk about something—or do something—that isn’t what you originally intended, yet we can learn or educate someone else in the process. These little moments happen a lot with my kids. Sometimes I jump on them, and sometimes I let them sail right by. It’s all about timing, figuring out what their thoughts are on the subject and answering them in a way that continues conversation. Sometimes these moments happen organically, and other times, you can initiate some activities to facilitate great learning conversations with your kids, such as:
- Reading books together.
- Talking about when you were younger.
- Having age-appropriate conversations about happenings in the world.
- Taking a learning trip to a farm, zoo, museum, park, festival and so on.
- Looking at photos, maps and memorabilia.
- Cooking, gardening and even grocery shopping can unearth discussions on measurement, nutrition and why budgets are important to plan and follow.
Just as my children have learned from me during teachable moments, I also have learned a great deal from them—and about them—when it comes to grace, compassion and how their childlike thoughts and emotions touch my heart.
I’d like to tell you that, after discussing why community service, first responders and charity are important (yes, we covered them all from one little news story), my daughter parted with the plethora of stuffed animals taking over her room. But, that didn’t happen. Instead, after camp, she asked if we could run to the store to buy popsicles. She wanted to deliver them to the firehouse near our neighborhood and thank them for all they do. When I asked why popsicles, she simply stated, “They work in the fire and heat all day, Mom, so something hot to eat would be inappropriate.”
Now, why didn’t I think of that!?
Chief Family Officer
Why family meals are important
When your father is a farmer, and works sunup to sundown, you might think finding stolen moments with him would be a problem, right?
My dad knew when it was time to wear the business hat and when it was time to trade it in for the dear old dad hat. No time was more precious to him than dinner with his family—saying grace, passing the green beans and asking about our day. Flexibility was key. Some days, mom rang the dinner bell (literally, we had an old schoolhouse bell she salvaged and mounted near the back porch) at 4:30 p.m, and other days it sounded at dusk. Yet, we gathered together, broke bread, and it was good. It was a priority.
In the craziness of life, between sports, piano lessons and carpools, company meetings and PTA events, it would be easy for me to hand my kids a chef’s hat and spatula and wish them luck nuking a frozen dinner. Don’t get me wrong—some days are like that, and during the crazy swells in life, we just keep on swimming
You see, it’s not really about eating amazing, four-course meals, seven days a week—because, believe you me, that isn’t happening under my roof. It’s about spending time together. Setting aside dedicated minutes to listen, to laugh and be in each other’s presence. We all go different directions once the alarm clock sounds in the morning. Dinner is our one opportunity, as often as possible, to enrich our relationships with one another.
When I chat with my girlfriends about family time, it seems we’re all in the same boat. We want more time on the clock, fewer commitments and a few minutes to be alone and regroup, recharge. We all lead busy lives, don’t we? What to do?
The common thread we saw was our families were starving for time together as a whole. We divide and conquer to make it to our kids’ sporting events, school functions and playdates, and when you add in careers and other commitments, it can feel like a no-win situation. So, what can we do to combat the hamster wheel of busyness and make family time at the table happen more often? Here are a few suggestions:
- Prepare large batches of favorite meals, like an extra ham and cheesy potato casserole to freeze, or plan meals from leftovers.
- Big brunch weekends!
- Turn off the TV, hide the electronics, and interact at the table.
- Plan meals and shop ahead, so meal guesswork is at a minimum.
- Love Taco Tuesday? Pizza Friday? Bacon every day? Make one meal that everyone loves—a staple—each week.
- Get your kids in the kitchen! Have them help set the table, season the stew, and for your older children, let them be hands-on—slice and dice with supervision.
- Pick up premade side dishes from your grocer to pair with mouthwatering ribs simmering in the crockpot.
If you’re looking for some good conversation starters with your kids during dinner, try these:
- Have I ever told you about my best friend when I was your age?
- Want to hear about my favorite vacation when I was little?
- If you could have a day filled with wishes that would come true, what would they be?
- What do you think life was like when Mom/Dad/Grandma was little?
- If you were given a hundred dollars to donate to a charity, which one(s) would you give it to, and why?
Recharge as a family at the dinner table. A time to impart a little wisdom to your children, and learn from them as well. Some of my favorite moments come when my children dispense advice, love and listen to one another. That’s priceless to me.
Not every meal is perfect, not every meal is argument free, and not every meal has every member of our family present. That’s life. What we gain, however, when we gather is priceless. We learn to listen, to not interrupt, and why good manners matter. We learn to work through issues together, and we realize that some of life’s bigger questions are hard to answer.
Give family mealtime a try this week, and let me know how it goes!
Chief Family Officer