Bill O'Reilly of Fox's "The O'Reilly Factor" offered some sage advice today while appearing as a guest on the Rachel Ray Show. It wasn't anything new . . . well, at least not to most parents, but in our race-around world, it bears repeating.
When asked for his best advice on parenting, O'Reilly, a former high school teacher, lamented the amount of time our kids, (and the rest of us) spend on electronic devices today. He fears we are losing the art of face-to-face interaction. His remedy? Corral them at the dinner table, and then pose what may be the best question of their day. "Tell me . . . what was the most important thing that happened to you today." And really care.
It brought back sweet memories of four loud, little Lewises all rambling over one another in their haste to divulge the day's mystique. As they grew older and their schedules became increasingly hectic--off to Seminary at 5:45 a.m., ball practice until 6:00 p.m.--we struggled to get all our assorted faces at the table at the same time. It increased our appreciation of the Sabbath when we pushed everything else away, and made us double our efforts to set aside more family time for games, family movie nights and FHE.
The idea of corralling our loved ones for family dinner may, in and of itself, require some creative rethinking, but the benefits of this eroding tradition are critical and well documented. Now imagine coupling family meals with this simple but profoundly introspective question. Such an investment could skyrocket a child's sagging self-esteem and lead to better understanding and communication all around.
O'Reilly noted that we should be prepared for repercussions. Older children may retreat at first, and the idea of sharing on such a personal level may not come easily, but if we are consistent, and better yet, if we start early and establish this pattern, a wonderful new closeness will develop that can only serve to bless our families.
But it shouldn't stop there. Imagine how spouses would respond to such a heartfelt, sincere investment in them. "Tell me, honey . . . what was the most important thing that happened to you today?"
I'm cringing here as I think of how the sacred dinner routine has changed for us since the kids left home. Too often we eat at the counter--he sits, I stand--as we peruse the day's mail. Sometimes we actually meet at the table, but it's too infrequent. We can do better. We can see the dinner table as a family place no matter our number and age, and we can pose this sweet question to our loved one and wait with complete interest for their reply. We can do this!
Let's try it out and leave a comment. I will too!