If there was one word I would use to describe raising boys it would be, “Loud.” Boys are loud when they play, when they fight, when they love, when they talk, when they sing, and even when they rest. As a mom of five boys I’ve accepted that the noise comes with the territory.
But I also want my boys to value peace. When it comes to peace kids don’t know what they’re missing. It might seem like they’re having a blast screaming their heads off from morning ‘till bedtime, but it’s exhausting for them. It’s stressful – not just for us, but for them, too. They need a chance to process the world around them. We are responsible for providing them with a peaceful environment, and that requires training them when and how to be quiet.
A quiet area we have been focusing on is the dinner table. For a long time dinner was such a noisy affair that my husband and I dreaded it. We couldn’t wait for it to be over so we could catch our breath and rest. But then we decided dinnertime is the time to catch our breath and rest. As a family. We knew it would take some work, but we decided it was worth the investment.
The main reason we strive for a quiet dinner table is because peace glorifies God. 1 Corinthians 14:33 says, “For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.” This is our chance to show our kids what God is like and how we can be like Him.
It also teaches thoughtfulness – not just thoughtfulness from our kids to us, but from us to our kids, too. It shows them we care about what they have to say. We care so much that we won’t talk over them and we won’t let other’s talk over them, either.
A quiet table also teaches self-control. But is it really worth it? It might be easy to think, “Noise is no big deal. I have to choose my battles.” But self-control over the big things starts with self-control over the little things. It’s possible for kids to learn peace and quiet at the table. Sometimes it’s us as parents that need the self-discipline to make it happen.
Our boys are 7, 6, 5, 3, and 1. A quiet table didn’t happen overnight. In fact, it’s still a work in progress – progress being the key word. If you expect to have a quiet table instantly you will get discouraged. This is a process. We started by talking to our kids about all the reasons mentioned above. We also tell them that while they need to respect and obey Mom and Dad, this is for them, too. This is not a parental power trip. We love them and want them to get as much enjoyment out of this family time as possible.
This process takes an extreme amount of grace. Noise is not always disobedience. Quite often it is childishness. Childishness isn’t a sin. In fact, the Bible speaks of children with tenderness and love: “Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.’” (Matthew 19:14)
That’s why we are slow and careful about laying down blanket rules. We rarely say, “No talking,” because then we have to treat every slip-up as disobedience. Instead we say, “Remember what we talked about, boys? Let’s be very quiet so we can hear each other one at a time.” If they insist on talking we say, “You may be excused. Sit in the other room until you are ready to be quiet.” They don’t like being separated from the family. When they come back we say, “We’re so glad you’re back! We missed you.” Our kids learn that participating in family events is a privilege. We try to keep our training clear and consistent without being burdensome to the kids.
There are some nights when just Mommy and Daddy need a chance to talk. That’s when we say, “Only Mommy and Daddy may talk right now. If you have something to say, save it up and tell us after dinner.” Since we’ve been working on a quiet table for a couple years now, the kids have no problem with this. They don’t feel snubbed or belittled. They silently swing their legs, eat their food, and smile at us. We smile back. We are a team.
We’ve had some precious times around the table. We learn what our sweet introvert is thinking. We hear what the 7yr-old learned from Sunday’s sermon. We teach our kids how to pass food, say please and thank you, and how to make their own knock-knock jokes. But we couldn’t do any of that without a quiet table. A quiet table has led to quiet hearts. And that is something worth pursuing.
“The Gospel-Centered Mom is the single best parenting book I’ve read since becoming a mom.” – Amy T.
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