Talk around the dinner table? It’s in the cards!

June 22, 2009

Bobz Book Reviews

“The Meal Box,”
by Bret Nicholaus and Tom McGrath

So you want to have more meaningful conversations around the dinner table, something to counter the gobble-up-and-scatter tendency in too many of our homes?

You need “The Meal Box.”

You love your faith and you want your children to love it and to grow up with the values you cherish, but you could use some tips on ways to do that without seeming like you’re always preaching?

“The Meal Box” is there for you.

A product of Loyola Press, “The Meal Box” is being plugged as “fun questions and family faith tips to get mealtime conversations cookin’.” It’s all that and more.

Young and old can join in

Packaged like a deck of playing cards, it’s a plastic box with 54 cards, each containing a question that will get just about any age-group talking at suppertime.

Here are a few examples:
  • When it comes to things that make you really happy, what five things would you rank at the very top?
  • Suppose you were told that you could have one wish come true — but the wish you make would have to be for someone else, not for yourself. What would you wish for, and for whom would you wish it?
  • If you could have 100 of anything right now, what would you choose?

“Food for Family Thought” — the parenting/faith formation aids — comes on the flip side of each card. For the three examples above, the alternate side of the cards suggest:

  • When asked what it would take to get to heaven, Jesus said, “Feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, and clothe the naked.” That’s what parents do each day. It’s a paradox that our greatest happiness comes when we freely give of ourselves. Think about that the next time you’re fixing supper or folding laundry.
  • Empathy is a fundamental building block for all moral growth. Make it a family value to frequently consider how your behavior and choices affect others. When your child talks about other children’s experiences, gently ask, “And how do you think he/she felt about that?” This will nurture your child’s capacity for compassion.
  • One task of parents is to help their children develop the skills of discernment — that is, to make wise choices. This is better taught through example and be establishing limits than by coercion and criticism.

The opposite of ‘bowling alone’

“The Meal Box” questions are such a painless way for parents to connect with their children, to enrich family-time, and to counteract the tendency for family members to do their own thing and go off into their own little worlds.

The younger ones may even forget about whose turn it is to play Wii. Teens may pull the iPod earphones out for a few minutes to chime in with their thoughts.

And, if you’re empty nesters like my wife and I, you may find “The Meal Box” questions adding an engaging new feature into your day. Think about talking over dinner about “What is one seemingly impossible goal that you would like to see the world achieve during your lifetime?”

You may even skip watching “Wheel of Fortune” some nights to ponder questions like that! – bz

For purchase information, go to http://www.loyolapress.com.

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About Bob Zyskowski

Bob is the Client Products Manager for the Communications Office of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. A 42-year veteran of the Catholic Press, he is the former Associate Publisher of The Catholic Spirit. You can follow him on twitter or email him at zyskowskir@archspm.org.

View all posts by Bob Zyskowski