Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Beef & the Bread

If you’re looking for fun ways to get your kids to open up, check out this post. It ties right into a great lesson about communion.

What’s your beef?
I recently heard a friend describe an activity that another family used to get their kids talking about hard things. It was dubbed ‘What’s your beef’ night and specifically aimed at the parents.

On this night, everyone in the house picked what they wanted for dinner from any fast food place. If everyone wanted something different, that was okay! Once the meals were all collected, they came back and ate together. While eating the kids would tell the parents about anything in the home, that they ‘had a beef’ with. The parents could only listen. They were not allowed to defend, get mad, or explain. 

The goals of this activity are to help children practice hard conversations while they are young, but also to instill the habit of coming to their parents to talk.

Colin and I have an open door with our kids already, but one of our children, in particular, has a difficult time opening up. I’m always up for new ideas and loved the regularity and the habit behind this one. Especially the deliberateness of asking them and not waiting for them to come to us. 

–And any time the kids get to pick whatever they want, they enjoy it. So, it sounded like a fun thing to try.

I went back and forth about when to start this and how frequently. Quarterly seemed about right, but I am so forgetful; how on earth would I remember or keep it up? I thought about it for a while and then remembered a sermon that I once heard during a communion service.

Many churches do communion on the first Sunday of the month. The more I let those details swirl, the more they stirred my heart. So, the Saturday before that service is our night.

About that communion sermon
So how does this activity line up with communion? I’m totally paraphrasing here but in the sermon that I heard, the Pastor reminded the congregation that our anger is something that should be dealt with. Since we accept communion in remembrance of what Christ has done for each of us, we need to right our relationships with others before accepting it. 

While I can’t remember the exact verses referenced then, the ones below are what I used. They speak to the same tone.

“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First, go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”  Matthew 5:23-24

Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. 1 Cor. 11:28-29

In our relationships, sometimes it can be easier to say we’re sorry for something done wrong than to admit or confront someone else who has made us angry. Unity, love, and grace are at the heart of Christianity and how can we accept it for ourselves from God ‘in remembrance of me’ yet not extend that same grace and mercy to someone else when the time arrives.

Even if monthly seemed too much at first, the Saturday before communion has to be the perfect time to have this conversation! The more that we can implement this attitude in our home, the more that it will benefit our relationships, including those outside the home.

So, I announced to the kids a month in advance. Then reminded them a few times here and there. I expected some funny remarks about discipline but wanted to give them the extra time to think of other things that came up.

I also asked them to think of suggestions for anything that they didn’t like. With each reminder, the boys would giggle, and Sophie would ask me if I was sure that they could say anything.

The night we talked, I reminded them of what was expected of them. (Their frustrations and suggestions.) Also, that Colin and I would only listen. If they wanted us to address something, they'd need to ask us to do so. Then each child had their turn to speak.

The results
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had this perfect vision of how some family activity would go, only to have the kids destroy it (and I think secretly laugh in my face. Haha). So, I expected that it would take months for us to get a serious answer from them. To my surprise, if I had of envisioned it, this first go went as good as I possibly could have possibly hoped for. They gave some real answers and didn’t have as many as you might expect (from a child).

  • We went to three different places for dinner.
  • Sophie [age 8] asked me what the word was for not liking to be in small spaces [Claustrophobic]. Then she said that when she was upset about something, she didn’t like it when I tried to hug her to console her. She felt claustrophobic and closed in like she couldn’t breathe. She preferred me to hold her hand. It makes sense; she has never really liked being touched closely or for very long. Haha. And Gosh, that’s a personal space thing. Good for her!
  • Jackson [age 5] listed every form of discipline that he remembered receiving. This I did expect but wish I thought to ask him for his alternatives. I am sure that they would have been amusing.
  • He also asked me not to hit any more squirrels. Which I didn’t mean to do in the first place. Agreed!
  • Ethan [age 11] said that he would like us to give him a few minutes of time when he starts something before asking him to do something else. –What he means is that often I will ask him to do something, like take out the trash and it never fails, he [in another room] just started a show or a game. He’d like five minutes of what he was doing before he has to do whatever it is we’re asking. Sounds fair!
  • He also brought up yelling. While we have all come a long way on this one, it’s still an issue that we’re working on. It bothers all of us.
  • Then he asked if we could bring back a particular chore/consequence for cleaning up the room. (A friend did sweeps of the kid’s rooms and if laundry was found on the floor, it was confiscated, and the offender had to pay .25 to get a piece back.) We didn’t mean to get out of that habit, but summer threw us all off. We agreed to get back on track.
  • They also all like the most recent chore list better than all of our other previous attempts.
When they were finished, we talked about the verses seen earlier in this post. While the first verse mentions anger, we didn’t spend much time there. After all, the goal is to find out what upsets them. You don’t want to shut them down for being upset. Besides, anger happens to all of us. We did talk about how it’s just as important for us to restore unity when we’re the one who has been offended as it is to repent when something was brought to light. We told them that we were proud of them for speaking up!

Then Ethan read the Last Supper and we discussed it. (pick one: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John).

Then we prayed.

Now it’s your turn!
If you’re looking for new ways to talk to your kids or ways to incorporate faith into your conversations. I dare you to try this! Even though this attempt came out of the gate the way that I had hoped, that doesn’t mean it will be the same the next time that either of us tries. There might be many times that there are no answers too! Don’t give up. Do it again and again. Learn from it as you go and tweak it.

Also, if you have some parenting/faith activities that you’ve done that came out well, I’d love to hear them. Let’s swap notes!

You might also be interested in this site:
If you like props, ‘kidsfriendly.org’ has some interesting tools, like a power point that you can edit for a communion hangman activity, a checklist, and more.

Photo credit: stainedglass.com

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