Here we go with 5 more tips for parents in this #40TipsForParents series:

40 Tips for Parents: Tip #26 + Tip #27

Make time to eat together as a family. Use creative questions to go deeper with your family.

Two tips in one here. So thought it worth sharing them together.

You may not be able to eat all your meals with your family, but i would highly encourage you to make as much effort as possible to eat regularly together. It’s a time [hopefully] when things can slow down and creates an opportunity for connecting and checking in and feeding back and getting to know each other a little better.

At the very least i would say find one meal that you can have together as a family [Sunday lunch might be easiest or Saturday breakfast or one particular night every week – fun traditions like pancake day or breakfast for dinner or homemade pizza come to mind!] and probably the younger your children the more meals it is easier to have together. But even as they grow and teenage, as long as they are living under your roof, i would do my best to make those spaces for connection.

When you do, be mindful of the screens tips [#12 and #25] and let mealtimes be times where everyone is present. No phonecalls or distractions that can’t be helped. Preferably no tv except as an exception or one particular way of doing dinner.

Then i would highly recommend doing creative questions which can become a super fun activity that is both educational and hilarious. Terran Williams compiled a list of 250 questions some time ago, which he offers free of charge on his blog over here: – with some of the story behind it for them as a family.

Some examples are #7 What is one thing you would love to do?, #23 Tell us one thing you don’t like very much about this family? and #51 How would the world be different if cats and dogs could fly? [Three random numbers i picked and then read off the list]

This definitely works with adults too and so it’s a way to connect with your spouse and any other adults or guests who might share your space with you. And because the questions are different it always stays fresh. i would say this is a good thing to do once a week and so Thursday night becomes known as Questions Meal or something like that.

Mealtimes can also be used as less intense times to discuss expectation, rules, discipline and other family issues or happenings outside of the moments where they might be more emotion driven and really create a space where everyone gets to have their say and listening is deeply encouraged.

So make time to eat together and consider some fun traditions to throw into the mix as you do. And definitely consider asking questions at certain times as a way of diving a little bit deeper with your family.

What about you? Any traditions that you have as a family when it comes to mealtimes? Any stories of ideas that have worked and some that have failed? How has eating together as a family worked for you, if at all? Please share some stories in the comments below.


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40 Tips for Parents: Tip #28

Don’t compare your children.

This tip was shared by Tarryn Badenhorst who said:

‘Don’t compare your children to others

Also, having children often seems to shine a spotlight on one’s own – Work on your own heart as you parent so that you don’t project these onto your children when you find them pushing your buttons/ poking on your sore spots?’

To which Susannah Prinz added:

‘Also don’t compare your children to each other.’

We have alluded to this in other tips, but not addressed it directly – the notion that every child is different. Some will be similar and so when it comes to discipline and reward and celebration and so on, you might find the same or similar things work. But some are so different that they require different ways of being engaged with and disciplined and so on.

But one thing we as people like to do is compare. And a lot of parents fall into that trap as well. Which can create unrealistic expectations as well as pressure on a child. “Why can’t you be more like your sister?” “Your brother was much better at maths! Why can’t you take after him?” “I wish you were as ……. as your brother/sister.”

So whether it is outside of your family, or within, don’t compare your child. Let them become the person they are meant to be. Equip and challenge and inspire and hope and dream and create opportunities and listen and gently shape… but don’t ever let them feel like they are in someone else’s shadow, or that they need to do or be different to be able to earn your love or trust or respect.

Don’t compare your children.


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40 Tips for Parents: Tip #29

Help them explore and affirm other cultures.

This one was suggested by Gretchen Zuidema Driesenga who said:

‘Help them explore and affirm other cultures. Give them dolls of a different race, books that feature children of other races, cultures, abilities, etc. As parents, have friends who are different than you- model this to your children. Teach children not to stare when someone is different- teach them to smile, say hi, etc.’

This is huge. And i don’t think much more needs to be said except to doubly encourage the idea of being intentional about friendships with people who don’t look like you.

The opposite kind of example to this would be many families that live in majority white neighbourhoods where there is a great possibility that the only black, coloured and indian people you come into contact with are those who are in a relationship of service to you [pack your groceries, clean your house, look after your garden, fill your car with petrol]. You never have to teach these children how to be racist because the lesson that is constantly modeled to them is ‘People of colour serve people who look like me!’

Once we make friends and have them sit next to us at the dinner table and just lean into the friendships and deepening them and learning from each other. the children will learn by osmosis.

Help them explore and affirm other cultures.


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40 Tips for Parents: Tip #30

Teach your children how to think, not what to think.

This tip came from the inspiration brought about from these two suggestions:

Lara Pietersen:

‘Teach them about politics (not just YOUR politics)’

Michelle Edwards:

‘I would link this to being a gardener rather than a carpenter parent (Alison Gopnik)…creating the nurturing environment for your child to grow rather than molding them according to your set of beliefs or standards…This means you support who your child becomes even if it is not the path you would choose for them.’

We have touched on it in Tip #4 Explain things to your chlldren and Tip #5 Raise the bar and Tip 11 Talk to your children about Important things first, but this feels like a little more than those.

I love Michelle’s gardening analogy. Create the right environment and trust that what grows will be good. When it comes to values and faith, there will be the understanding that you reached what you have by carefully considering it and making conclusions and so there is space to share why you believe what you believe, but also that other people think differently on things and maybe point them to some places where they can explore more.

If your children believe that they believe just because you told them to or because it was the only thing modelled to them, there is all the likelihood that they will move away from it at some stage or become confused because it is not their own belief. But if, from a young age you teach them how to think critically and how to consider options and choose values, then there is a much better chance that they will turn out well.

That may arrive at a different point on politics than you do but this will hopefully give you an opportunity to learn and interrogate your own beliefs [and either change or strengthen them!]

Teach your children how to think, not what to think.

Lara Pietersen: Teaching about politics also equips them to make decisions that don’t only effect themselves, but the country and the world. It teaches them how to interact with people who have different values (not just different beliefs or experiences). It teaches them to explore those differences.


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[To return to the start of this series and catch up on any tips you may have missed, click here]