( Originally Published Early 1900's )
The family should be the most closely knit group to which you belong, and the conversation at home, especially if it includes persons of varied ages and interests, should be interesting and stimulating to every member of the family.
If you are living at home, notice what the family talks about, how many interests you all have in common, and how much each of you knows about the special interests of every other member of the group. What do you all talk about at the table? Modern families too often lose much through their self-centeredness—each person leading his own life and resenting interference in his affairs. Interesting family life is possible only if each member of the group is genuinely interested in every other member; if he is understanding and tolerant of the others; and if he is willing to share his own ideas, hopes, and experiences.
Physicians tell us that a pleasant atmosphere at the table aids digestion. It is therefore important that the family meals be unmarred by conversations or arguments about the following subjects: financial troubles; misconduct of any member of the family; illness, deaths, funerals, and other depressing subjects; household worries.
Unpleasant teasing, quarreling, haggling, whining, discourtesy, fault-finding, criticism, arguments—all these should be absent from family conversations as well as from those with persons outside the family.
In too many cases parents are aloof from their children or are too lacking in understanding to encourage confidence or even interesting comments. They assume the air of dictators instead of being comrades. These older people are neglecting a great opportunity to educate and influence, and are stunting their own lives by failing to develop the proper kind of stimulating family conversation.
The youth of today are more alert and better informed than their parents were at the same age. The younger generation has much to contribute, and intelligent older people can keep abreast of the times and ward off the stagnation of old age if they will converse with young people as equals.
Newton D. Baker is credited with saying that the dinner table conversations at home have a great deal to do with the way the next generation will think and act. If you are a parent, ask yourself seriously whether you have set a standard of family conversation that inspires and stimulates every member of your family group.