This is why Family Dinners are a must for us…
Dinner at our house is generally an event that is wrought with groaning and complaining, and some bickering…and some laughter. Oh sure, there is the occasional broccoli flinging across the table from one child to another’s head, and the hiding of food in the space below the table base and the table top- the one my kids think I don’t know about (oh, I know). There is the random standing up and dancing on the chair by one child who can’t bear to sit still. There are eye rolls, and disgusted looks at the food, and to break up all the monotony, there is some shrieking form the two year old, just because.
At this point you may be wondering why the title?
But I have to say, that even though that entire scene is absolutely true, insisting on family dinners is one of the best things my husband and I have ever done for our family. Let ne repeat that again…
Except for giving them life, prioritizing dinner together as a family is one of the best things that we have ever done for our kids, hands down.
I say this because family dinners are hard to accomplish sometimes, but the benefits are enormous. Life gets busy and there are times that we struggle, and schedules get in the way. But, both my husband and I have made a serious attempt at getting everyone together around the table 90% of the time.
Why? Because after the food is served and the complaints are taken into consideration, after the 12th time of saying, “sit down in your chair,” or “don’t eat your ranch with your spoon,” and after the dishes are piled and maybe put into the dishwasher for the next morning (or maybe not- depends on the mood of the evening), comes the sweet knowledge that we bonded as a family, no matter how little fun everyone had in the moment (I’m kidding, sort of).
If you think that I may be crazy, and you would like a second opinion before you try this dinner meal madness with ALL of your kids around the same table (I don’t blame you), you should check out the website www.thefamilydinnerproject.org. This is an amazing website dedicated to the importance of family dinners, complete with lots of resources to help with your own family dinners!
If you’re still here then I’ll get on with it. So…
Here are the top 6 reasons that we think family dinners are essential:
1. It teaches your kids to respect and prioritize family time.
Kids are a product of what we teach them. If they see their parents and siblings constantly making time for each other to talk, and share, then they will grow up feeling like this is normal- it really is that simple.
I won’t go all holier than thou on you at this point- I mean, we definitely have our nights when we are running around and have to get dinner out and this is OK. We also have nights when people are in bad moods and family dinners turn into a not so pleasant experience. But overall, I still say that family dinners are worth it!
2. It gives us a chance to talk to our kids
Life is busy- like all of the time. There are times that we have skipped family dinners and I realize the next day that I didn’t even ask my kids how their day at school went the day before!
Sitting down together as a family gives you time and space to talk to your kids casually about what’s going on with them. Giving your kids space and time to open up in a relaxed environment- like around the dinner table- sets them up for learning good communication skills, and it is one of the places that they get heard. And making time to hear our kids is hands down, one of the other most essential things a parent can do to raise a happy, healthy kid.
3. It sets them up for open communication with their siblings.
It feels like the majority of my kids’ communication with each other consists of yelling the phrases, “stop it!”, “I said no!”, and “get out!” This wears on me after a while. But during dinner, something magical happens to my kids…they stuff their mouths with food and they are forced to listen to each other (kidding, but not really kidding). But they do seem to listen to each other a bit more than normal. They seem to actually enjoy hearing about each other’s lives and I am convinced that doing so will eventually teach them a sense of caring, and loyalty for each other.
I may be going a bit far here, but I don’t think so. I really believe that these regular dinners are part of what will make or break our kids relationships with each other in the future.
I don’t know about you, but our kids tend to bicker, a lot. And while I’ll fully admit that sometimes this bickering does carry into dinner time, I think that these dinners give our kids a chance to sit still, look at their brother and sister, and really hear them. I mean, hear them in a way that helps them to look past themselves, and see the true other person. And while my kids would never admit it, I am convinced that these dinners are a piece in the puzzle of how to bring them closer to each other.
5. It gives them a sense of stability and connectedness
I think that family dinners sometimes rank right up there with giving your kids a scheduled bedtime, or a curfew. It is a limit- a rule that you are asking them to abide by. While of course, rules are something that any kid would roll his eyes at, they are still important. In this case, our family dinner rule gives our kids structure and stability. Over time, this translates into a sense that they belong, and they are connected to their family in part, through participating in having dinner with the rest of the family on a regular basis. They may not love it (actually my kids don’t really know any different so they don’t hate it), but they will be grateful when they are older that we gave this time a major priority in our family life.
6. It teaches them good life skills and nutrition habits
Teaching them to sit down and have a meal together, is showing them that the meal is an event all on its own. I totally let my kids eat snacks in front of the TV sometimes, especially when there is a sleepover with friends going on. But giving them a specific place to eat a meal is different and essential.
we are eating near where the food is prepared, and they usually either help me make the food, or are expected to help clear and set the table. They almost always participate in cleaning up and loading the dishwasher as well. All of this gives them an understanding of how good nutritious food is made and the responsibility that comes with being part of a family.
since they are focused on the event of dinner only, they naturally learn how to eat food, and pay attention to their bodies when it says they are full, instead of continuing to eat long after they are full because their minds are distracted with a TV or video game.
So that is my claim- that family dinners are an essential part of a healthy family; an essential part of a healthy childhood!
These dinners don’t have to be super long, and they certainly don’t have to contain 4 courses and the proper dinnerware place settings. It is also totally OK to make something from a box, or even sit down together and eat Taco Bell sometimes! The food is not really the entire point. The point is the family, the intentional time, and the love that is shared during family dinner time.
This is time that is well spent, and trust me, you’ll never regret putting this time into your family life. Ever.