Are Family Dinners Really That Important?

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About Scott Behson

Scott Behson is a Professor of Management at Fairleigh Dickinson University, a busy involved dad, and an overall grateful guy. He runs the blog dedicated to helping fathers better balance work and family and encouraging more supportive workplaces, and also writes for Harvard Business Review, The Huffington Post, and, most recently, Time. He lives in Nyack, NY with his wife, Amy, and son, Nick. Contact him @ScottBehson on twitter.


  1. I have no doubt that there are other ways to achieve family togetherness. The most important thing to keep in mind that it should be consistent, frequent, and part of the daily/weekly routine, otherwise it’s not likely to happen. Since I’m from a family of 8 kids, dinner time was pretty much the only opportunity for all of us to get together and have positive, unstructured time as a family unit. My amazing parents bumped it up a notch and created “Seimos Valandele (Family Hour),” where we would all hang out in the living room after dinner and either discuss a current event, go for a walk, watch a play the younger sibs put on, pray, celebrate a birthday, etc. Of course, some sacrifices had to be made and some sports teams or clubs had to be passed up, but I can confidently say that it is what made the difference between all of us “just growing up together” and becoming best friends, respecting each others differences, and developing a closer relationship with our siblings and parents.

    • Vija- Thank you for your EXCELLENT comment. Your family dynamic sounds fantastic.

      I agree that the key is for families to have plenty of unstructured family time together (and to make this a priority in terms of scheduling). For many, family dinners help accomplish this, but I know some dads who beta themselves over not making dinners all the time.

      My main point is, your kids need an involved dad who takes time for them. It doesn’t need to be family dinner.

  2. Yes (if the family is not dysfunctional).

  3. I was one of those fathers that had to travel a lot but when I wasn’t traveling, the routine was family dinners. And when I stopped traveling, we had family dinners. But then again, because of my career, I was able to have a stay at home wife/mother who maintained consistency that included family dinners. And I should note that these dinners were not in front of the television. We sat down and talked, we interacted.

    There were time that I made sacrifices so that I could be at home for meals. If I had an out of state morning meeting, I could have easily flown out the night before but instead, I would get up very early and catch a morning flight. Traveling parents can work around their schedule and be at home for such things as meals.

    It’s funny, back in the 70’s there was a push for “quality time” vs. “Quantity time” and the feminists, because they were pushing stay at home moms out the door into the business world, they pushed “quality.” Think about quality … You go to a restaurant known worldwide for its prime beef. And when you’re served, they give you a 2” square of the beef and the waiter says, it’s not the “quantity” it’s the “quality.” BS, right? So why do we settle for “quality” vs. “quantity” for our kids.

    Are families dysfunctional because they don’t have a sit down dinner time? I don’t think so but that’s not to say that there aren’t benefits to it.


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