Eating dinner as a family may seem more difficult than it’s worth, but there is good reason to make it a habit sooner rather than later.
Every new parent is told over and over again to eat dinner as a family. But no one has ever explained why. So because it’s said over and over again, a lot of young parents believe this is just one more piece of fiction handed down from their parent’s generation.
Parents are busy today and dinner as a family, at the same time every night, seems impossible. Here are seven reasons you must change your thinking about this.
1. Research by Dr. Almudena Sevilla of the School of Business and Management at the University of London and Cristina Borra of the University of Seville suggests “the more time we spend with our children, the better for cognitive development.” In fact, A 2012 study by social scientists at the University of Chile looking at the time-diaries of mothers and children showed that one more hour of maternal time per week can move a child as many as five positions higher in a class of 30. Take away eating as a family and you’re risking the development of your child.
2. Several years ago, Pediatrics reported a study suggesting, “Regular family meals improve children’s nutrition and encourage healthy eating habits. But the most important finding is that eating regular family meals can impact childhood obesity. The results show children and adolescents who share at least three family meals per week are more likely to be a healthy weight and less likely to have developed an eating disorder than children who didn’t have regular family meals. This can have a huge impact on their high school years.
3. Family meals lay the groundwork for a child’s future. I know a young dentist who spent 18 years listening to his father talk about his advertising agency at dinnertime. Five years after he graduated from dental school he has eight dental practices, because of the marketing skills he learned over nightly meals.
4. Listening to their parents discuss real world issues every night enables a child’s vocabulary to jump leaps and bounds. When else will they learn words like “civil rights,” “advocacy,” “democracy,” and “justice,” unless it’s over dinner when they are five. Eighth grade? This of course will dramatically impact a child’s ability to read when they are young as well as taking tests like the College Boards years later.
5. Family dinners are where a child learns how to express her opinions and that it’s safe to do so. By listening to their news of what happened that day, you teach them that what they have to say is important. They also learn how to listen and not interrupt. You’ll be surprised at how even the youngest child can participate in a conversation.
6. Family dinners are where you pass along your morals and values to your children in an unthreatening and uncritical way. Research has shown that parents who take the time to eat dinner with their kids at least five days a week are more likely to raise kids who understand and respect boundaries. And research has demonstrated the amount of time parents and kids eat together has a direct correlation to reduced high-risk behaviors. If you just wave goodbye to your kids in the morning, you’re waving goodbye to their future. Because you’ll have no idea what’s really going on in their lives, until a principal or police officer tells you.
7. Families who eat dinner together tend to eat more healthy meals. I’m making the gigantic leap that dinner has been cooked at home. Because a home-cooked meals generally include more fruits, more vegetables, less Coke. Kids, once introduced to healthy meals will soon be all over the Internet learning about nutrition and organic eating and so on. Moms and dads tend to cook less fried foods, probably because it’s a pain to make, but also they start thinking about their kid’s health.
Like all things about good parenting, serving a home cooked meal every night, making sure everyone shows up for dinner, rather then getting a thirteen year-old to talk about her day can be a pain. But it’s worth it. Because it eliminates so many parenting problems down the road.
The role of men is changing in the 21st century. Want to keep up? Get the best stories from The Good Men Project delivered straight to your inbox, here.