Simple Act of Eating Together!

My husband is at Focus on the Family today, where he will be taping a radio interview on his book, No More Jellyfish, Chickens, or Wimps, which will air around the world on August 14th! Bullying is so prevalent today – I think you’ll really be encouraged by Paul’s insight and research as he talks about The Protectors, a faith-based curriculum that he wrote to help families, schools and churches.

In another book that Paul has read, A Nation of Wimps, author Hara Estroff Marano writes about the dinner table in one of the chapters, which I find powerful and necessary to share. It reminds me at times of the Coughlin home, and how we’ve incorporated conversation into dinnertime from early on. We’ve always asked our kids and their friends to individually talk and share about their day, or to answer a question we'll ask them. And then we listen!

Here’s what Marano writes:

Eat dinner together at least five nights a week. From the earliest age. All around the same table. All eating the same meal. Nothing else on the table but conversation in which every family member gets to participate.

Even if young children have to be fed earlier by a caretaker, pull the high chair up to the table when you all sit down, so everyone comes to expect this time together. If you are not used to doing this, create some structure. Let each child have a chance to be in charge of the conversation for an evening. This is how love is communicated. This is where curiosity and intellect are nurtured. This is how the desire to be an effective adult is sustained. Miss Manners said is best: the dinner table is the boot camp of civilization.

But it does much more than all that. In a major longitudinal study of children growing up in suburban outposts of affluence and in inner cities, the factor that most correlates with achievement is kids having dinner with parents five or more times a week. Eating dinner with at least one parent on most nights predicted both adjustment and school performance – among both affluent and poor kids.

The simple little act of eating dinner together makes children feel valued, loved and secure. It bolsters their sense of self. It’s where they absorb values and information effortlessly, unaware, in the air they breathe. It’s where they learn how to communicate effectively. In short, it’s how kids become smart.

I love that – it’s how kids become smart!

What ways have your pulled your family together around the dinner table? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

(NEXT POST - Canning Cherries! I just bought 2 boxes of beautiful Bing cherries – ripe and ready for eating & canning! YUM!)


Mrs. Darling said...

When we were kids we used to can at least 200 quarts of cherries every year. There were 11 of us and we canned and froze 3000 quarts of food every fall. I think we were too young in many ways to be left with the huge canning process. Anyway we always canned the cherries for too long and they turned all mushy. Since my childhood years at home I havent been able to eat canned cherries.:(

We always eat together as a family. I know no other way! :)

Tara said...

I love this! Especially the part about eating the same food. I discovered during my Integrative Nutrition counseling that because we were eating such different foods (I was making three different meals!) our energies were different and we were growing apart as a family. It was sad. When we joined the CSA we made a pact to eat that food first and be open to new things. I only make one meal. Now we cook, eat, laugh and clean up mostly together. It's so much more fun and has changed our family dynamic dramatically.

Myrna said...

Eating together has always been a priority---but in the slow transition from a family of 5 to one of 3 (they do grow up and fly away) dinner conversation has become stunted and many times non-existent. Our teenaged son has more attention than he likes---neither my husband or I are gifted at initiating conversation---but even with this challenge, mealtime together is a comfort and something we count on to sort of define us as a family. One very busy week, when dinners had been haphazard, I prepared a full meal for a Sunday noon, since my husband and I would be gone that evening. When my son got home from his job at our church the table was set and we were ready to sit down---he asked what was going on, I explained we'ld be out that night and wanted a family meal--his comment---"you love me!!"
----enough said. Now we regularly have our big meal at Sunday noon :-)

Susan Kelly Skitt said...

It's so nice to spend time together at the table with your family. I grew up with that and now with my own family, we continue to try to the best of our ability to spend that time together. It makes a difference! (P.S. It's fun too when we all get together, my two sisters and brother and their kids and my parents - what a family meal that turns out to be!)

I agree with Tara too about letting the kids help. They may not want to prepare a meal every night, but on occasion it gives them perspective and appreciation of meal preparation :) Everybody pitches in with the clean-up, at the very least the kids help with clearing the table :)

gracemercyandpeace said...

Favorite fruit ever! I have never seen so many cherries in one place. Do you can them as pie filling, or what?

We always eat together as a family. My mom taught me, my grandmother (who lost her mother at a young age) taught her. I know it is true that many families DON'T do this, but find it difficult to imagine.

What SPECIAL thing do we do? Nothing comes to mind, we're just together. Although it is not unusual for someone to burst into song and dance after we've eaten, I'm not kidding...

deb meyers

GiBee said...

We eat together as a family every single night. I wouldn't have it any other way... we both grew up like that, and I feel as though it provides an opportunity to instill strong family values... oh, and to teach manners, too!! lol!

An Ordinary Mom said...

Family dinner time is really becoming a lost art.

linda t said...

I love that!!
I was watching "Jon & Kate plus 8" TV show the other night and they were answering questions that others had submitted and one of the questions was "do you fix each of them what they will eat?" and she replied that she will only fix one meal and they WILL eat together every night. (she has a set of twins and sextuplets!!!)
I am seeing more and more families making that more of a priority, that they eat together every night.

~j~ said...

Loud cheer for families eating together! Having been raised in a family where this was practiced, and having done it in my own family i can attest to the benefits of doing so. It cultivates great strength and unity within a family and when the kids had friends over i often saw how much they appreciated joining us around the dinner table as well.

As for the cherries, oh my a whole box of cherries in my hands would never even make it to the canning process!


Kim said...

Hi Sandy,
I know you're a busy woman but I had to nominate you for an award. You don't have to do anything if you don't want to but I love what you do and had to share.

Sgt and Mrs Hub said...

Our family eats dinner together every night. Every night! I love it, and actually can't fathom doing it any different - though I certainly had my fair share of eating alone with the kids while Daniel was a Recruiter.

Dinner is a sacred time at our house. It's family time... friends go home and we sit and talk and eat.

Have fun with the cherries! They look delicious!


Apron Thrift Girl said...

When we sit down at the table, it is almost always as a family. Occasionally when the kids have been obnoxious all day, they will eat at the dinette and we will eat in the dining room in some enjoyable silence. But overall we eat together. The one thing we usually do at each meal is that we ask everyone what they are grateful for. It's interesting to go around and watch everyone pick one thing from the day that they find gratitude in. My daughter always goes for a materialist answer, but sweet at the same time. My six year old always goes for a spiritual answer and says things like his heart or his spirit. Dave and I often pick out an emotion or event to highlight. To us, it is a thankful way to finish the day.

Donnetta (momrn2) said...

Due to my hubby's job his time home each evening varies. We call him at 4 pm every day to find out his ETA for being home. We plan dinner accordingly.

It can range from 5p-7p. If it's leaning toward the later time we just eat a snack and wait for him.

With busy schedules and everyone going their various ways during the day dinner together is a treasured time!!

pat said...

I really want to try canning..can you tell me a good bread and butter pickle recipe? yumm yumm

Bella said...

I just found your blog today, and am enjoying it so much!

Have a great weekend!


Mrs4444 said...

GRRRR. Blogger at my comment!

I agree with you; eating together is so important. We splurged on an especially large table when we built our house; I wanted to be able to fit as many as possible at the dinner table (it seats 10). I have a family member who grew up eating on his own. The sad result of that is that while he is very social and likeable, he is close minded to the ideas of others. I believe that this would not be the case had he experienced the dialogue that happens at the dinner table. Great post.