The Value of Family Dinners

Monday, April 8, 2013

Everyone sitting in 'their' spots around the table, tv is most definitely off, good, nutritious food served most nights, conversation, some sibling arguments, Mum and Dad asking us about how our day was and what's new.

This was most evenings in my house when I was growing up.

At around 6pm I would hear Dads voice bellowing though the house intercom (which seemed pretty common in 80's houses) calling us all from our corners of the house down for dinner. If I wasn't there within 5 minutes, someone would pick up the other receiver of the phone and tell me to get off the phone and get to the dining table. They knew me too well.

Needless to say Family Meals were a priority in our house. If you were grumpy or moody (which is also pretty common for young teens I believe) you didn't get to skip it, you ate at the table with everyone else. It was the one time of the day that we were all at the same place at the same time. To leave the table we had to ask to be excused, if someone else was still eating, you weren't excused.

What it really was though, was a lot more than just eating. My parents put a high value on family dinners. All 4 of us kids were given an opportunity to share about our day, to be listened to, to have real and undivided interest given to what we were saying or feeling. We got the opportunity to listen to each other share, and to participate in family discussions. It wasn't rushed (at least not when we were old enough to put ourselves to bed), Mum and Dad weren't shooing us away so they could get to the tellie. I believe that these dinners helped our family dynamic, they enabled us to connect on a real level with our parents, and know that we always had this time if we wanted to talk. Mum said often the ones who wanted to talk would stick around, whilst the rest of the kids went off to do their own things. They were more than just eating, they were about creating deeper relationships.

Since I've become a Mum myself I've started looking at these family dinners differently. Realising that they were deliberate, they were based on the family values my parents held. When Ezra started eating 'real' food, I became more aware of our own mealtime habits, which were mostly Joel and I sitting in front of the tv with our dinner on our laps. So, we made a specific decision to change this when Ez started eating dinner, because we both have experienced and understand the real value of family dinners.

Even though Ezra can't really talk yet, he can still participate in dinner. He watches and learns from us, he sees our example in the food we eat, and he eats it too. He listens to our conversations and we all interact together as a family. Its not always a relaxing meal, but, for me it is more about setting the precedent early on and getting him used to us all sitting down together. I don't know if this is why he pretty much eats most foods or not, I would like to think it is, but we could end up with a super picky eater next time round. We just make one meal at night, that we all eat (because I want to eat together, and because I'm lazy and I really hate the thought of having to prepare multiple meals every night). He's learnt to love meals that I never would have expected a toddler to enjoy and he's slowly learning how to behave at the dinner table.

Now that we are in the habit, we are not about to break it. My hope is that we can be as successful in our value of family dinners and the positive impact they have, as my parents were.

How do/did dinners work in your house?

Karen xx

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8 comments on "The Value of Family Dinners"
  1. I am with you one hundred percent! Family dinners were a very important aspect of my upbringing and it's a tradition that we intend to carry on with our kiddos now. Such a perfect time to talk, to connect, to just BE together! You are right in that it's not always relaxing at this stage, but it's laying the groundwork of family togetherness!

  2. There are definitely those nights when I'd like to just focus on enjoying my own meal without worrying about food being flung across the room. But I know it will pay off ha!! Xx

  3. I am so jealous!
    I remember family dinners exactly as you describe them and that is what both my husband and I want for our family.
    But at the moment our meals are always a disaster!
    Toddler C is practically perfect in every way except that he rarely wants to eat dinner...and he lets us know this!
    But we will keep trying and eventually I am sure in time we will come to enjoy family dinners!

  4. We've always had family dinners :-) But now Mr 18 works evenings so is rarely home to join us, and I must admit, the hubster, Miss 16 and I are getting sloppy with our dining habits and often wind up in front of the TV!

  5. Nikki@WonderfullyWomenApril 12, 2013 at 7:31 PM

    That's how I was brought up and the tradtion continues in my house now, always has, always will.....and I just so happen to be doing a post on that very subject, just not quite done with it yet.

  6. Stephanie JeffersonApril 12, 2013 at 10:40 PM

    we try to do family dinners during the week and is happening even more so as I am currently not working. The only exception is when our boy is too tired and needs to have an early night

  7. Couldn't agree more, family meals bring together everyone for the day and allow them to share and commune. I think food in some ways is the least important part. For my daughter and I (there are only the two of us) we have every dinner at the table apart from say Saturday nights where we watch a movie and eat pizza. Its an ingrained habit now and I think I know a lot more about her than if we'd approached it any other way.

  8. Great post. We all eat together - a little earlier than the grown-ups would like, but that's the compromise we make. I've added your post to Francesca's Festa of Favourites for April :-)