Some time ago I wrote an article called “Ten Reasons for Eating Together” for the Dads4Kids weekly newsletter to inspire fathers and encourage families.
The week after the story went out to 5,000 fathers I spoke to my wife about the newsletter. I said, “You know a lot of men are going to start eating more with their families after last week’s newsletter – 10 Reasons for Eating Together, but not realise the secret recipe behind family meals. They won’t have much success because they won’t understand the secret key that unlocks the door of success.”
My wife was quite strong in her reply, “No, I believe you are wrong, honey. If families begin to practice having regular meals together and men help their wives with the meal, they will succeed.
When men make sure the TV, computers and mobile devices are turned off and focus on their family they will find the secret anyway. When men put a priority on eating with their family, they will reap the benefits that research has shown.
Making time for eating together is a very difficult thing to do, especially as their children get older. If they can achieve that, they will do very well, the rest will follow.”
The benefits I wrote about in my article “Ten Reasons for Eating Together” are all proven results of spending time around the table.
The benefits of eating together as a family are massive for your children: better nutrition, better language skills for children, better grades at school, better health, long term positive diet effects, lowering of childhood obesity, happier children, children less likely to experiment with drugs, teenagers less likely to experiment with promiscuity, and more family time. It is a long list!
We have experienced these benefits ourselves, and your family will too, if you make eating together at mealtimes a priority.
As my wife says, “All these positive benefits talked about in your article will happen, whether they know the secret recipe behind family meals or not. It will be a natural progression.”
Alison was persuasive, but I was not so sure. I started to play back in my mind the different stories I had heard over the years.
I remember the tragedy of talking to a handsome young man in his last year of school. It was at a ‘family, faith and football’ barbeque which was attended by fathers and sons.
I asked the young man what sort of relationship he had with his dad. His reply was incredibly sad, “My dad has read all the fathering and parenting books, but he never hangs out with me or spends time with me.”
My heart sank as I heard that young man’s words.
I had heard similar things before when doing concerts in gaols, or visiting drug rehab clinics, mostly from young men who longed to have their father spend some time with them.
In many cases these same troubled men never even had a father!
This was one of the first cases I had ever heard of a father who knew exactly what to do, perhaps going through the motions, but never really connecting.
I have also heard other stories from adults about how they grew up with strict parents who kept family dinners together religiously. Sadly these children later rebelled, rejected their parents and in many cases their upbringing.
In many of these stories, I noticed the same theme was repeated more often than not. A child’s father may have been fastidious about keeping family dinners with his children, but was non-communicative with them when he did.
The fathers in question did not make family dinners fun for their children, nor did they engage in conversation with them and enquire about their welfare and their day.
In other words the father was a ‘pretender’. Children don’t mind playing pretend with their father, but they hate it when their father is a hypocrite.
It is not just about eating with your children, it’s really about loving them.
You give time to the one you love, but you must also give them your attention.
Fathers must learn to be there, in the moment, because what your children want for dinner is YOU.
Which comes first, the chicken or the egg? Am I right or is my wife right? Is it family dinners, or is it just love?? I don’t think it is a case of ‘either/or’, but ‘both/and’.
Love is a verb as well as a noun.
Yes, have dinner together as often as you can as a family, but don’t forget to include the secret ingredient to make your family meals together really successful.
You see the secret to raising great children is a four letter word!
That four letter word is L-O-V-E.
You got it. Always mix your family meal times with love. Love is the secret ingredient behind the success of family dinners, and this is one case where you can’t spoil the recipe by adding too much.
Yours for more love at the Dinner Table,