I love advocating for the family dinner because I've experienced the blessing of this precious time, no matter the season of life. And I hate what the extra-curricular craze has done to the family.
The problem is not the sports (or activities) themselves, but the anti-family organizations that make up the weekly schedules. As parents we need to learn to say no, since two children or more in sports at the same time is way too hectic for anyone, unless the children choose the same sport (activity) with the same schedule.
Limiting your children and yourself to a bare minimum of evening events (hopefully preserving 5-6 family dinners weekly) may seem hard, but when you decide that your goal is legacy parenting, not popular parenting, it becomes easier to set limits.
Too much running around makes for a less healthy diet, a messier house, and grumpier families who aren't bonding.
Today I have some research to share.
~ Teenagers who eat with their families at least five times a week are more likely to get better grades in school and much less likely to have substance abuse problems.
~ Today only about half of American teenagers say they have regular family dinners, and 34% of those meals are fast food.
~ Teens having family dinners five or more times a week were 42 percent less likely to drink alcohol, 59 percent less likely to smoke cigarettes, and 66 percent less likely to try marijuana.
~ Frequent family dinners were associated with better school performance, with teens 40 percent more likely to get A's and B's.
~ Family dinners were the most important family events in helping children develop language skills.
Family Dinner Tips:
~ Have coloring books, Playdoh, or building toys nearby for the preschoolers.
~ Go through the book of Proverbs over and over in short nightly chunks. Small chunks are conducive to larger families with small children, and the repetition over time will help the lessons sink into the heart.
~ Don't force children to eat. These struggles ruin the atmosphere and give your children unhealthy power over you, which could work into eating disorders later. And a related tip: Don't be a short order cook, but do try to keep meals appetizing to youngsters. No, I don't mean a steady diet of pizza, hamburgers, hotdogs and macaroni. But can you put in some pleasers each week, like tacos and spaghetti? And if the main dish doesn't please, can you put in side dishes they particularly like?
~ Don't worry about being a gourmet cook or presenting something new all the time. But if you need inspiration and help with organization, you could use a menu service that includes weekly recipes and grocery lists for a nominal fee. Here are three choices:
~ Here is a menu mailer service from Saving Dinner.com
~ Menus4 Moms
~ If you don't want to use a menu planner, but you aren't particularly organized either, you might try rotating the same 10 - 12 meals so that your grocery list remains pretty much the same, with the exception of seasonal produce. You won't forget important ingredients and you're more likely to have what you need when you need it.
Family Dinner Questions (to rotate):
~ When did you think about God today? What made you think of Him?
~ What are you thankful for today?
~ What favorite verse or quote did you learn or read?
~ Name one new thing you learned.
~ Name one amazing thing you noticed.
~ Who blessed you today and how?
~ Who did you bless today?
~ What made you especially happy today?
~ Did anything make you sad?
~ Did God bring someone to your mind who needs prayer?
~ Did God bring something to your mind that you need to change about yourself?
"The Perfect Dinner Table", by Edgar Guest
A tablecloth that's slightly soiled
Where greasy little hands have toiled;
The napkins kept in silver rings,
And only ordinary things
From which to eat, a simple fare,
And just the wife and kiddies there,
And while I serve, the clatter glad
Of little girl and little lad
Who have so very much to say
About the happenings of the day.
Four big round eyes that dance with glee,
Forever flashing joys at me,
Two little tongues that race and run
To tell of troubles and of fun;
The mother with a patient smile
Who knows that she must wait awhile
Before she'll get a chance to say
What she's discovered through the day.
She steps aside for girl and lad
Who have so much to tell their dad.
Our manners may not be the best;
Perhaps our elbows often rest
Upon the table, and at times
That very worst of dinner crimes,
That very shameful act and rude
Of speaking ere you've downed your food,
Too frequently, I fear, is done,
So fast the little voices run.
Yet why should table manners stay
Those tongues that have so much to say?
At many a table I have been
Where wealth and luxury were seen,
And I have dined in halls of pride
Where all the guests were dignified;
But when it comes to pleasure rare
The perfect dinner table's where
No stranger's face is ever known:
The dinner hour we spend alone,
When little girl and little lad
Run riot telling things to dad.