Monday, December 16, 2013

What's Cookin': Conversation Is More Important Than The Meal

We all remember this memorable scene from The Christmas Story. When Ralphie's brother, Randy, is motivated to eat at the dinner table by acting like mommy's little piggy.  Hilarious, unless it happens in your house. Maybe this is why family dinners are not always the rage. 

I'll be the first to admit, my kids haven't always been the best eaters. I think the consensus surrounding family dinner time is that it can be challenging.  Challenging to find the time, challenging to get your kids to eat, challenging to get a meal cooked or bought and put on the table! But over the last few years, especially as they become older, one thing I love to do during our family meals is...listen. Hearing about their days and their giggles as they joke around with each other is really priceless. Now, the occasional, "I don't like [insert whatever meal I made]" and "I'm finished, can I just leave the table now" can be a nuisance. However, making a goal to eat together as a family is incredibly important.  For the record, the word "family" has a very wide definition, so whomever you consider your family/friends, whatever that means to you--make the time!  

Since it is that time of year of family gatherings and everyone eating at the table more frequently than usual, here are some facts about the importance of unplugging and dining together.

  • Increased Vocabulary: A 15 year research study by a Harvard Professor, Dr. Catherine Snow, found that children learned more vocabulary words during mealtime than actually reading to them.  We often hear the emphasis on reading to our kids everyday, but not always the importance of having social conversations with them.
  • Higher Success in School:  Some studies show they are 40% more likely to earn A's and B's in school if they are having routine sit down, family type meals.
  • Positive Behaviors: Regular family dinners have been linked to lower rates of depression and  substance abuse.
  • Increased Social Skills: We all know kids do not verbally socialize as much in this digital society. Results show that kids have an increase in their social skills from the mealtime conversations with their friends and family.
  • Bonding: It's the time, not the meal that matters. The good news is, there really is not magical number of minutes as long as the conversation is positive and often. The focus is to bring your family unit closer together through two way communication experiences.
Experts stress having the technology devices off and your attention on your loved ones.Try to emphasis the correct manners they are expressing as you shun the urge to correct them (i.e.elbows off the table, chew with your mouth closed, etc).  Don't stress if your "Randy" struggles during mealtime, it does take practice and you are instilling life skills about being polite, having real conversations and making memories.  

Go for it-I triple dog dare you.

Happy Holidays! Here's hoping you avoid...

getting your tongue stuck to a flagpole

wearing pink rabbit pj's

and shooting your eye out with a BB gun.  

Considering all these things, family mealtimes will be more enjoyable than the consequence of  changing a spare tire in the snow!

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