Thursday, February 27, 2014

10 Habits of Families that Eat Together


"How do you do it?"

How do families that eat together often, maybe every night, manage it? In our society it seems like that's an impossibility. Everyone has a busy schedule, including the kids, so what makes family mealtimes happen?



Here are 10 habits of families that eat together often:
  1. Start Right Away -- From day one of becoming a family they sit down together to eat. This means before the first child comes along, the couple eats meals together. As soon as possible baby is included at the table, even if he's not eating. My grandchildren have learned to hold hands and pray just by being included from long before they had any idea of what was being done.
  2. Expect It -- Develop an attitude of this is the way it will be. Not eating together should be the exception. Expectations go a long way in developing habits, so be on the same page about them!
  3. Everyone Helps -- Teaching our kids to shop, cook, and clean up are life skills entrusted to us. But getting them to help isn't just about them knowing how or me getting the table set; it's a great way to get to know each other. You know, it's easier to talk to someone about sensitive topics if you don't have to look them in the eye!
  4. Keep Meals Simple -- My mother-in-law thinks every meal needs a meat, potato, vegetable, salad, bread, dessert, and coffee. Of course, those are great meals, but sometimes we have stir-fry and rice. Oh, and I let them drink water.
  5. Block Interruptions -- There are BIG interruptions, like everyone having a different sport, practice, lesson, or appointment to get to. And there are little interruptions like television, phones, doorbells, and texts. The family that eats together blocks out as many of these as possible. Schedule things early enough to eat together. Power down, put away, don't answer. And, gasp, say "no" to some activities so you can say "yes!" to family dinner. 
  6. A Few Simple Rules -- Dinner time is not time for Mom or Dad to turn into The Enforcer, but you need some basic rules to make a meal enjoyable. How about: Don't do things that make other people uncomfortable or upset.
  7. Parents Set the Example -- Mom and Dad have to obey the rules too: no answering the phone, say please and thank you, be all there. 
  8. Keep it Light -- Humor defuses. I can remember one of my teen's mood temperature rapidly rising as they searched frantically for their shoes. For once I didn't spike a temp, too, and philosophized, "One of the great questions of life is, 'Where do our things wander off to when we aren't looking?'" Temper successfully disabled.
  9. Be Flexible -- Some days the family meal won't be on time. Some days there will  be interruptions. Some days the food will burn, or still be raw. Some days you'll have to take the phone call. Some days the appointment is unavoidable. Some days you won't all be there. The family that often eats together knows this and keeps expecting family mealtimes on most days. 
  10. Know Every Day Won't be Like the Cleavers -- Do you even know the Cleavers? I was stunned to find out many of my kids' friends don't. I guess that dates me. The Cleavers are the family on the 50's TV program, Leave it to Beaver. They always sat down to dinner in the dining room, with a tablecloth, dad in a tie, a delicious meal, and kind conversation where the kids respected and learned from their parents. Yup, won't happen every day in any home. Might not even happen most days. But you keep trying.
I am already thinking of more habits of families that eat together often. Maybe that will be a future post. But tell me, what habit helps your family sit down together for a meal?


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18 comments:

  1. This is so important! I feel so strongly about providing dinner for my family every night.

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  2. We do family dinner at my house too and the thing from the list that enables it the most is "Make it a habit!" All 4 of us know where we're supposed to be at dinner time and plan to be there!

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    1. I so agree with you, Helene! It was just something we were going to do. I don't think my husband and I discussed it, we just did it. But we both grew up in families where it was the norm, too. It could be a big game changer for some people.

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  3. This is how I grew up! My mom always cooked dinner and we ate it as a family. I learned a lot from that, especially how to cook from helping my mom. I also developed a close relationship with my brothers that I don't take for granted.

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  4. This is so important! This is how both my husband and I were raised, and we are doing the same with our young family. I would love it if you shared it at our link party going on now. http://acowboylife.blogspot.com/2014/02/friday-favorites-link-party_27.html

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  5. Eating together is so important to family togetherness. Thanks for the post.

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  6. Great post. We do this most everyday. Some days it isn't a possibility, but 5 or 6 out 7 works for us. Thanks for sharing and I just pinned it.

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    1. Yes, Jennifer, eating together even 5 out of 7 days is great! We can't do it everyday so important to keep working on that goal.

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  7. As a family we rarely sit together anymore but this has encouraged me to give it a go. Surely it's one great way to make sure a family stays strong.

    Thanks for posting,

    Ally

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    1. Ally, I hope you DO try and I hope you SUCCEED. Even if you start with twice a week, that's more than before!

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    2. And I forgot to say, THIS is why I write! :-D

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  8. We eat breakfast and dinner together even though there is just the 2 of us together most days. We had 6 children. As early as I can remember we taught them to sit down for dinner from the day one. No TV. It went off first thing. Out of our 6 children 5 of them have a set time for dinner and that is it. Sometimes sports are called around that time but our kids make sure they all end up together, either before or after the game for the meal. Our children grew up in the country and a lot of the food on the table was due to their sharing in the work to grow it. A great post here.

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  9. This is so true.......we have eaten family meals for years and it was work at the beginning but it is worth it and we are so glad now to have our "sit down" meals together. Thank you for the post. Gentle Joy

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  10. I think "expect it" is the biggest difference-maker. We just DO. That just is how life works. You sleep every night. Tooth-brushing is not optional. And families eat dinner together (as a general rule).

    I would love suggestions for how to ENJOY family dinner, though. I honestly hate family dinner at our house. We always ate together as a family growing up and it was (mostly) wonderful. Also, my kids are still great when we all eat together at Grandma's. So I know it's us. But it's pretty much just stressful almost every night: the kids are all complaining about their food, they're fighting with each other, every believes everyone else's conversational topics are boring and tries to short-circuit them, every kid has five requests which he has to interrupt everyone for. I end up wishing I *could* just eat by myself before everyone else comes to the table, just so I can digest my food in peace. What is our problem?

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    1. Rachel, I would LOVE for you to enjoy your family meals. I totally understand that when there is someone else at the table (like your parents) there is a totally different dynamic. You can work on creating a better atmosphere.

      I think the best bit of advice is to keep your sense of humor and try to not take it seriously. Maybe even think up things ahead of time to say that will defuse (like I mention in this post) the tension.

      You can look through my blog which is all about family mealtimes and has lots of ideas for making the mealtime an enjoyable time for everyone. Here is one post: http://www.aroundthetable.flemings.in/2012/09/good-manners-build-connected-families.html and here is another http://www.aroundthetable.flemings.in/2013/11/like-queen-is-coming.html.

      Once you set some ground rules, maybe have a "fun" penalty for breaking them, like having to take a lap around the table or standing a reciting a nursery rhyme, or singing a children's song.

      We had kids at home for 28 years and family meals almost everyday of that time. There were times when I would invite others to dinner just to get my kids to act like they liked each other! But a lot of the time we truly did enjoy being together, even when the kids squabbled, well, maybe not then! But we enjoy it NOW. So please keep trying, keep your sense of humor, and write to me with questions and I will try to help.

      Perhaps others have suggestions and ideas, too.

      Encouragingly,
      Sharon

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  11. This is a wonderful rule. When I was growing up we rarely did this. And when we did eat together, it was always in front of the TV. I think the absence of quality family meals with quality conversation has made me realize the value of it even more. When I have kids I definitely want to eat dinner together... with no TV!

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  12. Great tips! I am a big fan of family dinners. It is our time to chat about our days and spend time focused on each other. It's truly my favorite time of the day!

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  13. What a wonderful blog! I found you from the Titus 2 Tuesdays blog hop. "Around the table" is key. I once heard Devi Titus at a women's conference on this topic. She mentioned that around the table, not at the kitchen bar is important. Around the table, there is eye contact. Spread single file at the kitchen bar, there is no eye contact and the dynamics of family dinner are different. We almost always eat meals together, but I had never thought about table vs. bar, but it is so true!

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