Vicki: What is the importance of family dinner?
Paul: Well you get to eat.
Vicki: That is definitely one of them. There is a lot of research that shows that one of the most important things to do is to be at the crossroads of your children. Meaning, when they are coming and going in and out of the house.
Paul: Especially if you can't be there at the time like when the kids are coming home from school.
Vicki: Even if you can, family dinner still is really great for a few reasons. There is some research that shows in those families that have consistent family dinners, there's an increase in the child's grades.
Paul: It improves their grades?
Vicki: Well, there is a correlation. There is also a reduced risk of drug abuse when they have consistent family dinners.
Paul: Maybe I can say weird about correlation. Correlation is not causation. In other words, we can't say that having dinner together as a family causes your children's grades to go up. Or it causes a reduction in addiction or substance abuse, but it is correlated. I think that's because when you make the effort to come together as a family and you're connecting and you're having those conversations, you're increasing the communication effectiveness within the family. Those kinds of things all contribute to the measures that we're talking about here. Family dinner is a place that can facilitate that. And interestingly, when we're eating, it changes our brain chemistry.
Vicki: Because you're getting endorphins from the food.
Paul: Yes. And whatever it is that changes in our brains. We'll have different interactions over a meal than if we were to just set up a bunch of chairs and have group therapy. It changes the dynamic and the energy.
Vicki: It doesn't really matter what the food is, okay? When we were first married, I was not much of a cook. I have an older sister that is an amazing cook. So, I kind of shied away from the cooking because she was so good at it, I didn't need to learn. So… we had some pretty bad experiences at first with cooking. It doesn't really have to be that you're a great cook. What you do want to provide is time together and being present.
Paul: Right, I might add putting away technology at the table. Be present. Be here and now, not connected to your social media feed. Not texting someone who's not at the dinner table. Be present with the people who are there. Good point, Vicki, I was kind of joking at the beginning when I said, “Well, it's about getting to eat, right?” You have to eat. So, what we're saying is create an opportunity around something that you're going to do anyway, use that as a way to unify the family.
You said that it's not about the food. You are actually a really great cook, but that hasn't always been true. Do you remember the first butternut squash that we ate? I probably shouldn't tell anyone, yeah?
Vicki: Let's just say I had a few things to learn.
Paul: And I've had my adventures too. I've created some things you would not want to share with your enemies. I remember watching a movie, The Blind Side, with Sandra Bullock. The family was coming together for dinner and the dad said to the kids, “Okay, everybody, make sure you thank mom for going down to the store and buying dinner.” She didn't even make it, and that's cool. If you are doing takeout, that's fine.
Vicki: Just make sure you have time together.
Paul: It's not about the food. It's about the coming together as a family.
Vicki: A lot of people use dinner to ask questions like, “What did you learn today? What did you do in class today?” That can kind of put people on the spot sometimes. In a book that I read for my schooling it said to talk about the things that didn't go so well today. What failures did you have?
Paul: Wait, l you can talk about that?
Vicki: That's the great thing, you have an opportunity to really open up and talk about things that didn't go so well. It takes kind of the sting and the scare out of mistakes and failures. It really is important to help children to understand that failures are actually a step along the path to success, and this is a great way to talk about it.
Paul: I love the way you just said that. Failure is a step along the path to success. I've been running my podcast, Live On Purpose Radio since 2007. That's before podcasting was even a thing. I've interviewed authors, speakers, successful people and people who have a message. This is the most consistent message that is shared, failure is part of the process. Get used to it.
Vicki: Talk about those things that didn't go as well as you wish they would have.
Paul: And as everybody is sharing that, you see, “Oh, I'm not so weird that I blew it.”
Paul: That I had that failure, if we want to call it that. It's just another step in my path to success.
Vicki: Right, and probably one of the last things about family dinners is the consistency. I guarantee, especially if you have teenagers, there are going to be some days where there is no conversation. It is really hard sometimes to get teenagers to speak to you. Just be consistent and constantly offer them the opportunity to be with you and to be present with you for at least one chunk of the day.
Paul: That is more important than having the perfect spread on the table, something that you could post on your social media or would make the cover of Better Homes and Gardens. Not what we're after.
Paul: Consistency. We have dinner together as a family and Vicki, you and I were both fortunate enough to grow up in homes where that was the culture, we ate dinner together as a family. Conversations will naturally unfold as you establish the consistency in that pattern, it eill become part of your family culture. Most importantly, connection will unfold.
Vicki: Creating a healthy positive family culture is one of the most important things you can do as a parent.
Paul: We have other resources available to you. If you haven't checked out the parenting power-up yet, please join us at parentingpowerup.com where you'll get all kinds of resources. We've got your back.