The Importance of Family Dinners

Arlene Pellicane
header for The Importance of Family Dinners

Family mealtime is the perfect place to teach your children good manners. Don’t talk with your mouth full. Chew quietly. Will you pass the bread, please? May I have more milk? The more civilized you act at home, the more civilized your children will act in public. As you know, the opposite is also true. Make your home a training ground so your children know how to act appropriately whether in a corner deli or a four-star hotel for their aunt’s wedding reception.

Don’t allow phones or iPads at the table, so your kids will be able to sit in a restaurant without a digital pacifier. They will gain the much-needed skill of communication, as nothing kills conversation faster than a head turned down toward a screen. Require your children to help set the table and clean up the dishes. They learn teamwork and responsibility, while enjoying the benefits of being needed and important to the family. Having some skin in the dinner game will make going out to restaurants even more exciting for them.

“Family mealtime is for connecting and creating joy, not for arguing or adding tension to an already stressful life.”

The many positive benefits of sharing mealtime together largely depend on what you actually do at the meal. If you get together six times a week, but you just gobble up your food while the TV is on in the background, your family won’t necessarily connect. If you use dinnertime to fight with your kids about homework or to argue with your spouse, that’s not going to work either.

Be mindful of the tone you bring to the dinner table. If you fight with each other, yell, or give each other the silent treatment in front of your kids, this makes children anxious and afraid for the future. Learn how to keep your conflicts private, remaining calm while around the dinner table. Children aren’t equipped to hear arguments between parents, empty threats, or stressors about finances. Family mealtime is for connecting and creating joy, not for arguing or adding tension to an already stressful life. Speak kind and uplifting words to each other for “gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones” (Prov. 16:24).

Meals are a time to talk about the day and encourage one another. What did your kids enjoy doing? What was challenging? Kids get to talk, but make sure mom and dad share too.

You as parents should also exercise some control over conversations that take a negative turn. You can keep the conversation good-spirited. Of course, siblings will say funny things to each other. Teasing between family members is fine; tearing one another down is not. Knowing when to wrap it up is also important, especially if you have a bunch of talkers at the table. You know when it’s time to move the family on to clean up or get on to homework and other activities.

For Further Reading:

Parents Rising

by Arlene Pellicane

How to raise godly children in a godless world Do you feel like you’re fighting a losing battle? Against the culture, against the...

book cover for Parents Rising