I'm excited to share with you about the importance of family dinner time and the benefits it brings to family life.
Throughout my life, my family sits together on a dining table to have dinner everyday. In my memory, there were no more than 10 times we sat somewhere else other than the dining table.
Then, I got married and have our child few years later. Before he came along, I sat down with my husband and went through the dos and donts. Having a family meal on the dining table is a must and one of the several things on my top priority list. I want to make sure that no matter what is going to change, having a family dinner will stay the same.
I have to admit that having dinner together with my family is a routine. To me, it is the only way to make me feel complete on a daily basis.
Since I have been experiencing the value of family meals on me throughout my life, I will never trade in for a second I had and have with my family, especially dinner time. And I want my child to get the same benefits out of this little gesture everyday.
One great thing was that before our child, my extended family started to have a family gathering once a week since 2006. It has been 10 years already. I must tell you. Some people would get overwhelmed. But to me, it is always the highlight of the week. Don't worry, I will share with you the tips of how to handle big family dinner later.
Obviously on a dining table. The table could be in any room of the house. My rule of thumb is that every person sitting on the same table should look straight and see at least one person face-to-face, not at the TV.
I know it is hard to keep the TV off. My mom used to keep the TV off during dinner time. However, I couldn't get the compromise from my husband. But here is what I do...if everybody on the table gets all their focus on the TV, I will give a couple warnings. If the situation persists, I will just go ahead and shut it off. Otherwise, it is fine.
But definitely no tablets and cell phones on the table. This applies to toys, too.
If somebody calls during dinner time, do NOT answer it. Let the answering machine to pick it up. My personal experience is that even you told the person on
the phone that you are busy or are eating at this moment , he/she will still stay on the phone forever. It never fails. Other than something lives or dies, leave the phone alone and let it goes to the voice mail.
One thing I learned about the benefits of family meals very early on in my life is that it helps me recharge. You must have thought that I am exaggerating this.
Long story short...During my 8 years of working 7 days a week, 10 hours a day, the family time made me to face another day, put one foot in front of me at a time.
This is how I felt and feel. When I sit on the table with my family, I feel that I am home with people I love and care. I will do whatever I can to fight for them. Having all of them sitting in front of you, that visual reminder is very powerful. It helps you to get the strength and energy back to face all the challenges, craziness and hassles in life. It is because of them who lift up my spirit. It recharges me to face another day, another week.
Think about what you go through on a daily basis. Are you always on the run?
Are there people at work love to take credit from you?
Do you want to walk out of your job, but you can't?
Are you a homemaker and need to take care of the little ones and/or elderly? It is tiring and frustrating sometimes. Sitting down to have dinner maybe is a break. But hearing your family laughing and praising your food, doesn't it melt your heart? The list goes on and on.
Remember....when you sit down with your family having meal together, you are surrounded by love. It is the only thing to empower you to face the world and face the day and face the challenges of life. This is the value of family meals.
One of the obvious is that when you sit on the dining table, you may ask anybody, "How was your day?" Your family may ask you the same thing. If you are frustrated from something during the day, you can talk through it.
I personally prefer to stay away from that subject. Once I walk out of the office, it stays where it belongs and not comes back home with me. But different people do it differently. You family may be willing to listen to you.
I do love to share something interesting, odd, strange or funny I experienced during the day with my family though. Something different adds more spices on the conversation.
But it doesn't mean that I have always been successful in family conversation. We sometimes stumbled and get tongue tied. The way how you ask the questions and the words you use matters. Sometimes, it is ok to get some help or think outside the box.
More conversation starter recommendations for you:
I never thought of my mom using dinner time to do parenting until I started working. What she did just made us pick up subconsciously. Pretty clever, huh?
My mom always says, "You can read a person on a dining table." I can't remember how many times she said these words. All I know is a lot. I mean a lot. She even reminds us about this philosophy even we are all grown-up now.
Throughout our lives, my mom would always point out so and so did this or that on the dining table earlier. That means that person has this or that kind of
characters or personalities.
What we didn't know was that we started to pick it up throughout the years. It gave us a lot of advantages in dealing with people at work and in lives. Even my husband said that I mastered this skill that I was able to tell a person's characters and personalities within 5 minutes either face to face or on the phone. This made me to determine that I am going to pass this on to my son.
That is just one of the things that parents can consider on teaching the children on the dining table.
In my opinion, the dining table provides the perfect environment to have casual conversation with children. We are all relaxed and enjoying the food. It is very easy to make children to talk at this time. We actually learn a lot more details on the dining table from our son instead of having a conversation in the car or anywhere else.
If you have more than one child, it is even better. You have all of them at the same time and same place. Any lesson learn should share, this is the perfect place to do it.
There are several obvious things that you can teach your child(ren) on the table.
Table manner is on top of the list. Needless to say what it entails. I do want to tell you that if you can get your child(ren) to master in this area, they are half way to their success.
Why? I have been working in different international corporations for 20 years. 2 of them were in Fortune 500 at least once. What I learned is that when it comes to hiring, the job interview lasts for a whole day, includes luncheon.
Yes, that's right. Lunch is part of the interview. So, back to the point where my mom always says, "You can read a person on a dining table." There is some wisdom there.
That's why I said you will have your child(ren) a great head start. So, try your best to be strict about table manner. Show them by examples.
If you are interested in teaching your children more about table manner or want to continue this conversation after family dinner, here are a few great books recommended for you for different age groups:
There are a few of my mom's sayings that she planted the seeds so deep in our heads. They always remind us to be thankful and appreciate our food. What she
meant not only appreciating good food, but also the basic food.
"Treasure your food. Think about there are a lot of people in this world do not have the privilege to eat."
"Do not complain about your belly being full because you are blessed with food."
"Every grain (of rice) is a fruit of hardwork." (There is a Chinese children song about this philosophy reminding us the hard work of the farmers.)
"Good meal or bad meal is still a meal. Many people have nothing to eat."
Believe me...my mom still constantly reminds us by telling us these same words over and over.
My mom proclaimed herself as the "garbage bin". Yes, that is what she
calls herself when she is on the dining table. She can't stand that
there is a piece of food here and there on the plate. That's why she is
the "garbage bin". So, she will end up finishing it. But mom is still
beautiful and has very nice figure even she is in her mid-60s.
If there is a lot of leftover, she will make sure we finish it the next day or two. Or she will turn the leftover into a completely different, awesome meal.
In my memory, I have never seen her throwing food away.
Throughout all these years, we eventually pick it up. I understand that nothing comes for free. We need to work hard. We appreciate things in life, other than food, more. If you browse through my website, you will find many recipes are created out of leftover.
Another great thing to teach the kids maybe a bit outside of the dining table, but related to what we just talked about "respect and appreciation"....using leftover to create another meals encourage creativity and imagination.
Ask your children to go into the kitchen to do this together with you. Show them by examples. This is an experience that I shared with my son lately.
Check out one of the recipes, Deconstructed Red Velvet Cake, encouraging creativity because of a recipe failure.
Now, we know the importance and value of the family meals. We also know that we can do parenting during dinner time. So, the million dollar question is....how to make family meals happen?
First of all, different family has different situation and schedule. Throughout my life, no matter before or after marriage, I have dinner with my family at least 3 times. Mostly more than that. It may not work in your family. That's ok.
I do know that some people are on the run literally everyday. I do remember a conversation with one of my co-workers. She is a single mother and has 3
children. She always says, "I keep them busy. So, they don't fight with each other. I take them to soccer and other sport activities." "Do you still need to make dinner?" "No, we eat it on the road. By the time we get back home, it is 9pm." Does this sound familiar to you? A family meal, regardless breakfast, lunch or dinner, is still possible.
If you are on the run literally all time, is there a day that you can sit down and relax? Is it possible that that would be the day for a family meal? A delicious dinner can be done in 30 minutes. Once you get into the habit of doing that, you can consider having more family dinners together. Just take one little step at a time.
Now you know which day to have a family meal together. You need to have a plan of what to make.
I understand that having creative dinner ideas could be challenging. Been there and done that. I experienced this challenge when I was 11 years old. My mom just had my baby sister. Our domestic help just left. My family relied on me to cook dinner every night for a family of 5 (excluding my newborn baby sister). Therefore, I know how difficult to plan every night dinner.
Here is a solution for you. I sent out weekly dinner plan and shopping list to my subscribers. You can rearrange the order of the dinner. Or you can just cook a couple dinner out of the weekly plan. All you need to do is to fill out the 2-line form below and subscribe. Being our subscribers, you get exclusive tips of how to get the dinner of that week on the table sooner.
Don't forget to share with us what you do on the dining table with your family.
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