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Old Fashion Ways - "The Family Dinner"

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Multi Generation Family Celebrating With Christmas Meal
Multi Generation Family Celebrating With Christmas Meal
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Today's family dinner is normally everybody eating a pizza in their own room.  No more family sitting at the same table and praying before the meal. No more healthy big meals that mama sweated over all day. No more dads sitting at the head of the table. No more talking about the day's activities or what is going on in school. Or what is new in everybody's lives. Dr. William Doherty and Barbara Carlson, authors of "Putting Family First: Successful Strategies for Reclaiming Family Life in a Hurry-Up World" Introduce the   concept of time famine. In essence, families are struggling to find the time to sit down together for dinner because they are overbooked with work commitments, extra-curricular activities, and have been competitive culture to live in their cars. Family members are not sitting at the same table and preying before a meal; nor are they eating healthy meals that mama sweated over all day.

Fathers are not taking their place at the head of the table and conversations that used to be about the day's activities or what is going on in school, are becoming extinct. Instead what you have are parents working two jobs or long hours at one job to make ends meet. On top of that, you have kids who are being shuttled from one activity to another while eating fast food in the car. Our consumer culture has contributed to our kids being impatient and obese. 

The family dinner has become a thing of the past. Even the Sunday dinner has turned into a microwave instant meal that has no meaning to the members of the family. 

I can remember a time when I used to watch my grandmother work her magic over a wood burning stove, this was after she got everything she was going to cook from her garden in the back yard.  I remember sitting down at the table to mixed greens, peas, corn on the cob, homemade from scratch  hot butter biscuits and fried chicken,  you get the picture but the thing that sticks out in my mind is that the meal was prepared by hand over a hot flame on that black wood burning stove!  And we all sat down together as a family to a great meal.  It took time for our parents and grandparents yours and mine to prepare the family meal, and when we all sat down at the table you could taste the love and care they put into it.

But today we can run to the super market pick up that rotisserie, readymade biscuits in a can etc. come home pop it in the microwave for a ready to eat meal where everyone helps themselves and sets down in front of the television, in the home office, and in some families I have seen they actually go into the bedroom set on the bed and have their meal.  Families need to get back to the dinner table and make the family dinner fun not a project.  There is a national push by First Lady Michelle Obama to have family dinner reinstated in America. She often speaks about the value of sitting down together, eating a meal that has been prepared from fresh ingredients and connecting as a family. First Lady Obama is a proponent of families growing their own gardens in order to gain access to nutritious food. So how can the family reinstate the family dinner and family time? Simple: schedule it. Almost all Americans operate by a calendar and fill their days with plans and appointments. Family dinner time should be no different. There has to be a focused effort from the adults to make family dinner time a weekly a weekly habit.

If you cannot commit to a family dinner with your children every night due to scheduling conflicts, start small and pick two to three days each week where your family dinner is a must. Make grocery shopping an educational experience by including the children. Have those help you look at sales flyers and help you budget for the cost of the meals. Allow them to accompany you to the grocery store and identify fruits and vegetables. Compare food labels of store brand products with name brand products to determine if the only difference between the two is the price. Face to face conversations with children ensures proper social skill development. Children cannot resort to texting or wanting to surf the internet when they are actively engaged in family routines and learning valuable life skills at the same time.

Teaching children how to set the table, how to have proper table manners, and how to help clean up after a meal provides much needed structure in their lives. Naturally, children and especially teens resist such efforts because they rather be doing something else; however, raising children takes a lot of work and sticking to the rules when it comes to preparing our children for life should be a top priority. Dinner is a time to help our children understand family values and morals about how to navigate at school and how to select positive friends.

According to Dr. Doherty, parents can turn cleanup time after dinner into a discussion that hits on the harder subjects of dating, drugs, and sex. Parents are the child's first teachers and as young people they need to know where the adults in their lives stand on the tough issues. The pressures of society are eating our children alive, but parents are the first and most important line of defense in redirecting the lives of the youth. If you need help starting a conversation with your child, pick up a parenting book or magazine. Talk to other parents to find out what works. Take back your authority and instill discipline and respect in your child. Family dinner time is an excellent time to have these conversations. Don't let processed food from the microwave provide the meals that your hands should be preparing. Make time for family dinner by putting it on the calendar for everyone to see.  

Dr. Carlton Young

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Dr. Carlton N. Young is a veteran, entrepreneur, and former homeless single father, and now a successful, much sought after Inspirational Motivational Speaker and Author. Dr. Carlton Young is a dynamic and entertaining speaker, entrepreneur, (more...)
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