Sunday, January 25, 2009

Studies show...

A few nights ago, as Toby, Charles, and I were watching television, a Stouffer's commercial came on that I found a bit perplexing. The commercial claimed that "studies show that children who eat dinner with their families are more likely to feel that their parents are proud of them." Of course, the commercial implies that if you cook Stouffer's meals for your kids it will boost their self esteem, which is completely ludicrous. The statement in this commercial also implies that if your family doesn't sit down at the table and eat dinner together you must be a bad parent.

Because of the causality implied in this statement, I wondered how eating together could possibly make a child think his parents are proud of him. I could see a correlation between the amount of time you spend with your children and the perception they have of your view of them, but I could not fathom the causation that this commercial implies. How can "my mom ate lasagna with me" possibly equal "my mom is proud of me"? Then it dawned on me - in a traditional family dinner is often the only time children spend with their parents.

In an unschooling family such as ours, where everyone eats what they want, when they want, it can be rather difficult for the whole family to eat the same thing at the same time. Our children are encouraged to self regulate their own food intake and listen to their bodies' signals. Requiring children to wait for meal times to eat and to eat at meal times even if they are not hungry often leads to obesity and/or eating disorders later in life.

I just polled my children to find out if they think I am proud of them. They all feel I am proud of them, and we did not eat dinner together tonight. I hope they know I am really proud of their decision making skills and independence of thought.

"Studies show..."
"Studies show anything," as Charles says.

And -
"Commercials are crap," Toby reminds me.

I guess he does listen to me after all.

1 comment:

coolmetric said...

Duh! You had to think about that one Tina? Should have been a no brainer for you. You came from a traditional family. Toby was only part right. :) That commercial was only part crap. The pride thing is a bunch of crap for sure. Was it not very evident that we were (and are) very proud of our children? I am quite certain it had nothing to do with eating dinner together each night. That is ludicrous. However, I have always maintained that in a traditional family where the children are separated from their families to be institutionalized and brainwashed by "Big Brother" for eight hours a day it is very, very important that the family sit down every possibly day (weekends as well) and eat a meal together. It is my firm belief this has a tremendous impact on family unity. It becomes even more important when both parents work and/or the children have a busy social life.

I realized long ago that the dynamic in a home schooled family is very different and the need for "family time" is not so great. That is why you have not heard me say anything to you on this subject for a long time. Your brother's family does the dinner together thing and every so often I through in a comment to remind him how important I feel that is for family unity.

The only factor I am uncertain about in the semi-traditional family such as yours is how is the working spouse/parent affected by the lack of that family time. By that I mean how does is affect them mentally and emotionally and does it result in some part in a partial disconnect with the family. As a working Dad in a traditional family I often experienced those types of disconnected feelings because so much happened that I was not a part of in my family's life. I do realize that it may have been heightened by the fact that I was in the military and gone a lot, but I also know from talking to my civilian friends over the years who did come home every night that they shared those same experiences to a lesser degree.

I am sure this is something that is different with every working spouse in the home schooling family and in each family. It may be something to give some thought and evaluation to for each family. Of course, it may not be as well. After all, I am on the outside looking in on this one. :)