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 anything," as Charles says.
"Commercials are crap," Toby reminds me.
I guess he does listen to me after all.