Sunday, November 1, 2009

Eat Dinner with Your Family!

When my wife and I first got married (it'll be four years in April!), my mom gave us one simple piece of advice – never eat dinner with the television on. She reminded us that dinner was a time to catch up with each other's lives; a time to ask How was your day? We've followed her advice, and I feel our lives are better for it.

Today (while not eating a meal), a commercial for Stouffer's caught my attention. They had taken my mom's words of wisdom one step further by suggesting that kids who eat dinner with their families are destined to do better in school, be more successful, and stay out of trouble. Wait a minute, Stouffer's, I think you're manipulating data here.

Am I arguing that eating dinner every night as a family is important? Absolutely not – I wholehearted agree that it's important to establish that as part of the daily routine. But I'm having a hard time swallowing the assumption that sitting down to a sodium-delicious Stouffer's meal will improve a kid's work habits at school. I remember a similar scenario appearing in an Educational Psychology course I had to take in grad school. It went like this - If wealthy families tend to own small dogs, then can it be assumed that small dogs are an indicator of wealth? I don't remember the exact term – some form of causation or correlation – but the same applies to families who eat dinner together. It's not the meal that causes the kids to do well, but the fact they come from a family who has it together enough to know that it's important to share in the lives of the people you love.

I'd like to know the percentage of families who still eat together. I'd assume it's lower than we expect. But in the end, if it takes a commercial campaign to make it happen, I'm okay with that. It's not quite as sentimental as your mother sharing her advice on your wedding day, but the message is clear. It's important to eat as a family, share as a family, and listen as a family.

Here's the commercial, or you can visit the commercial campaign site (dubbed "Let's Fix Dinner") here.

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