Structure Sunday: The Sit Down Family Dinner

I've been blogging a lot about food lately even if it isn't food Friday. I've explained that food can help you get healthy and that food can help you socialize. Well guess what ?  Food can even help you get organized. Food can help you structure your time and even your mind. 

I once read an interesting fact about the Rhodes Scholars. These are people who in their graduate education have received the highest of academic honors, complete with scholarship money. Needless to say these are some smart, productive and organized people. At one point, someone tried to evaluate a number of Rhodes scholars to try to determine if there were any common factors in their backgrounds. The only thing that they could come up with was this: they all grew up with the tradition of sitting down together as a family for dinner.

How could family dinner time possibly have anything to do with growing up to be smart, productive and organized? Think about this: we've all seen households that run smoothly, and we've all seen the opposite where chaos and strife reign. I think that the sit down dinner is a sign of a calm and organized household. But I also think that a chaotic household can be calmed by the introduction of something like a sit down meal. It goes both ways. 

A sit down dinner takes foresight, planning, caring and creativity. It also can involve delegating. If kids see these processes in action day after day, they internalize them. There is extra time and effort involved especially for working moms, but if you think about the behavioral as well as nutritional benefits, it's well worth it. 

Once you master the sit down family dinner, try a party. Get the kids involved from the beginning, even the teenagers. Consider a mix of ages. You invite some of your friends, but let the kids invite some of their friends too. Plan well in advance. Two weeks ahead, make a guest list and send invites by email or snail mail. Develop a menu, and maybe a theme. Clean house and shop a couple days ahead, and the day before start the food preparations. If you have the party on a Saturday evening, the kids can help with the final preparations in the morning. Involve the kids at every step of the way, and you will see their pride when the candles are lit and show time arrives.  

I am convinced this kind of family activity confers behavioral benefits in many ways. Home becomes the place to be. Parents are seen as the ones trying something fun and new. Kids learn some homemaking skills, but most importantly, they learn about planning and execution. They  learn to structure time in order to get things accomplished. And that is more valuable than a Rhodes scholarship.