Are you wishing everyday that your child eats more fruits and vegetables and less soda and fried foods, that your child at least tries the new food presented to him/her and that your child has a healthy body weight?
Would you wish your child to have a large vocabulary, read earlier and more easily or better still enjoy good academic performance when they are older?
Would you hope and pray that your teenager has less bad behaviors (smoking, binge drinking, substance abuse etc.), all the while instilling positive moods and positive view of the future?
Most importantly would you want a less stressed and healthier relationship with your children?
If you answer yes to all or even to 1 of the above, then here appears to be one simple solution – Family Dinner Time (Sitting down together as a family during a meal, eating food and all the while enjoying healthy and meaningful discussions and most of all enjoying each other’s company).
Over 15 years of research by eminent scientists, funding from Cornell University, articles in Huffington Post and even something by the name of Family Dinner Project all espouse the above.
But (there is always a but :)) this time needs to be sans any technological device. This means no TV/ laptop / tablets /mobiles during that one family meal.
“People say they don’t have time to cook, yet in the last few years we have found an extra two hours a day for the internet,”—MICHAEL POLLAN, Author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma
Maybe we all don’t have 2 hours devoted to the Internet as Mr. Pollan says, but we do have ample time with technology; and yet no or little time for sitting down together as a family on a regular basis.
While technology is such a great enabler it appears to be hampering our relationships. Ironically the very thing technology was supposed to foster.
What it is most definitely impacting (adversely) is Family time. Its not as if we have enough time anyway and the little time we have should be spent with family and friends. But usually what transpires during that limited time is that children and adults alike are glued to some form of technology device.
I hadn’t realized how difficult it was to follow this simple dinnertime sans technology concept till I had children. The easiest way to feed them was to place a laptop in front of them and stuff their mouths. Like mini robots mouth opened, food entered and mom’s job was done.
This went on till Buttercup was 2 years old all the while my folks kept nagging me to stop this way of feeding. But it was the easy choice.
My mother in law would manage to feed my children with just simple stories and chatting away with them. But I had no time for that.
Then just as easily as technology had perched itself on the dining table, it was removed as swiftly (A joint parenting decision that hubby and self have adhered to in spite of all the many temptations and in spite of how crazy and tiresome the day has been). Lots of whining and tantrums for 3 whole days and on the 4th day it was like the laptop had never been part of their mealtime. They can watch their entertainment anytime but just not while having their meals.
Mealtime conversations with 5-year-old Peanut and 3-year-old Buttercup usually start with the food being served – What they like and don’t like about it. Suddenly Buttercup will remember a question I had asked her earlier and out of the blue jump up and answer that. Off late she wasn’t too kicked about going to school and in spite of asking her many many times in various situations I didn’t really get a response. Sitting at the dining table she decided to pipe up and say ‘she gets time outs in school’. We had been conversing about the weather so took me a second to understand where she was going with this ‘time out’ business. Peanut helped out his sister and explained why she had been given the time out and then we talked a little more on this and general behavior in school.
It’s also time to be super crazy creative with stories. Their current favorite dinner story is when their father gets back home and animatedly tells them about the Lion, Giraffe, Monkey, Elephant and other animals he met while driving home from work and how all the animals wanted to meet Peanut and Buttercup (at this stage their faces are completely lit up) and how they squeeze into the car but cannot make it into the elevator! Peanut will act smart and say something like but how can they fit in the car (knowing full well they cannot but nevertheless enjoying the bizarreness of the story). Buttercup not to be left behind, will comment in her shrill excited voice – even the security guard will stop them’ and all the way give that naughty smile of hers. And so the story takes different twists and turns everyday and food is ‘generally’ eaten fuss free with lots of excitement and laughter.
Doing the rounds on the net is a lovely experiment carried out by Dolmio.
They created a pepper grinder that with a twist switches off all devices! How cool is that?
This pepper hacker is in its prototype stage and not for sale but given the response Dolmio got, they are working on getting it ready for the market.
Catch me standing in queue or rather catch me buying it online when it’s up for grabs 😉
Till then Reclaim Family mealtime: Unplugged Version