Friday, July 22, 2011

The Power of the Dinner Table

I just had the opportunity to spend the evening with my two daughters, 17 and 15.  While at the dinner table we enjoyed great conversations regarding the books we are each reading, differences between how teachers teach, and the value of homework. While on vacation last week we experienced the same thing. Many times when they visit, yes I'm divorced, we cook together and talk at the dinner table as well. It seems like the moment we leave the table, however, conversation wanes. Texting begins, the T.V. gets turned on or one or more of us get online and focused on something other than each other. I can remember the best conversations I still have with my parents, my wife and even my friends occur around either a meal or possibly a beverage. 
I know that there is a tremendous amount of research that acknowledges just how important a family meal in the evening is, so I am wondering why we as school leaders, don't protect that time for our families. We can often fill  children's days with scheduled activities which prohibit family time at the dinner table. 
Whether it be dance lessons, music lessons, sports team practices, games, concerts or just a plethora of homework I would guess that a dinner together as a family is a rare thing and even if everyone is eating at the same time, it is rarely around the dinner table with no T.V., texting, radios, newspapers etc. 
I also remember doing my homework at the dinner table as that was the only place to really do it in my house when I was young. Mom and Dad were often there as well or made frequent visits to ensure we were not experiencing any difficulties. After we were done with our homework and chores, we were sometimes allowed to watch a T.V. show with them. We had early bedtimes and were encouraged to read in our rooms by frequent visits to the library and the absence of any electronic devices in our rooms. Even when I did get a record player, it was not to be used after the designated bedtime. 
I look in my son's room at college and he has two video game consoles, a computer a 42" flat screen T.V. and the ever present smartphone. Until he left for college, however, his mother had him follow much the same routine I had followed when I was a child.  I commend her for using the Power of the Dinner Table with my kids when she could. I believe it is due to their time at the dinner table is what has ensured their success up to this point. Our parents were geniuses.  It is amazing how we don't often realize this until after we have had our own children. I am going to call my parents tomorrow and thank them for all of those times I missed a show I wanted to watch in order to complete my homework or honor a bedtime which I am sure was designed to encourage my reading.