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Doing This One Simple Thing Will Help Your Children Avoid Misbehaviors

Parents: Doing this one simple thing will help your children avoid: Drugs, Obesity, Cigarettes, Inadequate Grades, Eating Disorders, and Teen Pregnancies

Today our families are under attack from about every walk of life. Full schedules, media, computers, drugs, etc. are all taking away from family time and diminishing bonds of unity.

How do we combat this constant onslaught of the family? There are multiple ways, but one of the most influential things we can do is establishing and maintaining a daily family meal.

Multiple studies from various sources have proven that families that do not participate in regular family meals have children that are MORE inclined to:  give into peer pressures, experiment with drugs, drink alcohol, participate in theft, develop obesity and other eating disorders, have bad grades in school, suffer from lack of self-esteem, and experience teen pregnancy. * Sources are at the end of article.

A report by CASA stated, “Eating family dinners at least five times a week drastically lowers a teen’s chance of smoking, drinking, and using drugs. Teens who have fewer than three family dinners a week are 3.5 times more likely to have abused prescription drugs and to have used illegal drugs, 3 times more likely to have used marijuana, more than 2.5 times more likely to have smoked cigarettes, and 1.5 times more likely to have tried alcohol, and 20% more likely to get C’s or lower on their report cards.”

Family meals strengthen the relationship between spouses. It is just as important for parents to bond with each other as it is to bond with their children. A strong marriage is very beneficial for children and teens.

Further, family meals save money. A meal outside the home costs on average $8.00 a meal. Inside the home meals cost on average  $4.50 a meal. With a family of 5 that is a $6,387.50 savings a year!

 Quality time, conversation, humor, fun, education, and nourishment can all be experienced at family meal time.

Ways to have a successful family dinner/meal:

Simplify. Quick, easy, and healthy are the things I often aim at in meal making. Some days I really do make the dish restaurant worthy, but most days I just don’t have the time to. There are ways to pre-make meals and freeze them as well.

Turn the technology off. I have a rule at our house and that is: No cell phones or TV are allowed during dinner time. This has really strengthened us. Instead of texting or scrolling through Facebook or a google search feed, you look at each other, communicate better, and enjoy our meals more.

Don’t stress about the clean-up. If the kids are old enough, make them clean up. Growing up we had a family dinner honestly just about  every single night.  My mom knew that she needed to teach us how to work and contribute so she made the meals (Monday-Friday) and had a rule that the kids cleaned up. She taught us as soon as we could carry a plate how to clear the table, wash and rinse the dishes, load the dishwasher and start it. Much to our dissatisfaction we each had one, two, or even three nights a week of kitchen duty (depending on how many of us kids were still living at home) and we could not go to bed until the kitchen was sufficiently clean.

If your kids are not old enough, then find a system that works for you. It sometimes helps if I empty the dishwasher before the meal and I put the dishes straight into it after. Other nights I leave the non-perishables and dishes for the morning and enjoy the rest of the night with my family. Not stressing too much about the clean-up is the key (at least for me) to wanting to continue to have a sit down family dinner.

 Get help.  Growing up every Sunday we were expected to help with the meal. Before we went to church each of us was in charge of one thing. Washing and wrapping the potatoes, getting the rolls in the pan and on the oven to rise, peeling and chopping the carrots, wrapping the squash, etc.., while mom did the roast. We may have dragged our feet but when we got home after church we were all happy to eat the hot meal.

 Don’t allow “busy-ness” to derail you. I remember what it was like with 5 kids (7 total in our household).  Most of the time it was hectic. Everyone was going in all different directions. We were all involved in sports, some of us in student government, volunteer activities, etc.  My parents were for the most part flexible with our schedules but they tried to make sure that we could all at least attend 4 or more of the family dinners each week. And based on the data they were correct to prioritize our family dinners for the most part over other activities. Family dinners have more of a positive influence on children and teens than extracurricular activities are shown to have!

 Make it work. If a parent works the night shift, you could have a family breakfast together each day. Or you can do what a family I know does. The parents work opposite schedules so after everyone eats at home with the mom they make a plate for the dad and drive to his work. He takes his dinner break and eats with the family all together in the car.  I was there once to take part in the drive-in-family-dinner and admired their dedication. It looked like a lot of effort was put into having dinner together but they told me (even the teenagers) that it was the best part of their day.

Don’t Give Up. Sometimes you may wonder if the dinners are doing any good. Just keep plugging along. Count each dinner as a victory in your family life. If you miss a dinner, do yourself a favor and don’t feel guilty. Resolve to have a dinner the next day and keep plugging along.

Conversation. If your family doesn’t converse easily, it may take a while, but conversation will begin to flow quickly once family meals have been consistent for a while. Until then, having topics, themes or asking your kids a repetitive question each night may help. Every evening we sat down to eat we: blessed the food, ate, chatted, and then my parents would ask us what we learned that day in school. We would all take a turn telling what we learned (Sunday’s we told what we had learned during church). At the end of the meal we each read a scripture or two from the Holy Scriptures and passed it around usually reading about a chapter before we could be excused.

Although that type of schedule may not be for you, you could incorporate something similar into your family meals. From the outset some may think that having a structured conversation sounds boring or monotonous, but it usually wasn’t. Our personalities would make each night different. We would come up with funny things we learned at school and we kids would laugh with each other. Other times, I would tell a story of an experience at school and get my older siblings valued input. And sometimes dinner was turned into a game when my brother and I would take turns sneaking our Lima beans back and forth onto each other’s plates while our parents weren’t looking (so we wouldn’t have to eat them before being excused).

My sister who has her own family now asks each member of the family to tell two good things that happened that day and it starts great dinner conversations. Whatever you do just make it consistent and enjoy each other.

Be Observant and Listen to your Family. Family dinner is often the time when individual problems are made known.  If a child or parent is struggling but trying to hide it, typically the problem will be made known through repetitive family meals. This may lead to getting support and love from the other family members and proper help.

One time I had a teacher that was brainwashing me in elementary school. He was making his students watch multiple videos of animal torture and the like and was pushing his vegetarianism on us very thickly. I stopped eating very much and wouldn’t touch my meat. My family rallied around me. My siblings and parents were able to convince me that what my teacher was saying/preaching was his own opinion and that I could have a different one if I wanted to.

Another thing I remember was learning about my brother’s basketball coach that was unfair to him and favored his son who had the same position. My brother went to every practice and was a great player yet he was always on the bench during game time because the coach said his son was a ‘better player’. I felt sympathy for him and was glad that I learned of the struggle. We were all able to tell him what a great player he was and it was his coach’s bias not my brother’s skill that kept him on the bench.

Each night we or my mom would ask my dad how work was. I was constantly reminded of how hard he worked for us especially when he was vocal about disliking his job.

It was a positive thing to realize that the world didn’t revolve around us individually and that the people we called family had real struggles. It was important for us kids to be reminded that our parents made sacrifices for our welfare.

Our family is not perfect. Yet, all of my siblings and I are best friends to this day. Our parents tell us a lot of how proud they are of, “How well we turned out”.

 None of us (5 total kids) were ever arrested. We all got above a 3.5 grade point average. We never drank alcohol, never smoked or did drugs. We all waited until marriage to have children or to even get physically intimate. And we all are professionally successful or successful stay-at-home moms.

 I guess you could say, despite our average weaknesses and imperfections, we all turned out really well. And I think we owe a good portion of that success to spending quality time around the dinner table each night, learning values, and supporting one another as a family.

Strong family bonds are a main part in making a life ‘rich’ and having daily family dinners is a major way to strengthen those bonds and help children and teens get a great start in life.


For other ‘living rich tips’, please subscribe, Like me on Facebook, and Follow me on Pinterest.

I’d love to know, what have you done or what are you doing to hold family meals together?

The importance of holding family meals has been proven. Here are multiple resources where I found the data:

Harvard Research

Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine

University of Minnesota

National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University(CASA)

Time Magazine

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48 Responses to Doing This One Simple Thing Will Help Your Children Avoid Misbehaviors

  1. Brian says:

    Awesome post Anita. You’re parents really are great. I remember so many fun times around that kitchen table 🙂

  2. candi says:

    this is such good info. thanks for sharing it!

  3. Aimee says:

    I LOVED this post! Of course the resources are great proof, but what I love most is your personal account of how this worked in your family. My husband and I grew up much the same way, so there’s never been much question about whether or not to have family dinner. But this is a great reminder about why we do it, and how we can improve it. I love the idea of reading scriptures right after. Totally going to try that!

    • Anita Fowler says:

      Aimee, Thanks I’m so glad you loved it! That is awesome that you implement family dinners already and that you grew up with them. Let me know how the the reading of scriptures goes 🙂


  4. Carla says:

    Thank you for sharing this. It makes me feel even better that we have regular family dinners together. 🙂

  5. Keli says:

    I started working night shift about three months ago. family dinners are important to me, always have been. Some nights we eat at 3 or 4 in the afternoon, then they have a snack later on while I’m at work. Some people who w this about us think we’re nuts for eating so early early, but were together and that’s what matters to us. 🙂 thanks for sharing this article!

    • Anita Fowler says:

      Keli- That is awesome that you are doing so well with having a family ‘dinner’ time. Yeah it doesn’t much matter when you do it, as long as your all together and bonding, that is what matters.


  6. Rebecca Carter says:

    These are great ideas and can’t wait to try them out!

  7. Emma says:

    Great post! love your blog!

  8. Stace says:

    My parents made me and my brother have sit down meals with them when we were younger, and my brother has had severe anxiety, depression and an eating disorder for five years. I smoked for two years, and heavily drank in high school to compensate with my family issues. I guess this works for some families, just not everyone?

    • Anita Fowler says:

      Stace- I agree that is doesn’t always work with everyone. One reader said that it must not work for ‘dysfunctional’ families, but my family was dysfunctional (perhaps I’ll write some posts on that in the future) we were FAR from perfect! Having dinner with my siblings and parents did hold our family together though in a lot of ways had we not had them. For us our religion and our family dinners held our less than perfect lives together. I have also struggled with depression, I’m really sorry you have to. Its a very difficult difficult thing to deal with. As with all statistics there are exceptions to them, but I think having family dinners does HELP families regardless of the outcomes.

  9. Samantha says:

    love it and totally agree.

  10. Laura says:

    I want to have nice often family dinners, not always possible with my husband’s and my work schedules. When we do, he likes to choose that time to start lectures and arguements which really upsets me because as a child, dinner was my favourite time of the day for the fact it was the time we all sat down together and had nice conversation! I truly believe if I had pleasant family dinners regularely my kids wouldn’t be such extremely picky eaters! But I’m not sure about it changing other behaviors because even though I grew up with cheerful family dinners every night, I was about as wild as a teenager could be!

    • Anita Fowler says:

      Laura- I’m sorry your husband makes dinners unpleasant. Maybe having them when he is at work will be a positive time with you and your kids. Maybe he will come around with time. People can and do change so hopefully he does. And I understand what you mean that you were wild despite regular family dinners. As will ALL statistics there are those who don’t fall into the majority. It’s amazing to me though the research and the conclusive evidence from multiple different sources that family dinners do help with behaviors. Thanks!

  11. Winter says:

    We have a different religion but I LOVE the idea of incorporating your family beliefs into conversation after meals. This has really inspired me to step up and make more dinners! I’m currently barely making 3 a week! Thank you for writing this, I really enjoyed the read and it was a great reminder of how important quality time together is in a family. 🙂

  12. Lisa says:

    We have raised our four kids with this same rule…dinner together (Sunday night to Thursday night) at about the same time each night. It’s not easy but here are my suggestions…
    Make this the first priority. Yes over basketball practice, dance class, and work meetings. These are your children they are the first priority.
    Everyone shares one good thing that happened that day…yes some meals are quiet, angry, or just grumpy but do it anyway! Sit there for the 10 minutes that it takes to power down the food…other meals will be wonderful, with everyone talking long past the food being eaten (I promise!)
    Kids help in some way…even the youngest of kids can put napkins on the table. Whomever cooked should sit out clean up.
    This really works…three of my four kids are out of the house now. Drug free, alcohol free, good grades, good people. Sorry if this sounds like bragging, but I hope you all have wonderful kids and I know this works!

  13. Teenage Sons says:

    It’s great to hear that family meals are important. It’s more than just eating together, it’s about bonding. It’s a time of day to catch up, laugh, and talk about our awkward moments of the day. It’s a great routine to get your teen into because he will do the same with his family.

  14. peekay joe says:


  15. Brittany says:

    all I can say is… WOW!!! ( i kno this post is rather old but I had to comment) I first off would like to commend you for stepping up and writing this post! It brought great joy and tribute to my life (no joke) to read this. As a stay at home mom to 2 young kids, and one on the way, I have he opportunity to be involved everyday in my kids life and also to bless my husband with prayer all day while he’s out working, and also when he comes home. I absolutley love being a stay at home mother. My mom was not a stay at home mom she worked as well as my dad, they set great morals and standards for us however we ate at the table as a family majority of the time on Saturdays and Sundays, and I did experiment with drugs, alcohol, promiscuity and the such! Even my brother did as well. So I do agree with those statistics. So now That I am saved and have given my life to Jesus I constantly strive to bring this to the very forefront of my growing family. This post has spoken volumes in my bold attempts to daily and firstly edify Christ, and establish it in my home, with my children and be involved in their lives every chance I can. Thank you for this and i’m glad I stumbled upon it! God bless you and your family!


    • Anita Fowler says:

      Thank you Brittany. I really appreciate this meaningful comment! That’s awesome that you are working so hard to create a Christ-centered home and be a great mother and wife. It sounds like you really are. Thanks again and God Bless you and your family as well!

  16. Sandee says:

    Hi: I totally agreed with your idea of family dinners and cleaning up & cooking together. I raised my kids like this ( now 22 & 25) . When they were both in college, they did this with their roommates. Many did NOT grow up doing mealtimes together and consequently loved doing it with roommates. In our family we say “food is LOVE”! My son (with his roommates) now host a FRIENDSGIVING meals.
    I have found that many of my students ( I teach middle school) do NOT eat with their families regularly. They fend for themselves at dinner which is really sad. When they come back from vacation, their favorite part of vacation is having a holiday meal together !

    • Anita Fowler says:

      Sandee- That is so sad to see the most kids aren’t having dinner with their families on a regular basis, but also so telling that their favorite parts of family vacation was the time they spent eating together. Great job on making family meals a priority!

  17. Sarah Hines says:

    This is an incredible notion. My family always sat down together for our evening meal!

  18. Nathalia says:

    As a social scientist my theory is that it is in fact less about the meal, than about the fact, that parents who make family-dinners a priority probably make their family a priority, thus spending more time with and paying more attention to their children. They might even be healthier, because the meal is home-cooked. And they show their children how to cooperate as a group and make them feel as part of something bigger, giving them a security to fall back on. All valuable life-skills for the future and those situations where they might be led astray.

    • Anita Fowler says:

      Nathalia- Yes thank you for using the social science as part of the explanation of why these statistics exist. I think if more parents know how making meals and eating together benefit families so much, they would try to do it more often. So yeah I understand that most good parents are trying to do this already-but many parents who want to be better can improve by prioritizing family time/dinners and making their children healthy home-based meals 🙂

  19. Lori says:

    I really enjoyed reading your post, Anita. It seems more often today like families are getting so caught up with everything else in life and not focusing on what is most important at the end of the day. Thank you for writing this article 🙂

  20. Charly says:

    Well, I certainly wouldn’t count an illness as a misbehavior. Though certain lifestyles can affect illness later in life.

  21. Liv says:

    I really appreciate the idea of setting aside regularly scheduled time to re-bond with and stay current with what is going on with your family. That feeling of support is so important to us all. However, I have to add that family meal times don’t work for everyone if: the tone of the meal is hostile, if the children or a parent feel extremely uncomfortable opening up or reaching out for support during a meal time, then I dare say it can be counterproductive. So please, if you do family dinners, please try and make sure your children truly feel comfortable talking to you during these meals. Otherwise, there is something seriously wrong. My young, budding family does daily and weekly activities to ensure that we rebond, whether it’s a trip to the park. Sometimes we do meal times, sometimes we go shopping. It’s just a matter of slowing down and listening to each other that brings us together again.

  22. Kelly Black says:

    While this is not a guaranteed, foolproof way to avoid problems, it IS helpful for staying in touch with the kids. It also helps to build relationships so that if a serious problem does come up (as it has at our house) we have a solid basis for discovery, discussion, and dealing with the problem.

  23. M says:

    I had family meals as a very young child but those stopped before I hit high school … personally, I battled all but one of these issues. I definitely agree that there’s a connection. Continuing family meals is so important throughout your child’s entire life at home. My partner and I insist upon family meals now, although we have no living children yet. Even when my younger siblings spend the night with us, we all have family dinners together.

  24. Fern says:

    All great if you are not a single parent. What happens to the children brought up in single parent environment ? Absent mothers or fathers? Does this mean that they are more likely to drink smoke take drugs and be depressed?! I do believe family meals are important in bonding however the title to this article is misleading helping your children avoid misbehaving is having a good relationship with each individual child regardless of your family situation . I also believe depression is not a misbehaviour but rather an illness which can affect anyone in any family.

    • Anita Fowler says:

      True on the depression. That isn’t a misbehavior, I’ll see if I can change that. As a single mom myself now (going through a divorce) I still believe that family dinners are very important. It’s hard to slow down and take time for everyone to sit together. Yes the part about strengthening relationships is the main issue but also eating healthy dinners together is another great way to ensure a healthy lifestyle and create a strong family bond. I wish you the best.

  25. Lily says:

    I had family meals every day for nearly all my life and the only thing I didnt do on this list was teen pregnancy.
    I’m not saying family meals aren’t important but I think parents need to be more emotionally involved with their teenagers as well. Also, don’t blame yourselves if your kids go off the tracks a bit.. my parents did everything they possibly could and I had a wonderful childhood and I still messed up a few times.

  26. caitlin says:

    This post really rang true to me as well. Even though my family had ups and downs financially and with their marriage, my mom always made sure we ate dinner together on weekdays. Even if it was simple.

    Even now when my friend-family gets together we all sit around the table family style and play “high/low” We go around the table and so the high point of our day and the low point of our day. We started adding “passion fruit” where we’d mention something we’re looking forward to as well. It really gets the conversation flowing and makes everyone grateful for what we have.

  27. joanne says:

    I did those things…we ate dinner as a family every night. We went over homework, we colored, we played, we camped we fished, we vacationed, we made snowmen and colored them w/ food coloring. I was at every school event, I volunteered. I knew the friends, I did most of the driving. Drugs came into our lives anyway. Trust me when I will tell you first hand Drugs see no boundaries, no social class, no color or religion, no zip code. We discussed everything from boys, to what school she would attend, to what type of wedding someday she would have. Do not assume that only the “neglected” children will become an addict, assume someone will introduce it to your child. Fight as hard as you can to save them, the are the most precious thing that you will ever be part of !

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