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Doing This One Simple Thing Will Help Your Children Avoid Misbehaviors

Doing This One Simple Thing Will Help Your Children Avoid Misbehaviors

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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.


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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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Friday 10th of June 2016

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 !


Saturday 7th of May 2016

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.

Anita Fowler

Saturday 7th of May 2016

That is such a great idea! I love it. Thank you very much!!!


Wednesday 13th of April 2016

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.

Anita Fowler

Friday 22nd of April 2016

Yes there definitely are exceptions and having family dinners together is important but doesn't necessarily guarantee everything the research shows.


Tuesday 23rd of February 2016

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

Tuesday 23rd of February 2016

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.


Monday 22nd of February 2016

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.

Anita Fowler

Thursday 25th of February 2016

Ahh I'm so sorry you had to battle a lot of these issues. Thank you for your comment and that is awesome that you have dinners with your partner and siblings!