I just got off the phone with Frank Luntz, who I interviewed about his new book, “What Americans Really Want…Really: The Truth About Our Hopes, Dreams and Fears” (Hyperion). One thing he said, and wrote, leapt out: One of the single greatest determinants of whether your kids will grow up to use drugs is whether you eat dinner as a family five nights a week.
That’s it: family dinners can save your kids life.
On page 257, under the heading, “Healthy Children to Healthy Adults: The Six Steps Parents Really Need to Know,” here’s #1:
Having dinner with your children. Nothing says, “I truly care about you” more than spending dinnertime with your children at least five times a week. ...parents who dine with their children produce healthier adults because it sends a clear signal that children are a high priority. ...Parents who miss dinner—no matter what the excuse—are sending the wrong message.
I don’t know what research backs this up, but it strikes an intuitive chord with me. (Until I read Po Bronson’s new book, which I hear says we give too much attention to our kids….).
Scratch that: I don’t care what research backs that up. I do family dinners because I like them—I do them for me. I like to start thinking about what I’m cooking around now—5 pm. I like to shop on the way home. I like to walk in the house and start thinking about cooking and dinner, rather than keep thinking about work. And I like to watch my kids eat.
Since 2000 I’ve kept a journal of what I make for dinner, and I keep the journal by my bed. My wife keeps a prayer book by her side. Same difference.
(By the way, my Luntz interview will appear in next week’s paper. Spoiler alert: he doesn’t have a partner, spouse or kids—but as he told me, his research changed his thinking, not his behavior).