Warren Hayden: Meal time chaos will be worth it in end

Are these children high achievers because the family sits down to eat together?
Are these children high achievers because the family sits down to eat together?
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One of my favourite parts of the day is sitting around the dinner table with my family tucking into delicious food and spending time together without modern distractions like TV, smart phones and the iPad.

But it seems families eating together around the table are going the same way as dial-up internet access and dinosaurs – heading for extinction.

I’ll admit I commit the terrible crime of putting an elbow on the table

Warren Hayden

But does it really matter if dinner time is spent on the sofa with the TV on and eyes glued to the big screen as we eat food that took time and effort to make? Yes it does.

Conversations during the meal provide opportunities for the family to bond, plan, connect, and learn from one another. It’s a chance to share information and news of the day, as well as give extra attention to your children.

An article I read recently suggested children who sit down and eat with their parents tend to have a higher academic performance than those who don’t, and those children will have better manners because they will imitate their parents when sitting together.

Obviously this means parents setting an example and have good manners in the first place.

I’ll admit occasionally I commit the terrible crime of putting an elbow on the table, but I think, on the whole, I have good table manners and I can pass these on to my children, not by instructing or criticising, but just leading by example.

Obviously, any family with young children will tell you meal times are never perfect. In an ideal world, the call of ‘dinner’s ready’ would echo around the house and my children would instantly stop what they were doing and arrive at the table ready to enjoy healthy and nutritious food and the family bonding would begin.

The mood will feel easy and relaxed and my daughters would leave their plates clean and even request a second helping of vegetables. Yes, I know, I’m asking way too much of a five and six-year-old.

In reality meal times can become a bit of a bother. For example, just recently my daughter Caitlin thought she was being a bit of a grown-up by grabbing the white pepper to sprinkle on her food – until she sprinkled a bit too vigorously and the lid came off and the entire contents landed on her food.

This was a one-off, but drinks being spilt have become a regular occurrence.

But I’ve come to realise the more civilised meal times become, the more the family atmosphere is sucked out of the situation. So I’ve learnt to embrace the madness. Dinner time might be a bit hectic but at least it brings us all together as a family.

It’s also taught me to make sure the lid on the pepper pot is screwed on nice and tightly.

Potter box set for this Muggle

My daughter Caitlin has been learning about Harry Potter at school.

It’s a film series I never really liked much. I remember watching the first movie and my mind wandered throughout and I left the cinema wondering what all the fuss was about. It just wasn’t for me.

But when the films have been shown on TV, I’ve watched them with my daughters Caitlin and Alyssa and of course Caitlin has been educating me about all the characters and storylines.

She really enjoys watching Harry and his adventures and I’m finding I’m enjoying it too.

Perhaps my change of opinion is because I was just 17 when the first Potter movie was released and was more interested in hanging out with friends and impressing girls than watching a movie about a boy wizard.

Now I’m in my thirties I appreciate how it is a truly magical movie that your imagination can get lost in. I wouldn’t mind if on Father’s Day I peel back the wrapping paper to reveal... a Harry Potter box set.