The Family Dinner

What Role does "Dinner" Play in Establishing Family Bonds





The Garcia-Prats Family

"Good Families Don't Just Happen"


"Catherine Musco Garcia-Prats and Joseph A. Carcia-Prats, M.D. would be remarkable if only for the fact that they have ten sons (ages one through nineteen).  But what’s really impressive is that they’ve succeeded  at raising ten “good kids” who are not only successful at both their studies and sports – but are polite, compassionate, and responsible- and active participants in the cooperative, mutually-supportive “working together” that helps families thrive. "



 Good Families Don’t Just Happen: the Garcia-Prats created a program for creating a happy, organized family.


 Motto:  Our family’s strength is grounded in the three principles of love, commitment, and respect."


 Question?: What characteristics of this family allowed them to be so successful as a family unit?


Outcome: Of all the qualities present in their family, 4 aspects of their family values were found to be reinforced by eating dinner  together.






I) The Need for Routines and Responsibilities:    


 children function better when organization is a part of their life. 


“By all of us fulfilling our responsibilities in the evenings, for example, we eliminate stress and chaos in the morning.”

Example:  When the original kitchen clean-up routine wasn’t working,  we sat the boys down to rework the schedule. We didn’t care who cleaned which night or week, we just wanted it done timely and correctly. None of our sons enjoy washing the dishes, but they need to be washed.” 


*Dinner in this sense promotes routine in the family, establishing specific jobs and duties that bring the family together to get the housework done. By having dinner every night, chores are established and family members feel a sense of responsibility to one another to get their assigned tasks done. Dinner, including preparation and cleanup, reinforces ones commitment to his or her family.


II) Discovering Ways to Make the Learning Experience Fun        



    The Garcia Prats “Instilling a lifelong love of learning in your children can be one of the most enjoyable aspects of parenting, if we approach learning as our total interaction with our children.


     Use dinner as a means of facilitating this learning


    "The Garcia-Prats' meals are a time to nourish our bodies – and our minds.  Conversations over family meals provide    excellent opportunities to discuss what’s happened in our sons’ days, as well as in the world."


    Example: A World Cup game may evolve into a discussion on Brazil’s or Nigeria’s location on the globe.


III) Establishing Lines of Communication –Early   


      "  We establish the lines of communications early.  The communication skills we learn as a couple are employed with our sons. "


       " We keep on track with Family 'Meetings'"


       “Whenever we have concerns or want to share some good news, we gather the family together.”


        "If the family’s not in “sync” we use this time to discuss what we’re observing and what can be done to get us back on track."


        Dinner time can be used for this purpose as well. By  meeting every night, or most times during the week, the family can discuss issues it has, and stay in the lines of communication with each other.


IV) Children care, want, and need their parents to be a part of their lives.



        Children care if their parents are involved with their activities, whether it’s school, music, sports, dance, or debate.


        Often times, a family cannot always attend everything they want in their child’s busy schedule, and parent’s do not always have access to certain things, such as school. Sitting at the dinner table together allows parents to ask about their children’s day, to discuss events, to update on special occasions, or to just listen to their children.


       Dinner also fosters bonds between the husband and wife, allowing them time to sit and discuss their day and goals for the week, etc.

  Garcia-Prats Homepage


What's For Dinner Tonight: Trinity Survey Results



    In your childhood, did your family ever sit down and eat dinner together while you were growing up?


-Yes: 100%   

-No: 0 %



     How many times a week did your family sit down together to eat dinner?


-2 times per week: 12.8%

-3 times per week: 7.7%

-4 times per week: 12.8%

-5 times per week:  38.5%

-6 times per week:  20.5%

-7 times per week:  7.7%



  Who usually prepares dinner in your family?


-         Mom: 69.2%

-         Dad: 7.8%

-    Alternating: 20.5%

-         Maid: 2.6%



    Were you or your siblings (if any) ever participants in this preparation of dinner?


-Yes: 64.1%

-No: 35.9%



     Where did your family typically eat dinner?


-         Dining Room: 56.4%

-         Kitchen: 30.8%

-         TV room /den: 10.25%

-         Living room: 2.6%



      How long did your family dinners usually last?


-         15-20 mins: 5.1%

-         30 mins: 46.2%

-         45 mins to an hour: 48.8%



      On average, how many times a week did you do other activities as a family together?


-         1 time or less: 28.2%

-         2 times: 33.3%

-         3 times: 12.8%

-         4 times: 12.3%

-         5 or more: 12.8%



     How would you describe your relationship with your parents?


-Very Strong: 53.8%

-Strong: 35.9%

-Not Close: 10.3%

-Weak: 0%



  Do you feel that your family is very close?


-Yes: 89.7%

-No: 10.3%



    Do you feel that having dinner together is important?


-Yes: 94.9%

-No: 5.1%



  How many times a month does your family eat fast food?


- 0: 5.1%

-1-2: 30.8%

- 3-6: 38.5%

-7-10: 17.9%

-10+: 7.8%



  How involved or informed were your parents on your lifestyle outside the home?


-Very Involved: 46.1%

- Involved: 41.0%

- Not Very Involved: 10.6%

-Not Involved at all: 2.6%



Interpreting the Survey : Trinity Students and Family Dinner



100% of students asked claimed to have eaten dinner as a family while growing up, so I was able to interpret the results know that all of the students had been involved in family dinners.  I found that while 100% of students ate together, 53.8% described their relationship with their parents to be very strong and 35.9% claimed they had a strong relationship with their parents.  Of all students who were surveyed, 46.1% claimed that their parents were very involved in their lifestyle outside the home. (i.e. school, sports, friends) and 41.0% claimed that they were involved.


Analysis: by looking at the Garcia-Prats family, we know that dinner is a method of fostering communication among family members. When looking at Trinity students, it seems that the majority reported being very involved with their parents and having very strong relationships with them. Perhaps these relationships are established because the family sets aside time to talk to their children through dinner; dinner is also a way for parents to sit down and listen to their children and each other and learn what’s going on in their family member’s lives.



69.2% of students reported that their mother usually prepared dinner in the family, and 64.1% said that they had participated in helping to make dinner.


Analysis: It seems that dinner establishes roles for the family, and helps to foster relationships between family members. Dinner is not something that can be completely done alone…family members must work together to set-up, prepare, and clean-up dinner. As in the Garcia-Prats family, these duties reinforce bonds, and provide routine and structure to the family. 


The majority of students, 66.7%, claimed to have eaten dinner on average 5 or more times per week, and 48.8% reported their family dinners to last  from 45 minutes to an hour.  56.4% reported eating dinner in the dining room, whereas 12.9% reported eating dinner in the t.v. room or living room.


Analysis: This implies that dinner can be thought of as a ritualistic event, and represents time specifically set aside for the family to be together. 33.3% of students reported to doing other family activities an average of 2 times per week, as opposed to the 66.7% that eat dinner with their families 5 or more times a week, so dinner appears to be a more prominent family event. The majority of the students claimed that dinner lasted for a substantial amount of time, and occurred in a constant setting. Having this routine is beneficial for the family because it brings them together for an amount of time that they have set aside for each other during the day. 



94.9% claimed that having dinner together is important.


Analysis: This was an expected answer. The majority of students felt close with their families, and setting aside dinner with the family is an important way of showing that family time together is valuble. Having dinner as an everyday part of life may lead most students to feel that it is important to their future families and relationships to include family dinner as one of their traditions.





-Garcia-Prats, Catherine and Joseph. Good Families Don't Just Happen: What we learned from raising our 10 sons and how it can work for you. Adams Media Corporation; 1997