By dinnertime, your family is tired, in a bad mood, and often not together. The mornings are another story—and can bring all the benefits of supper, with none of the pain. Plus: waffles! Fast Company’s Laura Vanderkam lays out why family breakfasts are superior to family dinners.
Parents hear again and again that eating dinner together as a family is supposed to be important for kids. Studies find that kids who eat with their families are less likely be depressed, and more likely to eat fruits and veggies. Such research may explain why families claim to eat together far more often than they actually do. While one USA Today survey found that 50% of families claim to always eat dinner together, a UCLA study that observed middle-class families found that only 17% actually do. (Both stats can be found in this book.)
Despite our best intentions, dinner is just hard to pull off. Kids have after-school activities, and working parents may not be home until 6 pm or later. Someone has to make dinner just as everyone is crashing in the door, harried from traffic and starving. But dinner isn’t the only time a family can have a family meal. In our house, we’ve found that family breakfast has a lot going for it that family dinner just can’t match.
First off, we’re usually all there.
Second, everyone likes breakfast food. Many a family dinner has been marred by fights over broccoli or kale consumption. No one complains about pancakes, waffles, cereal, eggs, bagels, etc.
Third, research into the science of willpower is finding that self-discipline is like a muscle. It gets fatigued from constant use. By dinnertime, everyone has been taxing their willpower all day making decisions and dealing with difficult people. So we’re more likely to be crabby and unpleasant with our loved ones.
But at breakfast? We’re fresh—and able to give our families our best, rather than what’s left over. That’s worth getting up a few minutes earlier.
Laura Vanderkam is a nationally recognised writer who questions the status quo and helps her readers rediscover their true passions and beliefs in pursuit of more meaningful lives. She is the author of What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast (Portfolio, August 27, 2013), and 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think (Portfolio, 2010). She blogs at www.lauravanderkam.com.