Nationwide research, released today, has found the extent to which modern parents are losing the battle over family mealtimes, with 60 percent of those who will not come to the table, eating on the sofa in front of a screen and almost a quarter eating ALONE in their rooms.
In fact, a staggering 86 percent of Scottish parents claim getting their children to sit at the table (and stay there until everyone has finished) is a real struggle, with 15 percent saying their children refuse to eat an evening meal at all.
But perhaps the most worrying statistic to emerge from the report commissioned by supermarket giant Aldi was that over a quarter (38 percent) blame their child’s addiction to online gaming, saying it fuels the resistance to come to the table when called and more importantly, to stay at the table until everyone has finished.
And although parents have three major rows with their kids a week about not coming to the table, they seem unable to change their children’s behaviour, with 16 percent admitting to giving in and letting them eat front of a screen because it “makes their life easier.”
READ MORE: Turn off children’s gadgets an hour before bedtime, parents advised
As many as 21 percent of the mums and dads who took part in the study say they regularly relent and let their kids eat elsewhere as they are too exhausted to argue, while a further 18 percent say they’d do anything to avoid confrontation at the end of a long day.
In fact, the study shows the average Scottish child now eats in front of a screen three times a week, with only four meals a week eaten together as a family, with 17 percent regularly eating meals in front of a computer game and one in five (22 percent) using a tablet while tucking into their evening meal.
Overall, as many as 68 percent of mums and dads worry their kids spend too long gaming, with more than half (53 percent) claiming it has affected their child’s attention span. And 51 percent wish they could slash their kids’ total screen time.
Aldi commissioned the study to mark the launch of their Teatime Takedown activation to help parents save family mealtimes.
A first of its kind service, Aldi’s Teatime Takedowns involve enlisting an elite quad of professional gamers who parents can call upon to infiltrate their kids’ video games and take them down, ensuring that they are offline during dinnertime hours. Parents can sign up via Facebook by inputting their children’s gamer IDs and a desired date for the ‘takedowns’ to take place. Once the elite gamers have ‘taken down’ the child, a message will be delivered in-game to the kids, prompting them to put down their controllers and join the dinner table… or else.”
READ MORE: Why three-year-old kids don’t need their tablet computer – Jane Bradley
David Hills, Group Director of Marketing and Communications at Aldi UK, said: “At Aldi, we understand the importance of family mealtimes, but know how tough it can be to get everyone together. From suggesting family-friendly recipes, to offering Teatime Takedowns, we’re committed to helping parents on their journey to reclaiming that all important family time.”
Emily Leary, parenting and food blogger at A Mummy Too and author of 'Get Your Kids to Eat Anything’ has tips on how to make the most of family mealtimes.
Emily said: “Mealtimes are really valuable and should be enjoyable family time; a chance to come together to catch up on the events of the day, share a laugh and of course, enjoy good food. Parents can follow strategies to help make family mealtimes more enjoyable for everyone.
“One of my key pieces of advice is modelling the behaviour you want to see. If we want our kids to sit down at the table, screens away and eat well, then we need to practice what we preach!
“Children mimic the behaviour they observe, so when the adults at the table are happy, comfortable, and engaged, the children are more likely to be the same.”
Family mealtimes are still important to Scottishparents however, with 81 percent wishing they could eat together more often.
47 percent of the Scottish parents polled said eating together at a table gave them a chance to have a proper conversation with their kids, while 36 percent said it instilled good manners, and a third thought it meant they were likely to have better social skills.
No surprise then, perhaps, that a third of the Scottish mums and dads say their kids need to learn the art of conversation, and the same number think their manners could and should be improved.
*The research of 1500 UK parents was commissioned online in March by Ginger Research on behalf of Aldi