Spending time with your family and especially eating a meal together, helps teens learn important life skills and lessons.  Having them cook a meal a week is a great way to help them gain independence and help them to become self-sufficient.

Teens Cooking Family Dinner 
Having teens help prepare family dinner on a weekly basis can improve parent-child relationships, decrease power struggles and boost healthy eating habits.

In addition to the obvious benefit that a teenager will learn life skills, assigning a teen cooking tasks just once a week can also positively impact the parent-child relationship. The key to gradual improvements in the relationship has to do with how a parent interacts with his or her child while they prepare family dinner together.

Tips to Get a Teen Cooking Family Dinner and Enjoying It
The first tip for parents is to ask teens to commit to cooking on a particular night every week. This discussion works best when both parent and teen are not distracted and both are in a reasonable mood. Parents should let a teenager know approximately what time the cooking will start. Parents need to allow more time for when a teen is cooking family dinner alongside them.

Next parents must follow through and hold a teenager to the agreement. Many teenagers will resist at first because they are involved in a video game, TV show or other activities. When teaching a teenager to cook, parents much remember to demonstrate any skills that are new for him and give specific instructions. Finally parents can give positive feedback and encouragement to him or her, but should avoid gushing as many teens perceive excess praise as condescending.

A summary of the steps to get a teen cooking family dinner are:

  1. Ask for a commitment
  2. Follow through with the plan
  3. Allow extra time
  4. Demonstrate in a friendly manner
  5. Encourage, but don’t overdo it

Reducing Power Struggles in the Parent-Child Relationship
So how can a chore such as cooking family dinner reduce power struggles between a parent and teenager? Cooking together can only have a positive effect on power struggles if the parent makes a conscious choice to focus the cooking time with teens to teach life skills in a positive way, be encouraging and build or rebuild the parent-child relationship. Parents can look for opportunities to work together on cooking tasks and enjoy spending time with a teenage son or daughter.
Any change in power struggles is not expected to happen overnight, but instead will evolve over time. If parents are looking for quick change, the plan is not likely to work. But when parents focus on bonding with a teen and improving the relationship, power struggles will often decrease on their own because of the improved dynamics of the relationship.

It is normal for parents and teens to have conflicts so parents may want to remind themselves that it is unrealistic to expect that power struggles will go away completely.

Teaching Life Skills and Healthy Eating Habits
Cooking family dinner once a week will definitely teach life skills that teens need to know. Basic cooking skills such as measuring, cutting and following recipe instructions will teach them skills to be self sufficient and develop self confidence. As well, cooking alongside a parent will promote cooperation and teamwork skills.

Learning to cook usually piques a teen’s interest in food. It’s hard for a teenager to resist tasting a dish that he or she prepared. Parents can involve the kids in cooking meals that are their favorites as well as meals that include sources of fiber, vegetables, and protein. Don’t feel the need to coax teens to try new foods or preach about healthy eating habits, but rather allow them to internalize lessons through “doing” – cooking and trying new foods.

Cooking family dinner with a parent may turn out to be a teenager’s favorite weekly chore. Parents may learn a little about their teen sons or daughters and the children may learn a little about having fun with their parents. Spending time together cooking once a week can teach important life skills, promote healthy eating habits and improve the dynamics of the parent-child relationship.

Kelly Pfeiffer

Certified Positive Discipline Lead Trainer

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