Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. – Ecclesiastes 4:9
I’ve observed that people who have bad relationships with their parents seem to have been kicked out of the kitchen as kids. “I never learned to cook” is a common thread with hurting adults. The more I thought about this, I realized that children who are kept out of the “heart of the home” miss out on a very integral aspect of personal growth.
Having my children in the kitchen with me is important. They’re often there, working alongside of me, in our little test-lab for life, and I’ve had a lot of time to think about the benefits of this.
Some of the most meaningful conversations I’ve had with my children have happened while working together as a team. I’ve noticed that fidgety kids with occupied hands seem to be able to relax mentally, sort out their thoughts in a more coherent way, and share them more freely. Perhaps this is because the attention is focused on work, and not on them and if they are saying things “correctly”.
When families work together in the kitchen, they’re not merely in close proximity (like being in the same room and looking at different screens), they’re working toward a common goal. Participating in family life, especially the behind the scenes work, are opportunities for children to practice humility and selflessness (“I can’t wait until Dad tastes this!” “Make sure to check the ingredients so our friend Bryce doesn’t have an allergic reaction!”).. and also to feel a part of something bigger.. to be valued for their effort and work ethic.
I’ve observed that parents who do not allow their children cook with them are often perfectionists themselves… and produce perfectionist offspring. They can’t fail in front of their children. They can’t let children make mistakes or messes. They are more concerned about clean and quiet than love and learning. When kids work alongside of their parents, however, children learn how to handle mistakes in stride, how to work under pressure (if you don’t stir the eggs while you make lemon curd, you have scrambled eggs with lemon!)… and to enjoy and appreciate their food, value the where it comes from, and the effort it takes to prepare it.
Of course, one of the best benefits of having children attending to meal preparation is that they actually learn how to cook! My older children (now 12, 11 and 10) can be trusted to follow directions and create an entire meal on their own. My 10 year old is also quite the grill-master.
That’s not to say that parents always have to cook with children in the kitchen. (I certainly do kick my kids out every now and then, especially when they need a good run in the back yard!) However, more often than not, they’re right next to me boiling water for pasta, breading cutlets, stirring oatmeal, and sharing their hearts with me.