Q: It seems like my family is always fighting, especially during dinner. One of the things that causes a problem is what TV program to watch while we eat. Our parents always get their way. Shouldn't children have a say? I've been taking my food and going upstairs, which really makes my mom mad.
A: Sorry, we can't side with you or your parents on this one. We think the television should be off during dinner. Most families have little time with each other. If yours is lucky enough to eat together, it seems a pity to waste your time on TV. Fighting during mealtime is especially troublesome because it can affect how you feel about eating -- one of life's most important activities.
Dinner time would be a great time for the members of your family to talk quietly with one another. You don't have to have any really big topics for your conversation to be fun and worthwhile. You can each talk about the events of the day and your plans for the next. You can find out what other family members think and what they worry about.
If there is a special program you don't want to miss, talk with your parents about scheduling dinner at a different time. It may be easier to convince them if you offer to help prepare dinner or
to clean up.
Dr. Wilson is director of general pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center; Dr. Joffe is director of adolescent medicine.