The restaurant experience provides children with opportunities to socialize, showcase manners, and expand their palette. As young children are still developing social skills, parents should be dutiful in corralling undesirable behaviors—restaurants are an excellent proving ground for them to rise to the occasion.
Choose an Appropriate Restaurant
Restaurants with dim lighting and soft music suggest an ambiance conducive to intimate fine dining. Alternatively, we’ll often find a rowdy crowd at a local sports bar, drinking and yelling at the televisions. If we choose an inappropriate restaurant, we can expect a suboptimal dining experience.
Many servers will offer to flip over a chair for a baby’s car seat carrier—this arrangement is often very unstable. Take great caution to keep the baby’s safety first.
Consider Seating & Keeping Them Busy
If we have potentially rowdy kids in tow, request a corner table or ask the hostess for the least conspicuous place in the dining room. This might help reduce disturbances from being too noticeable, setting the tone for a more enjoyable experience. Playing games such as tic tac toe, hangman, or origami can help keep children busy, the laughter going, and the tears from flowing.
Forbid Electronic Devices
To help children develop important social skills, we should practice with them; what better place than a restaurant? It really comes down to mom’s choice; we can encourage our children to have face-to-face conversations, or we can allow devices to act as social-skill-stunting babysitters. This idea may sound old-fashioned, but it’s so important. Restaurants are an excellent place to teach children to be present, interact with family, and enjoy time together. How have we, as a society, allowed screens to become a prerequisite to having fun? No devices at the table also means staying away from the tabletop tablet kiosks that charge for games. When mothers set non-negotiable expectations, they must be followed.
During the ride to the restaurant, offer a quick reminder of the rules and potential consequences. If needed, explain that running, shouting, or throwing food will not be tolerated. Children should be expected to sit up in their seats and keep the noise down. Remind them to say please and thank you; manners truly matter. Set budget expectations with price limits if needed.
Let children know ahead of time if everyone will be drinking ice water. By getting ahead of it, we won’t let them get their hearts set on a Shirley Temple just to shatter their dreams and risk attitudinal fallout. If we know, tell them how much time we expect to be there. If we plan on bringing the family somewhere after the meal, make it clear that poor behavior at dinner will cancel those plans.
When children are young, ask the server to bring out veggies early on as an appetizer. This not only gives children something to do, but they are more likely to eat veggies when there are no other choices. If children are hungry and their only option is broccoli and carrots, they’ll often take what they can get.
Disrespectful behavior is unacceptable, especially when it disturbs other guests. When folks pay good money to enjoy a nice meal, they want to eat in peace. They don’t want to hear babies crying, couples fighting, or drunk people ranting and raving. If children are behaving badly, bring them to the restroom and sternly explain that we are not just suggesting they behave, we are requiring their immediate compliance. If they resist, it’s time to leave.
“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
—Matthew 18:20 KJV
Join one elephant, two lions, three pigs, and dozens of other playful animals going to the restaurant for a hearty meal.
A boredom-busting companion for any meal, this book is overflowing with puzzles, quizzes, and drawing activities, sure to keep kids occupied.
When Daniel Tiger goes out to dinner with his family and his friend Jodi Platypus, he learns that it’s important to stay calm in the restaurant. But sitting still is hard, especially when he and Jodi get really excited about tacos!
Here is the perfect little book for anyone—teenage or otherwise—who has ever wanted to master the art of good table manners. A step-by-step introduction to all the basics, from the moment the meal begins to the time it ends.
PLEASE NOTE: As an Amazon Associate, Mothers Truly Matter earns from qualifying purchases. The information in this post should not be construed as providing specific psychiatric, psychological, or medical advice, but rather to offer readers information to better understand the lives and health of themselves and their children. It is not intended to provide an alternative to professional treatment or to replace the services of a physician, psychiatrist, or psychotherapist.