Ten Tips for Better Restaurant Experiences with Children:
- Make sure no one is “starving” by the time you arrive at the restaurant. That makes for cranky people of all sizes.
- Bring a baggie of low sugar snacks. Sometimes the wait is much longer than anticipated.
- If a child is screaming at the table, take them outside to have a talk. Trying to calm a child within the restaurant only prolongs the agony of everyone, parent included.
- Bring paper or small coloring book and crayons. Not all restaurants have them available.
- Do not bring markers, especially the smelly ones, or any toys on wheels. Markers end up on everything. Smelly markers tend to end up in children’s mouths. Toys on wheels are easy to lose and are a tripping hazard after they fall on the floor.
- Expect children to need to get up and walk around. Small children are physically unable to stay in one place for an extended time. It is uncomfortable for them. If you see that your child is wiggling around, ask them to stand up and walk over to you even if it just to put an arm around him to say how patient he is being to wait for his food.
- Show your child how to treat the restaurant staff. Children notice everything parents do and say. If you smile and use polite language, so will the kids.
- Converse with everyone at the table. Conversation held during mealtime is becoming a lost art. Too many adults and children lavish time on their electronics instead of giving quality time to the people they love.
- If you are lost and have no idea what to talk about, ask your child, “Who got in trouble in school this week (or today).” You will be amazed at what you’ll learn.
- Listen to your children when they are speaking. If you listen to them, they will listen to you—an important point for when they become teenagers.
When children misbehave in restaurants, other patrons may give the “hairy eyeball” to the children’s parents. Much of the time, parents are aware of their children’s behavior and feel badly enough as it is. A great strategy to encourage good behavior in restaurants can come from these same patrons. Complement those parents whose children are behaving well. Parents and children need to know when they are being awesome.
Most people enjoy going out to eat. Someone else makes the food, pours the coffee, and asks if there is anything they can bring to the table. If adult time is needed, have a date night without the kids. Don’t feel guilty. Parents should remember that they need a break. Parenting is a difficult job.
When going out as a family, do just that. One of the reasons children get up and run around in a public place is for attention. It’s better to give positive attention, letting your children know how proud you are of them when they’re behaving well, than to use negative attention by yelling at them for running around. Catch them being good and reward them with praise.
A child wants what a child wants. A two-year-old will not understand about lack of funds, but will learn what his or her parents expect through the seemingly endless testing of parental limits.
Consistency is important. Children need to know their parents’ rules. Parents should decide what kind of behavior they want from their kids and let them know the rules before arriving at the restaurant or any other public places.
Children will rise to their parents’ expectations.