There you are, sitting in your favorite restaurant, you’ve just ordered and been served your favorite dish. The smell wafting from the plate is enough to make your taste buds dance with joy. You reach for your fork and sink into that blissful moment of mouthwatering first-bite goodness. When suddenly, your euphoric moment is interrupted by a bloodcurdling scream. The child at the table next to you has decided that this is the perfect moment to throw a temper tantrum because they did not get to order dessert with their meal. Or they have to share their dessert. Or they are tired. Or their older sibling poked them. Whatever provoked the scream, your perfect moment is ruined. The ambiance of the restaurant is ruined. All because of the child misbehaving at the next table.
This week, Skippy and I are going to give some unsolicited advice about restaurant etiquette and kids. I believe that every family has the right to go to any restaurant they choose with their kids. It is the behavior of your children that should determine whether they deserve the privilege of eating out with the adults. I have been out to eat with my friends who have kids and have witnessed both sides of the coin. Kristin Mastre, master blogger of Feasting Fort Collins, has some of the most well behaved kids I have ever had the pleasure of dining with, EVEN at Chuck E Cheese!
Yes, it’s true, even if you think your child is a perfect angel, kids can ruin a dining experience. Now, I am not talking about going to Chuck E Cheese. Though, there is a certain decorum that is expected even there that includes not letting your kid be an asshole to the other kids.
I am talking about restaurants where we are all sitting down to have a pleasant, relaxing meal. I adore children but I abhor rude ungrateful, stubborn kids who don’t listen to their parents.
Robyn’s Guide to Proper Restaurant Behavior for Your Kids
Make sure they will want to eat at the restaurant you choose. If your child is a picky eater, make sure they will like the food at the place you have chosen to dine. I have heard many arguments at tables next to me where the youngster wont eat anything on the menu. If you have decided to introduce your child to new food, tell them that beforehand and prepare them for the new dining experience before you get to the restaurant. There will be less tears this way and your kid will feel important that you have included them on this new culinary journey. Good behavior begins with happy children.
Remind them of inside voices. In a restaurant it is a good time for them to practice conversation skills. Put down your phone, stop texting and tweeting, and focus on them and their day. Keeping them engaged in conversation will ensure that they will be entertained enough not to bother other diners. When is a better time than at the dinner table to truly bond with your kids? Remind them that they need to be mindful and keep the conversation in a bubble that surrounds the table. Make it a kind of game with the image of a bubble around your conversation and let their imaginations soar. Make sure they know that they are very important but to also not interrupt when the adults are talking.
Keep them at the table. One of the worst dining experiences I have ever had involved two little girls running amok in a restaurant. It is just bad parenting. People do not go out to restaurants to watch a shit show of children running around a restaurant. They want to eat in peace and quiet. It is not a playground, it is a place to eat. Also, it is a hazard to the servers if there are kids running underfoot. The last thing a restaurant needs is injuries, workman’s comp, or, in extreme cases, a lawsuit. Give your child enough attention that they want to stay a the table with you. Keep them engaged with a coloring activity book or a favorite toy. If you know your child gets distracted easily, come to the restaurant prepared. Especially the ones that are not as family friendly.
Cleanliness is next to Godliness. I know kids are messy. I totally get it, but there are some extreme situations where kids can be over-the-top messy. Don’t ignore your child if they are playing with their food. Or spitting out their food. Or talking with their mouth open. It think it is also pertinent if you make sure their please and thank yous are in order before you dine. Polite children will always earn a gold star. I have even heard of restaurants giving a “well behaved kid” discount. You will also please the hard working bussers who have to clean up after your child leaves. Carry baby wipes and pick up after your kids. It is not a pleasant thing to look over at a food tornado disaster as you enjoy your meal.
Only take them to a “fancy” restaurant if you know they are ready. You know your child. You know how they behave in public. You know what their triggers are. You know their moods, their ups, their downs, their likes and dislikes. People pay a lot of money for the more up-scale eating establishments and, therefore, appreciate a pleasant dining experience. Taking your child to a family friendly restaurant and gauging their behavior there will let you know if they are ready for the big time.
Children deserve a pleasant dining experience as much as adults do. If your child misbehaves in a restaurant, remove them from the restaurant and the privilege of dining out. Eventually they will learn proper behavior so have patience. It will benefit everyone in the end, and prevent a future of asshole customers.
What did you think about Robyn’s advice? Comment below and check back on Friday for Skippy’s advice! Also, tune in to Growing up Fort Collins for a list of kid-friendly menus on Monday!