The modern family is seen everywhere. No longer confined to the typical family-friendly locations of parks, the backyard, or the myriad of fast food chains – these days moms, dads and kids could be sitting next to a couple of professionals talking business.
Preparing kids to conduct themselves appropriately in situations like these requires a little planning to help your children know how to behave in a restaurant so everyone – your family and other guests – can enjoy their meals and experience.
“Children can be both excited and bored when at a restaurant,” says Louise Fox, Canada’s etiquette expert. “They arrive hungry and find it difficult to sit in one place for the length of time required to order, wait, eat, and pay for the meal. The good news is that this improves with age and practice.”
So how do you take the kids out for a meal without disturbing the peace of other patrons?
Pick the right restaurant: While you don’t have to go to places that have chicken fingers on the menu, make sure you’re going somewhere that is kid-friendly. Look for restaurants that seat you quickly so you won’t have a long wait with hungry children, children-sized menu items and/or special portions, private booths, other families as patrons, and booster seats or high chairs are a plus.
Teach restaurant manners at home: If you are casual about mealtime manners at home, don’t expect your children to suddenly develop table manners just because you happen to be sitting in a restaurant. Practice good manners at home for every meal and your children will be prepared when you eat out.
Have longer meals at your home dinner table: Usually, children are called to the table at home just when the food is ready and they’re excused when the food is all gone. To practice for eating out at a restaurant, have your kids come to the table a few minutes earlier, then sit and chat for a while after the meal is finished to mimic how it might be at a restaurant.
Always eat at your regular meal times: When possible, stick close to your routine. Plan to dine at a reasonable time before the kids become famished and tired.
Prevent boredom: Bring along a few simple toys, a deck of cards, plastic animals or small quiet toys that can keep the kids entertained while they wait.
Review your restaurant rules before you go: Be specific and go over all the details.
Fox reminds that there are a few things many parents forget when dining out with the kids, such as:
- Don’t think dining out is the same with and without kids.
- Don’t stay too long after eating to prevent boredom-induced tantrums.
- Don’t force kids to eat what they don’t like to avert a battle.
- And above all, don’t stay at the restaurant if you’re disturbing others.
“If your child begins misbehaving and gets out of hand, take her to the restroom or out to the car for a time out so that she can calm down,” Fox says. “If it continues, don’t be afraid to ask for doggie bags and leave the restaurant.
But don’t fret if you’re first restaurant experience with your kids doesn’t go swimmingly. “Review the situation later with your child, keep practicing and try again another time.
Louise Fox, Canada’s etiquette expert. Louise is the owner of The Etiquette Ladies, Canada’s Experts in Children, Youth, Teens and Social Etiquette and the director of Louise Fox Protocol Solutions business etiquette. She has been trained and certified in Business
Etiquette and International Protocol at the prestigious Protocol School
of Washington and Children’s Etiquette at the International School of
Protocol In Baltimore.
Don’t forget to check out parts 1 & 3 of our manners series: