How can you teach your child appropriate restaurant manners?
A trip to a restaurant can be quite daunting for a child. But it is a great way to teach them how to behave appropriately in public places. What are tips for teaching kids the right way to behave in a restaurant?
When you treat your child with respect they will treat you with respect and listen to you when you have a direction for them. Knowing what your child is capable of handling at the level of thier development is key to managing your expectations. Going out to eat with little ones is over rated, have respect for thier spirit and take it to the park or enjoy family time at home. Sometimes I think we expect way too much from our kids. I'm talking about little little ones....As they get older if your having trouble with them listening to you when they can clearly understand you, then your issues run deeper and have to do with the respect you give your children on a daily basis. Acting out in public is a reflection of how you treat your child. My recommendation is to listen and create a strong connection with your little one. Anyone elses advice what to do in your situations can be misleading. Keep the bond strong between the two of you and you should have no problems, until you do and then you just talk about it and make it better next time. Love you all, Happy Parenting. Enjoy is the key. xo~Jessi Conder
While I do agree with knowing a child's limits regarding their age and having a giving and receiving relationship with them, it's not a realistic or fair thing to say acting out in public is a result of you being a bad parent or not meeting their needs. Kids test boundaries. That's part of their jobs, their make-up as they grow and learn and develop. They do need rules and limits. Some kids also have emotional/mental/physical handicaps. I think it's a little rude to say every kid who acts out has a parent who isn't giving them love and "respect".
I agree with the poster who says eating out with little ones is over rated. I spend more time cutting food, helping, holding drinks, wiping mouths and hands, etc than I do actually eating myself or enjoying the experience so we tend to have a picnic on a blanket with some finger foods at our house. Super easy on mom and just fold the blanket up and take it outside and shake it out and wash. The kids love it.
As with most situations, setting expectations is important. Tell your little one how they will be expected to behave BEFORE you get there; being relatively quiet, remaining in their seat, etc. If they've been prep'd before hand, a reprimand for "acting out" won't be a surprise. If they handle themselves well, praise them for a job well done. I believe its ok to offer a reward for meeting expectations; a trip to the park, stickers, or perhaps even dessert!
Our son has severe ADHD (he's 7). Even on his medication he still has a hard time sitting still. I also have a daughter with Asperger's who is now 23. I learned with her to always, always have something along to keep her occupied. With her, a book would suffice (she started reading early). With our son, we usually take legos or other small toys. Sometimes his DS (handheld game) will work, but not always. One restaurant in our town has tvs. They are always willing to change the one we face to Nick or Disney. Another place is a local Mexican place with lots of Mexican decor. He loves to look around at all the different things on the wall. (When he was little, he was fascinated with the brooms they used - they loved him and would always let him play with it - one of the benefits of a small town!)
I have always made it a point that even though my children have issues, they can still learn to behave properly. However, I know that not all children with autism or other issues can. Please, please understand that when a child misbehaves it may not always be due to simple bad behavior or bad parenting. That child may have a problem you don't know about. But just because a child has a diagnosis, that family shouldn't be tied to their home forever. Everyone deserves time out.
In South Africa we have great resturants for families. Many cater for kids with wonderful play a res and even have carers to watch them. When our meal arrives My 3yr old sits down eats and if she behaves can play again.We normally choose a resturant which she can enjoy. We also go to more formal resturants, she enjoys sushi and likes choosing and watching the chef. Respect your child let them be part of the experience. Don't choose their meal for them, give them a choice...
But my best advice, eat dinner at a table at home. Before when she was still very little I would feed her her dinner early, whne dad got home she was in her high chair next to us with her own plate with a tiny portion. I didn't expect her to eat if she didn't feel like it..
TRaining starts at home.
Practice. Do it at home first.
Start with how you teach them to behave at meals at home. If you teach them to sit at the table with you, to try at least one bite of each part of their meal, don't let them kick up a tantrum when they don't like something, teach them that even if they don't want to eat it, they can still sit with you and talk about what they did today, teach them to ask politely for more of something they do like, etc. If they learn to do this at home, they won't be surprised when it's expected of them at a restaurant. Many restaurants also provide paper place mats with pictures for coloring, and a few crayons, to help entertain kids. This can help provide an interesting and new thing for a kid who doesn't get such at home during meals, thus helping to pass time til the food arrives.
My little one is four, and we color them together. I think what he wants more than the activity is the "together" part, the attention. Sometimes I'll let him bring a toy, a few cars or something small like that. But he is required to not shout, or turn about and try to see the diners behind us, or other such things. Right from the start I tried to teach him the etiquette and now he pretty much just knows what he should/shouldn't do.
Wow some of that was a little deep. Let's keep it simple.
I agree, the more they are exposed to different situations, the more they will become accustomed to eating out or being out of the house. Whether it is the restaurant, the park, the museum, the library, wherever, exposing your child to different events or places opens up their world. My son is five and he can hang anywhere: the car for long trips, the restaurant, the cruise ship, at a banquet, etc. Just like us adults, if we are tired or sleepy, or hungry our inhibitions and manners can go out the window. so just be in tune to your child-if they are sleepy or tired, or very hungry, you will definitely see different behavior when in public. Just know what you and your child can handle at that point in time, make adjustments and go from there. Good luck.
You just have to keep taking them. My 3 year old usually is well behaved but that is because he has been going to resturants since birth once a week on average. we take him either right as they open or late at night when he is least likely to disturb others and work with him on manners and volume.
Treat your meal times at home like it were a restaurant. Set a good example in your manners. Do not eat until every one is served etc. They will learn from you what is expected. Then you won't have to tell them how to behave wham you're out. If they are very young let them have a small toy of their choice and have crayons on you.
I totally disagree with some of the things being said on this topic. Just because you have a child that misbehaves doesn't mean your doing something wrong. With my child we've tried everything. We've bribed her we've punished her we've tried to take things for her to play with and she just doesn't listen and throws fits almost everywhere we go. Sometimes kids just want to do what they want to do and don't want to do anything their parents tell them to. Like when I was a kid if there was something I wasn't suppose to do I wanted to do it. Some kids just have a need to rebell against their parents sometimes for no reason at all. My daughter is so stong minded she wants everything her way and throws huge fits when she doesn't get it. And we've tried everything. I've showed her so much love so that's not a problem. It's always nice to have some ideas of things to help. But please don't say one thing for sure will work or that parents are doing something wrong if their kids don't behave. Because some kids are going to misbehave no matter what their parents do.
Teaching and enforcing table etiquette at home will ensure that public behavior is acceptable. I have 3 boys and am proud to say by they know what's acceptable behavior for the table and don't think twice about behaving differently at a restaurant, it's just another table where manners are used.
I like what Jessica said about lowering your expectations and knowing what little ones are capable of. My experience has been that if my children won't listen after 1 warning then we leave the restaurant. Either my husband or I will take the offending child to the car and wait there for a few minutes. Then we will ask them if they are ready to go back in and behave as they should. If they do we go on with the meal. If not then they have to stay in the car and miss out on the meal, dessert, playtime depending on where we're eating etc. and watch as everyone else gets to enjoy. Unfortunately it's also a punishment for the parent whose turn it is to go out to the car, but we feel it's the sacrifice we need to make to teach our children. Also we offer rewards for behaving appropriately such as getting to order dessert as long as a reasonable amount of their meal was eaten, or getting to stay up 15 minutes later, or extra computer time something little. If everyone is acting up we will just box up the food and leave and the next time there is a chance to go out we tell the kids that they don't get to go because they didn't behave as they should the last time and if they can listen and obey at home mealtimes then maybe the next time we can try again. It takes some time and repetition and for us careful seating, meaning not putting children next to each other that you know might not get along or encourage each other to misbehave. Honestly though there are just some restaurants that we know we would never take our children, because they are just too young to appreciate it, behave appropriately and unless it was a VERY special occasion, probably unaffordable for our whole family to go anyway. My son is 22 months and lately has been throwing food he doesn't want to eat. His therapist has us teaching him to put the food he doesn't like in an empty bowl we put next to him. It's a work in progress(he has had eating issues since his premature birth), but it's a good idea. It's bad enough to have your own kitchen covered with food, but it's a little more embarrassing at a restaurant, especially if your little one hits someone at another table with the food.
Practice makes perfect. Clear expectations about what their behavior should be can be helpful. But, be careful not to fall into the habit of going out to often. This can be terrible on your budget.
We have a handful of favorite restaurants where we know the menu and can order our favorites. I tend to favor the ones with salad bars or breadsticks or something, so we can start eating right away.
Also, it helps to have some favorite games like I Spy or Trivia questions to help with the waiting time. Or, bring a coloring book or puzzle book with crayons. Some restaurants have great kids' menus or placemats with games. But, others do not. Just enjoy the time out together as a family!
Have a talk before you even go in the restaurant about what is not to happen. Tkae all children to the bathroom before you sit down and change the baby if needed. ask for crackers or bread up front so its at the table when you sit down. Tell the children again how you want them to behave. bring crayons and paper with you and ask if the restaurant has coloring pages. order drinks that contain NO sugar with lids and straws. Make sure small children are in booster seats and all knives and salt and pepper are moved from reach. Ask the children to look over the menu even if you know what your going to order them, it will give them somthing to do while you wait. talk about the decorations in the restaurant and make sure they notice there are other people trying to eat too and again tell them what you expect from them during the meal. Use the restroom as needed. Do not sit children they may fight with each other next to one another. try to keep your self and or another adult next to or in reach of each child. Ask the waiter to bring all parts of the meal to the table at the same time. also ask to be sat in a booth near a window in the back of a restaurant near the kitchen and restrooms.Dont be embarrassed if you have to leave in the middle of your meal.
When we just had one and could afford to eat out we tried to do it as often as we could. He was very well-behaved through the whole meal and afterwards! When we had our second, going out just wasn't feasible. It almost became something we dreaded and began calling out for food and eating at home. It was also a stress on our budget even though it was usually just my husband and I ordering and sharing with our 4yo. But now we can go out without any problems, when we have the money.
I think treating them with respect and giving them choices are the most important. But also getting them use to it at a young age helps.
Start early. We have been taking our little ones to restaurants since they were infants.
Go out for dinner early and beat the dinner rush. Give them a choice on what to eat. I usually pick two or three options on the menu and let them decide between those choices.
Be aware of your surroundings, you know your child, if he doesn't handle loud places well, try to find a quieter place.
Keep some little snacks (crackers, etc) in your purse to help out with the wait before the food gets to the table.
Like a few people have said, start at home always sit at a table and teach them that playing around at dinner is not on. Please remember as well children become bored very quickly.