Children'S Etiquette: Eating In Restaurants
Teach your children proper restaurant etiquette - no running around or sitting on the floor. Have the children that maitre d's compliment not dread.
One preschooler on the floor banging his head against the table leg, an eight-year old sobbing loudly about her hunger and an almost-teenager refusing to order any of the disgusting food.
Sound familiar? It may if you have children who have yet to learn their restaurant manners. Fear not, it's never too late to encourage, train and enforce good manners in public and they may even overlap onto dinners at home.
1 - Start simply Plan a much loved dinner at home, say macaroni and cheese. Ask the kids to dress up. As you work your way through the meal, play follow the leader. Place your napkin on your lap, eat your salad first, use knives to cut and forks to eat. Practice saying please and thank you.
2 - Take the kids to a family restaurant You know - the one where the waitresses don't flinch when you walk in with kids and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are on the menu. After a few successful meals in a familiar restaurant, with familiar foods, move on to step three.
3 - Promote a nice dinner out Expalin your expectations for manners, but plan on having fun. If there is no children's menu, order appetizers for the kids - common favorites are mozzarella sticks and chicken tenders - or allow them to order a complete meal and plan on taking leftovers home.
4 - Share your foods anonymously Let the kids try escargot or calamari. You don't have to tell them they are eating snails and squid. Just yet, anyway.
5 - Keep the meal short Ordering appetizers, working through salads, entrees and desserts can take over two hours in an upscale restaurant. While this is a relaxed pace for adults, it is excruciating for children. Focus on entrees. Promise ice cream on the way home as a reward for good behavior.
6 - Encourage children of school age to order for themselves, but don't force it Allow them to try something new even if you aren't sure they will like it. Laugh along with them if they don't enjoy their meal, and share what you have.
7 - Order milk or water for your kids Sweetened and caffeinated sodas do nothing to promote good manners.
A restaurant critic for a medium-sized newspaper market wanted to take her children to dinner with her occasionally for reviews, but also dreaded it. Remember the children - head-banging, sobbing and bad tempered - in the first paragraph? Those were hers one year ago. As she was memorizing ingredients and analyzing cooking techniques, she was also hopping trying to entertain and restrain the kids. Not willing to leave her family home each week, she started training the children during family dinners. They practiced polite dinner time conversation and removed the yuck word from their vocabulary. She began telling them that while she would have to pick out what they ordered, she would fix them hot dogs later if they didn't like their entrees.
After a few difficult tries, the kids learned that service could be slow, so they enjoyed their appetizers and were bold about asking for refills on the bread basket. The youngest, just learning to write in school, asked for his own notebook so he could list the dishes, writing good, better and horrible after each one. When that was done, games of hangman were played in the notebook. Now the entire family looks forward to their working dinners, offers their mother plenty of advice on how to balance the food choices for the review and takes pride in ordering their own meals and keeping a civilized conversation going.
It takes patience and a sense of humor to give your children, and yourself, the gift of restaurant manners, but you won't regret it.