It can be really difficult to take your kids out to eat when they are young. Every parent that has ever tried to get a nice restaurant meal with their children has felt the stares of the other diners on them as their kids wiggled and cried and made a mess with their food. Sometimes people actually complain and can make parents very self-conscious. My husband and I hated dealing with the stares and the judgment but we really wanted to be able to take our child out to eat to any restaurant that we wanted to eat at, not just “kid-friendly” restaurants. So we came up with a plan to teach our kids how to behave when we went out to eat in a restaurant. I know it’s controversial to not let your kids run wild in public, but we really wanted our kids to be the ones that people would point at and talk about how well behaved they were. So this is what we did:
What We Did
When my kids were three and five we decided it was time to start teaching them how to behave in public using spy apps. Twice a week my husband would take a late lunch break and we would take the kids to a restaurant at 3 PM. We chose different restaurants each time. The 3 PM time is usually the quiet time for restaurants so we could be sure that our kids wouldn’t disturb any other diners and wouldn’t make too much work for the waitress if they threw food or made a mess.
When we walked in I would find the hostess or the server and explain what we were doing and promise that we would pay for any mess or problems that the kids caused. And we would sit down as a family and have a full meal. And the older one learned to say please and thank you to the server and to ask for milk or whatever he wanted to drink. My husband and I taught them age-appropriate table manner and other courtesies so that eventually we were able to take them to meals at 4 PM, then 5 PM, and then they were ready for the big show- primetime dinner during the dinner rush. And they learned so well that now we can take them to any restaurant and they usually behave very well.
Of course, they are still kids and they aren’t perfect. There are a meltdown and crying sometimes. There are thrown forks and spaghetti on the floor. When that happens one of us will take the children out and the other will pay and get the rest of the food boxed up. They can’t be expected to perfectly behave all the time. But most of the time our kids are pretty great because we started teaching them early what’s appropriate behavior in public. You can take your kids out in public and enjoy dinner as a family. Just start teaching them at an early age by taking them out to restaurants during the slowest time of the day so that they can learn.