As a young parent, I never voluntarily took my children out to a restaurant. If I had a choice between home or a restaurant, it was a no-brainer: we ate at home.
Why go through the absolute headache of keeping your child in his/her chair, not being able to finish a sentence, while shushing them and trying to keep the food-flinging to a minimum? Okay, maybe it wasn’t that bad. But maybe it was. And even if you, personally, are a masochist, why subject others to your little darlings unless you are forced to?
Ah, then there are the times when you have no choice. When you are on vacation, or out with other family members. And you can’t always choose the Pancake House, (which was my personal favorite, as they could get you in, fed and out the door in under 30 minutes!)
The following tips are for those parents who absolutely must take their children to a restaurant.
–Check in advance to see if the menu will satisfy your children’s tastes and if the atmosphere is kid-friendly. Crayons and special placemats are a good sign. Booster seats and highchairs are always good. My oldest always asked if he could “walk around.” A place where children can “walk around” is optimal. If you must eat at a higher-end restaurant, try one attached to a hotel as they are more likely to be able to accommodate families.
–Enforce the same standards you would have if you ate at a friend’s home. Some parents seem to think that eating out signals that it is acceptable to be wild and throw your food on the floor…to do all the things that would earn them a time out anywhere else. Never let them run between the tables. It is unsafe on several levels, not the least among them servers carrying hot food and drinks.
–Always bring supplemental entertainment. Nowadays, with DVD and MP3 Players with headphones, children can be kept quiet with very little effort. It’s not a terrible thing to let your child play with these gadgets if it provides relief for everyone around them. In my day, we brought workbooks and books for the kids to read.
Again, when there is a choice, my advice is to stay home. There will be plenty of time in the future to teach your children the important social skills associated with dining out. But if you simply must go to a restaurant with the little darlings, the above tips should “serve” you well!