Dining out is one of the luxuries of life that parents like you used to enjoy before you had children. In the past, you and your partner may have been fixtures in restaurants like Longhorn Steakhouse and TGI Friday’s. But having kids may have prevented you from going to these places regularly because simply put, bringing children to restaurants can be a nightmarish experience.
If you plan to bring your children to your favorite restaurant, you might want to know some of the things you should do to prepare them for this experience.
1. Do Tell Them Your Expectations
You should tell your children your expectations a week or several days before you go to the restaurant. Share with them the reasons why you’re dining in at this restaurant instead of celebrating your birthday at home. As you drive to your destination, remind them to stay in their seats, or that they must not be too noisy when inside the restaurant.
Communication is vital to setting your child’s expectation of dining out. Thus you should always communicate with him or her about your plans to eat out and what you expect from him/her.
2. Do Know Your Child’s Limitations
You must also determine if your child is too young to be brought to a restaurant. Toddlers can be very hard to discipline when they are sleepy or tired, thus you might want to think twice about bringing them to a diner. If you think that your child is too young to be in a restaurant, then re-consider your decision. Or you might want to hire a babysitter for that day. You could also bring him or her to a casual dining restaurant so that your child won’t get bored sitting through a meal. Alternatively, you can bring your child to a restaurant with pre-meal entertainment like crayons and snacks.
3. Don’t Hesitate to Ask for Help
Restaurant personnel would be more than willing to assist you. Whether you want to be seated near the exit so that you can immediately leave in case your children get too noisy, or you want to be in a more private room, don’t hesitate to ask for what you need. You could also pick a restaurant with outdoor patios to corral active preschoolers. In terms of the food, you can ask the restaurant staff to accommodate your requests like splitting the entrees or serving meals in smaller portions.
4. Do Give Generous Tip
Since you could be asking for a lot of favors from the restaurant staff, don’t forget to reward them by giving a generous tip. After all, the server would have to go back and forth to your table to help you out like giving you an extra fork after your toddler dropped his. Or that the restaurant staff would have to deal with a lot more dirty napkins and extra dishes afterward. In short, appreciate the extra effort that they’ll have to exert and tip accordingly.
5. Know When To Take Out A Misbehaving Child
There will always be times when your child misbehaves in public. It’s important that you identify the right time to bring him out of the restaurant so that the other people around you won’t be bothered. If it means having your dinners boxed to go, then so be it.
Don’t get frustrated with your child throwing a tantrum in public because every parent would have to go through this experience. In fact, experts suggest that taking young children along in public places like casual dining restaurants, sporting events and movies is a learning experience, especially in proper behavior in various environments.
6. Don’t Apologize for Having Children
It’s common for parents to apologize to other people for their children misbehaving in public. But the truth is, parents should never apologize for having children in public places. In the end, they are kids who will misbehave every now and then. They won’t be able to act like adults in public environments. So there’s no reason for you to be apologetic to other people for your children acting so badly in restaurants, movies or sporting events.
7. Do Accept Shortcomings
It’s easy to get discouraged after your six-year-old threw a tantrum during your partner’s birthday celebration. But there’s a reason why parents insist on taking their children to restaurants, and it’s not merely because they’re family. One, children may not be perfect dining companions but they can be pretty funny and fun to be at the dining table. Likewise, bringing them to restaurants is part of their learning experience, preparing them for their eventual transition into adults.
Meltdowns and missteps are part of this learning experience, so don’t lose your composure when your child cries incessantly in the middle of a good dinner at your favorite restaurant.