6 Tips For Keeping Kids Contained in a Restaurant

How can I Relish Restaurant Time with kids?
It's not hard.
We're not perfect, but we have surprisingly well behaved kids in restaurants.
Wanna know how?

Pub for the Whole Family
Photo by caitlynburke
Well behaved kids in a restaurant start at home.
What? At home? Yes.

Manage their expectations, teach them to problem solve and help them deal with disappointment: "Sorry little Johnny, we're all out of chicken nuggets tonight. But we have 2 other choices. Would you like hot dogs or quesadillas?" Then at the restaurant when the waiter comes back to tell you they are all out of chicken tenders, or mini burgers it's not the end of the world.
As a parent you have to be the example in the first place. Are you a picky eater? Do you complain a lot at restaurants? Do you throw fits if your food doesn't come out perfect?—OR do you calmly problem solve, compromise and even laugh a little? Be careful...your kids are watching no matter their age!
Limit how often you eat out. Seriously, if it's not a treat for your kids anymore, they won't look forward to it, and you'll have more and more attitude. (If my kids give me grief about where we are eating out or fight over who get's to decide, we head for the nearest grocery store and come home with frozen pizza.)
Remember, if you have toddlers— You. Are. Kid. People! Get over it! Fancy Restaurants with long wait times? Not. For. You. You'll be miserable, they'll be miserable and let's not talk about the next table over celebrating their 15th Anniversary (without their kids)! It's more courteous to eat at Wendy's and Applebees for everyone involved.
We always head in with a game plan. Crayons, small toys (think toss-able fast food toys) and of course Goldfish for about 10 minutes. Then tag team: where a grownup trades off walking around with one or both little kids for the next 10 minutes. And ALWAYS order the kid food right when seated and ask for a rush on it! Once the kids have eaten their food, and the grown up food comes—we're back to crayons/small toys/and short walks via the tag team. We also don't order dessert. If they don't expect it they won't beg for it and forgo dinner, demanding it. If at any time they throw a fit, they already know—because we've followed through before—that we will grab our food to go and head home. We don't threaten, we just give them the real consequences and then carry them out. Even at two a little kid can totally tell when you are bluffing. NEVER do it!
If you can't afford a babysitter, but you'd like to have yummy grown up food from time to time? Maybe from the super chic foreign place that is oh so NOT kid friendly? Order IN the haute cuisine, put the kids to bed and eat by candlelight!
Remember, toddlers grow up and turn into tweeners soon enough! They won't want to go to dinner with you! (They'll be babysitting for you instead...)

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Melissa Ann Browning said...

wonderful advice - thank you! I think you should add 'parenting 101' posts to your list of regulars like 'church chat'. Very helpful to those of us finding our way in the dark!

Coincidentally, my husband and I went out for a fancy haute dinner on saturday nt to celebrate the ending of one more quarter-of-hell/graduate school, and right next to us was a couple who brought their 4 year old daughter. It was 9pm and our bil was >$150, and i had no less than four french fries (fancy ones, of course) thrown into my food during the dinner. Very annoying. I mean come on - if you can pay almost $200 for a dinner, you can't spring for a babysitter? i vowed on the spot to never make the same mistake with Claire...

xo, melissa

Anonymous said...

What a sweet image of your kids, C! Good advice!

Becky said...

I like your advice to eat out less. We don't eat out often and it is a huge treat when we do. We also find it better to eat out for lunch less expensive and not such a big crowd, for our kids to annoy.

Jaysi said...

When we just had one little guy...we went to dinner all the time. We was so well behaved, people always stopped by our table to compliment us.

Now with two...we almost never take them out to eat. It is simply too much work. If I am paying someone to make me dinner, I would like to sit and enjoy it. Enough said. We get babysitters. They are worth every penny!!

Your kids are adorable..and getting so big!!!

Marina@EBMR said...

such an honest post! I just have 1 yet prefer buffet dining..quicker!!

The UBP party is over but I'm just visiting all the blogs.

I've just started blogging and can be found at http://energizerbunnysmommyreports.blogspot.com/...do come and visit/subscribe/follow....c ya!!

Straight to Your Hart said...

Loving the tips!! Good to chat the other day..Have a good one!

Poppy Buxom said...

I also think chains like Houlihan's, TGIF, and Ruby Tuesday's are great when you have kids. They always have chicken strips on the menu; they're noisy, so your kids won't bother anyone; THEY HAVE A BAR.

Not that my kids drive me to drink. Heh.

TC said...

Great advice ! I recently went on a long trip with my then 8 month old twins where we stayed in hotels for almost 3 months, so we had to eat out as good as every meal ! Luckily my kids were very well behaved (most of the time) but it was still VERY tiring. One thing that "saved" us though, was that they didn't walk yet so we could all still have dinner together !
Now (at 15 months old) we tend to only go out to nice restaurants at lunch time with them, as they tend to be in better mood and it is less likely that people would mind if they were to misbehave. That way, I don't feel like I am missing on good quality "adult" food PLUS I still get a break from cooking every now and then !
Ps. I always make sure to order some bread as soon as I get seated... just in case the little monsters start acting-up.

Oh my heck! I was featured. And it didn't hurt or anything!