It's not hard.
We're not perfect, but we have surprisingly well behaved kids in restaurants.
Wanna know how?
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!3.
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.)4.
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.5.
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!6.
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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