Every time your friends ask you to dinner at a restaurant, your first instinct is to say yes. However, you hold yourself back as soon as you remember what eating with your kids is really like – all the playing with food, knocking down cutlery, yelling to get out of the high chair and eating like little pigs.
When you begin, it may feel like an uphill task to discipline your kids and teach them good table manners. But remember that social etiquettes cannot be taught in a day.
5-year old kids can sit tight in a place for a very short period of time. Kids at this age also like to practice their independence and don’t hesitate to rebel when asked to follow rules.
A few tips to take the struggle out of a meal in a restaurant are
Set the expectations right.
Begin with age appropriate expectations. A 4-year old child can only sit in a place for up to 45 minutes. It will be easier to eat at an informal fast food joint as your family will not have to wait long for the food and the staff is more forgiving. However, if you are planning a fine dining restaurant, take a small snack or a toy along to let your child play while the food arrives.
Practice makes a child perfect.
Pretend play with your child to recreate a restaurant setting at your own dinner table. Ask your child to put the napkin on his/her lap first, ask politely if he/she needs anything, eat quietly and wait for everyone to finish before getting up. Be a good role model. If you keep getting out of the restaurant to attend calls and are often loud with the staff, remember your child is watching you.
Be clear about the rules and consequences.
Define rules and stick to them. Talk to your child about rules, warnings and consequences. If he/she gets up and goes around checking every other table, you should give one warning and then move over to the consequence like he has to leave the restaurant and wait in the car till he/she promises to behave or have only a simple roti for dinner.
Kids tend to test their boundaries and exert their independence. If you feel that you have been trying your best, then it is just a matter of time and consistency before the kids understand how you expect them to behave. If you are annoyed and no distractions or rules seem to work, it is okay to leave. Ask the waiter to pack all the leftovers for take-away and take a deep breath.
While eating in a restaurant is a welcome relief from cooking and a way for adults to socialise, we need to understand that these little people have minds of their own. You need to let go of small things and choose your battles wisely if you want your dinner out to be a fun and peaceful affair..