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Teaching children to behave at restaurants

Hi, I'd like to tap into any knowledge from Chowhound parents who have taught their Chowpups how to eat and generally behave in public places like restaurants.
I have a one year old and shy away from taking him to eateries other than the local Indian and Turkish holes in the wall, where, till date, he has been pretty well-behaved, but now that he is getting more mobile, I can see that unless we start some serious restaurant-training, we won't be able to eat out anywhere nice for years.
I have noticed that French and Italian kids seem to be remarkably well-adjusted to restaurant atmosphere, sitting nicely at the table and eating with the grown-ups. British kids less so.
I would dearly appreciate any tips from parents on how to train a future Chowhound!

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  1. Hi:

    Please help us keep the discussion here on topic, pleasant and constructive. General discussions about whether or not children 'belong' in restaurants are off-topic.

    Thank you.

    1 Reply
    1. re: The Chowhound Team

      No, thank YOU. I for one appreciate this recommendation.

    2. I believe the key is to teach good manners at home and at the family dinner table. If it becomes their normal, then it's easier for them to adapt elsewhere. In my experience too many parents lower the expectations at home and then are surprised when the kids are unruly when they are out.

      17 Replies
      1. re: Janet from Richmond

        Agreed. I was taught good manners, and though I did my best to irk my mother at other times, I was always respectful and well-behaved in public. Of course, I was reared in meanderthal times, before it became de rigueur to address one's teachers and other adults and people in positions of authority by their first names ... but I digress ...

        Also it helped that I was at an early age exposed to a variety of foodstuffs. This was in part due to my mother's eclectic palate and superb skill in the kitchen and the fact that I grew up in an immgrant neighbourhood where informal "day care" occurred between families of different cultures because a majority of families had both parents working.

        1. re: mrbozo

          I agree with Janet - it starts at home. Back in the last century, when I was growing up with 4 siblings, we knew (because we were constantly reminded) what constituted good manners. Approaching a restaurant as a group, we were reminded again that only our BEST behaviour would be tolerated. Anything less would result in "THE LOOK" and then, if it persisted. we would all be leaving, whether or not the food had been served. It only had to happen once for the lot of us to get the message.

          My parents felt that the best place for us to learn how to act in public was IN PUBLIC, so we were regularly taken, individually and as a group, to eat in progressively nicer places as we got older. My siblings have carried on this tradition, and I must say that my nieces and nephews, from the youngest to the oldest, are a pleasure to take to any restaurant. The youngest nephew, at almost 7 years of age, likes to point out the rowdy and rude children in restaurants and say "I never act like THAT!"

          Re: the OP's one-year-old .... yes, there will be a time when you really cant take him anywhere ... but once he learns to control some of his impulses, and the consequences therein, you'll be able to take him to better places. Just respect his tiredness factor and short attention span, and choose restaurants accordingly, In another thread someone mentioned that they often take their small children to Chinese buffet places, where they dont have to choose from a menu, the food comes almost immediately, and the child gets a chance to sample lots of different things, and/or have as much or as little of something that he/she likes.

          1. re: Cheflambo

            Ha - I just posted about "the look", having not seen your post!

            1. re: MMRuth

              "THE LOOK" - often given over the edge of the reading glasses of either Mom or Dad - was usually enough to quiet any of the three of us. I can recall perhaps only once when one of us was forcibly removed from the restaurant, had a good talking to outside, and was then allowed to return to the restaurant's table thoroughly chastened. Usually THE LOOK took care of it. :-)

              1. re: LindaWhit

                JUST got back from the grocery store w/ my two kids in tow. They got "the look" and quickly shut it and straightened up. It's a classic.

                I, too, agree w/ Janet. Expect them to behave at home as well as out. And, if they are unruly, by all means take them and leave as quickly as possible so as not to disturb other diners. At home, send them to their room. Next time you try to dine out, remind them of what happened last time and how they ended up in their room.

                1. re: lynnlato

                  I agree, too! there is no difference between eating at home and in a restaurant. We eat all our meals sitting together at the dining table, none of this eating on the fly, in the car, leaning against the counter, etc. I brought up three boys, who always had dinner at the dining room table, just like I did when I was growing up, learning table manners largely by example, but also learning conversation, love of food, the sanctity (!) of sitting together... even if it meant me breast feeding at the table if I had to. French and Italian children are brought up doing this, and in fact probably eat out more often with their families than US children. Not that they were always perfect: one (4) bit the lip off a crystal wine goblet, another (2) escaped and ran out into the place in Arras.

                  1. re: cassis

                    Amen, cassis. We are a sit at the table together kind of family too. It's important to me and I enjoy it and think we're better as a family b/c of it.

                    That crystal wine goblet episode sounds like it was scary - yikes!

                    1. re: cassis

                      BIT through the wine glass? Holy merde!

                      Agreed about the sacrosanct family dinner - my son requires a sit-down dinner for all, every single night, no matter how late the lunch or how hungry he isn't. There just needs to some kind of be proper food at a table that we all sit at, period. He has been like this since he was too little it say it clearly.

                      1. re: cassis

                        What?!? Breastfeeding at the table?!? ;o) Though i have to disagree. My kids behave well enough bring to them to restaurants (they are 3 and 6), but we have very liberal rules about food at home. Food is almost always eaten at the table, but not always together as a family (my kids and I snack constantly throughout the day instead of eating full meals), and they can get up and down as much as they like (except for dinners). Children are much better at differentiating than we give them credit for, and (spoken) expectations make all the difference.

                        1. re: cassis

                          But of course the babe has to eat too! Why not at the table with everyone else?

                        2. re: lynnlato

                          fMy otherwise well-behaved daughter once was AWFUL while we were waiting for ice cream at the end of a meal. She was so awful we got up and left, after warning her that we would do that if she didn't stop. All the way home her little sister kept wondering why SHE had been deprived of the ice cream she was waiting for, just because of her big sister's behavior. The little one got ice cream when we got home; the big one didn't. Both remember the event.

                          1. re: somervilleoldtimer

                            And that is what is important - they *both* remember the event....and I'm sure learned from it.

                2. re: Janet from Richmond

                  I absolutely agree with Janet - my first thought was if they act properly at home, then they will be more inclined to do so when out at a restaurant. Just as my parents would send me to bed without supper if I or my siblings acted up, we also knew the entire family would leave if one of us acted up in a restaurant setting.

                  Having said that - it's helpful if the parents bring a small coloring book and perhaps Cheerios (depending on the age of the child) to keep them busy while the restaurant is preparing the family's meal. For a very young child, being seated at the table means "food will be put in front of me right now" (at home), whereas in a restaurant, that can't always happen as quickly as the young child might expect. Setting those expectations at an early age that, when in a restaurant, they're making the food right then and there for the family and it's not ready to be served yet, will be helpful to all.

                  1. re: Janet from Richmond

                    Janet,

                    That is the perfect place to begin. If taught well, and if the demonstrations by parents and siblings are good, the child will not feel ill at ease in a restaurant. I was lucky, in that I got plenty of "instruction" at home, and also from my governess. When I "graduated" to restaurants, it was a big deal. Yes, there were times that the lessons were forgotten, but I was always reminded of them, and knew to behave.

                    Hunt

                    1. re: Janet from Richmond

                      Agree 100%. My girls were taught at an early age and now sometimes drive each other correcting each other if one slips up! I found taking them to a restaurant with a buffet when they are young really helps because there are so many options there will be something that they like and new things to look at and try. Also, there is a lot more movement and therefore more noise so while they are learning it is not noticed as much.

                      1. re: 37998Susan

                        As a first-time expectant mother, the buffet tip is really smart. Thanks!

                        1. re: invinotheresverde

                          Beware of buffets with really little kids (like under 6): your kid may get the idea that it's okay to get up and walk around the restaurant, and buffets are difficult if you're alone with small kids because you need to take them with you every time you get up. They can work, but definitely have another adult with you.

                          What's worked best for us with table manners in general is positive reinforcement -- I tell my son that when he was little, I didn't like taking him to restaurants because he was noisy and couldn't sit in his seat and made a mess, but now that he's big (3!) I love taking him to restaurants because he has such nice table manners and eats his food and we sit and have a nice conversation. While we're eating, I talk about how much I'm enjoying being there with him because of his good table manners.

                    2. I think exposing a child to a restaurant when they are little is important. But like alot of behavioral issues it starts at home with how the parents interact with their child.

                      We go out to eat alot with our almost 2 year old daughter, from hole in the wall spots, to chains, to the occasional $300+ meal at a top steakhouse in CHicago. Having your child have a wide palate, and to enjoy the food you are eating is a great start. Start sharing food off your plate as early as possible to accomplish this(our daughter eats crab, shrimp, lobster, caju food, middle eastern food, bbq, and pretty much everything we enjoy). Also diversions(books coloring books, etc) are a good tool, as well as both parents being ready to get up from the table with an antsy toddler to burn off some energy/boredom.

                      Good luck, patience, and understanding is the key I think.

                      11 Replies
                      1. re: swsidejim

                        "Also diversions(books coloring books, etc) are a good tool, as well as both parents being ready to get up from the table with an antsy toddler to burn off some energy/boredom."

                        being ready to get up from the table is key. Also, understanding that there are time when nothing's going to work and you just have to bail. There is a time (usually between 2 and 3 years old) where it just may be hard to go to a really nice place with your kid. It is not possible to reason with a toddler that doesn't want to be there. However, you may be as lucky as Swsidejim and have a 2 year old that is very well-behaved, and never have to worry! ( I agree it isn't just luck, behavior starts at home. But there are also some kids that are easier to deal with than others by nature)

                        We have many good friends with children of varying ages, and we spend a lot of time eating out with them. For the most part, these outings have been very pleasant and fun. But it is very important to be aware of how your child is doing, and be realistic about their limits. To quote the sage Kenny Rogers:

                        You gotta know when to hold 'em
                        Know when to fold 'em,
                        Know when to walk away,
                        Know when to run...

                        1. re: moh

                          she has her moments as all children that age do..., :-)

                          like you said you have to be quick on your feet, and know whose turn it is to adjourn from the table until it is safe to come back. We are very conscious of the other customers, and do not want to be rude by doing nothing.

                          1. re: swsidejim

                            "We are very conscious of the other customers, and do not want to be rude by doing nothing."

                            Swsidejim, this is also key! As it has been said, good behavior starts at home. Kids learn their behaviors from their parents, and if parents set a good example by being considerate of others, the kids pick it up. I am always grateful to see this kind of consideration. Meltdowns happen, and that is fine, kids will be kids, and we love them for it. But it is gratifying to see parents deal with meltdowns in an appropriate manner.

                            I take back my statement about you being lucky to have a well-behaved 2 year old! You are also clearly doing something right :)

                            I am a little embarrassed about my memories of my behaviors as a child in restaurants. I was a hyper child, a bit precocious, and a little outgoing. And my parents had their hands full. Now, I ate very well, and would eat whatever was there! But I was very active and probably a little loud. I'd like to think it turned out ok... although now that I think about it, perhaps nothing has changed??? So Medgirl, take heart. The fact that you are even trying to train your chowpup is a good start. There will always be loud-mouth schnooks like me to make your chowpup look like an angel...

                            1. re: swsidejim

                              ah, yes -- thank you for that awareness and for your knowledge that others may find your children not as charming as you do.

                            2. re: moh

                              Agreed on all comments regarding training at home, exposing a child early to restaurants, and being ready to bail. Maybe I was lucky, but the small number of times that I actually picked up my daughter and walked out to the parking lot while telling her that we needed to go home was enough to stop any crying or carrying on by the time she was three. She was so horrified that we were going to leave, that she cried more in order to get back into the restaurant, promising to be good. Before she was able to communicate this, we just got out of there quickly so that we didn't ruin the atmosphere for everyone else in the restaurant. So, we ate off-hours at family places, and ate quickly.

                              A couple of observations: If you need to distract your child with games and toys in order to eat a basic meal, you may be staying in the restaurant too long. They can deal with it for 30 minutes at most. Pick the restaurant accordingly. Nothing was worse than driving a long way to meet family at a restaurant for Mother's Day etc., removing my child from her car seat after a long drive, and then strapping her into a booster seat (bring your own, but that is another topic) for a long meal. Little kids just can't sit still that long. It is pure torture, and you can't blame them for acting up. Between the car ride and the meal, they need to get some energy out of them. My friends and I would have all rather eaten at someone's home than a restaurant for a celebration during those years.

                              When she was about three, we starting letting her dress up for the special occasion with junky jewelry and fancier clothes. That also seemed to inspire good behavior.

                              We also always ate as a family, and that seemed to help prep for the experience. I see lots of Moms who feed their children "kid food" before Dad gets home, and they never eat together. Those kids don't seem to know the experience of sitting at the big table and behaving accordingly, especially if they were allowed to run amok while gobbling chicken nuggets. Note that traditionally, Italian and French families eat together with their children, so this may be a clue about how to train them at home.

                              In the end, though, it may just be that some kids are naturally better at this than others.

                              1. re: RGC1982

                                We also always ate as a family, and that seemed to help prep for the experience. I see lots of Moms who feed their children "kid food" before Dad gets home, and they never eat together. Those kids don't seem to know the experience of sitting at the big table and behaving accordingly
                                ~~~~~~~~~~~
                                YES, RGC! When we were old enough, we always ate together as a family (unless Dad was traveling for business, of course). Only if he were going to be home after 8pm did Mom feed us earlier (and often, she ate with us and then sat with Dad while he ate when he got home). Very important to eat together - find out what went on during everyone's day, discuss "problems of the day" and just be a family together. Hard to do nowadays with everyone going sixty-leven different ways with soccer, ballet, theater, etc., but it should be done as often as possible.

                                1. re: RGC1982

                                  When I was growing up we "ate as a family" and I still have horrible memories about that. God- my parents were both drunk y then and wanted to teach us both a lesson, with corporal punishment generously applied for every realor imagined transgression. I resolved to make things easier on my son. We had a little house that was laid out weird, so we ate in the living room, often together, but DH was a forest service firefighter in southern AZ and was gone a lot during the summer. What I taught was respect and learning to appreciate good food, and whatever family (nuclear or extended) happeed to be present. We lucked out, Young Son has always loved restaurants (to the point of being almost too excited to eat at times), and don't think I don't count that as a huge blessing.

                                  If your child is a hooniac (cross between a hooligan and a maniac)- and you know who you are-, please take pity on your fellow diners and take them to restaurants that are noisy anyway. They'll mature eventually, and you can then expand their repertoire. But you're STILL obligated to not let them spin out of control even when you're at a noisy place.

                                  1. re: EWSflash

                                    That is an extremely good suggestion - noise level can work in your favor if the general din of happy, slightly buzzed adults talking and laughing covers the occasional yelp from your young diner.

                                2. re: moh

                                  My parents did this as well. Manners were enforced in the home as well as outside.
                                  If I became unruly in public, first stop was the bathroom. If for any reason I caused them to have to get up and leave.. there were repercussions to face at home whether it was favorite toys taken away for a period of time, grounding or even a spanking.. depending on your rearing preferences and what is effective for each child.
                                  And there was no waffling on punishment. If one parent stated grounding, the other backed them up.

                                  1. re: moh

                                    What great thoughtful comments! Usually a thread on this topic is locked by now. :) I can remember being dragged to many fancy places by my parents. The coloring books really helped. Once I learned to read it was good times. I haven't read all the comments but one suggestion from that little girl that was me is that if you have to travel quite a while to get to the restaurant someone needs to volunteer to take the kid for a walk or tour around the restaurant to blow off some steam. Too much sitting down can make for a twitchy little diner.
                                    I know of one boy who was never taken anywhere, not even to the supermarket. This may have made life easier for the parents, but when he went on a class trip in fourth grade he was so excited to be somewhere besides home or school that he bounced off the walls of the bus while all the other kids calmly sat and enjoyed the movie on the way back. I'm pretty sure eating out would have been like wrestling an octopus.

                                    1. re: givemecarbs

                                      Yes! It's unfair to the child to sit in a car, sit all day, and then sit in a restaurant. Plan appropriately!

                                      On our recent vacation to northern California, on long driving days, we ordered pizza into our hotel rooms, but ate 9 course tasting menus on evenings when we had plenty of time to play outside and run around. It's all about planning.

                                      Children misbehaving in restaurants are the parents' fault. Always.

                                3. OK not having children but having been a child who was taken to restaurants at a young age, I think it all starts at home. We were taught to try a little of everything on our plate and not make a big deal of something if we didn't like it. That being said we ate pretty much everything. At restaurants my sibs and I always surprised servers by ordering the "grown-up" food, and making the server glance at my parents to make sure this was ok. I gotta say, who wants a burger with no toppings, a la "kids menu"?
                                  Also remember that you can "modify" some meals as well, ie "can you put the au poivre sauce on the side of my daughters' steak?" Just in case it's too spicy, also kids love to dip stuff :)
                                  Colouring books and things that don't make noise are good ideas too, as sometimes the wait for 5 entrees can be a bit long to a kid of 4 or 5.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: starlady

                                    No kidding, kids' menus are typically gross and almost always junk food. My kids can't read yet, so I typically don't tell them about the kids' menu unless I'm desperate (mainly because of the "junk" aspect)!

                                  2. Lots of great advice, I think. I don't have children, and so will just comment as one who was brought to restaurants from an early age (mostly in Europe, as a child) and dines with friends with children.

                                    There was "the look" from my mother (also meted out in church), that meant that if you don't shape up, there will be consequences. That seemed to work, though I'm guessing a child has to be of a certain age for it to be effective. I don't recall, particularly in upscale restaurants, my parents bringing us things to entertain ourselves with, but I think it's a good idea - though, presumably, there is an age level at which children should be able to participate in conversation ,etc. such that it is no longer needed.

                                    When I eat out and there are children nearby, I always appreciate it when parents are willing to take the children outside if they start to disturb the dining of others.

                                    (As an aside, a favorite story of mine that I read somewhere, was a young child at a nice restaurant, behaving well, who got up and went to a table of loud men and asked them to please use their "inside" voices!)

                                    5 Replies
                                      1. re: MMRuth

                                        For us, consequences is the most important. While it sucks to have to leave a restaurant if our child is misbehaving, what sucks far more is not being able to ever go to restaurants because the child can't hack it.

                                        We take our son to restaurants frequently (he's 4 now) and have done so since he was an infant. If he ever made noise, we left. Sometimes, mid-meal (one of us staying behind to settle up and get doggy bags). But once he was about 2 1/2, he knew what was expected of him, and was very capable of behaving in a restaurant. Now we get stares if we take him into a fine-dining establishment, but guaranteed he's the quietest person in the room. Everyone assumes small children can't behave. But poor behavior in a restaurant is *always* the parents' fault.

                                        1. re: Indirect Heat

                                          "For us, consequences is the most important. While it sucks to have to leave a restaurant if our child is misbehaving, what sucks far more is not being able to ever go to restaurants because the child can't hack it."

                                          Thank you, thank you. I don't have kids, but spent a lot of time with my sister and niece. That was the big threat to my niece when we were out, not just at restaurants but also at the grocery store, visiting friends, etc. ''Straight home, straight to bed". Yes, it sucked having to leave the grocery store with the shopping half done or miss out on a dinner out, but it only took once or twice with follow through to make the point.

                                          1. re: Sooeygun

                                            "Yes, it sucked having to leave the grocery store with the shopping half done or miss out on a dinner out, but it only took once or twice with follow through to make the point."

                                            This is so true. I know so many parents who don't follow through with the consequences and you can imagine what the results of THAT are. Not pretty.

                                        2. re: MMRuth

                                          What a fabulous story! I would have loved to see that.

                                        3. Our pups are 6 now, and can eat anywhere.

                                          Make sure your home behavior is in line with what you expect at a resto. If you child is allowed to leave the table when finished for example, they will expect the same when they are out. If they eat with their hands at home, expect the same while dining out.

                                          Unless they are extremely picky, a kid can find something they will eat almost anywhere. Let them choose their own dinner. They will select something they like, and will also feel like they chose it, so will not fuss and reject.

                                          You have started well, ramp upm to nicer places. Make sure that just because they see other kids at a family place running around, doesn't mean it is acceptable for them.

                                          Be ready and willing to leave the table if the behavior isn't acceptable. When behavior has become acceptable, then return. A second strike and you leave the restaurant for that attempt. We never actually had to do this, just the threat of being carried from the table was enough to convince them that good behavior was what they wanted to have that night.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: lgphil

                                            Clearly, if "just the threat of being carried from the table was enough to convince them that good behavior was what they wanted to have that night" you already had important things firmly in place: NEVER make a threat to a kid that you are not 100% prepared to carry out.

                                            1. re: atheorist

                                              When my niece and nephew were small I stated that if I had a nickel for every time I heard their mother promise she was going to leave a restaurant right now - and not once follow up - I could retire by age 35. Needless to say, they ignored her completely. When my child was born I swore that I would not fall into the same trap. It only takes once or twice making good on a threat to have the child know you mean it.

                                          2. I will dissent with some of the others, with the disclaimer up front that I am not a parent (we can't have children) but good manners in a restaurant was something that was ingrained in me and my sister from the time we were small.

                                            The dissention comes from the fact that at home, while we certainly weren't behaved like wild animals, going to a restaurant required EXTRA special good behavior. At home, we had basic and simple etiquette such as asking to be excused and keeping generally good table manners but going to a restaurant was a Big Deal, and if you couldn't behave, we would leave until you could come back and act like a person, not a monkey. Because going out was seen as such a treat, the threat of the visit being cut short due to bad behavior was generally enough to quell further bad behavior, and the few times we actually had to pack up the food to go and leave because someone refused to behave (usually me) were very few.

                                            I suggest the approach be taken the same way it is in other etiquette. At home, you can relax things to a certain extent in your personal behaviors as long as you're not gross or impolite, but when around others, you should be on your best behavior. I think this allows children to feel a little more free and to enjoy their time when at home, but also discern the important difference of how to behave when in other people's company.

                                            Just my 2 cents.

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: rockandroller1

                                              Yes... we eat dinner as a family and have certain expectations (very minimal at this point.. she's 2!). But when she starts acting up at a restaurant, I tell her "this is a nice restaurant and these are all nice people who don't want to hear you screaming'. And I give a stronger reaction to other bad behaviour too. Emphasis on, this is a RESTAURANT and the expectations are higher here. I don't expect this message to be effective at this age, but I want to start setting the tone. And last night, when we went to a local hambuger chain, she said as we went in the door "no screaming in here".

                                              I love the dress up idea... my parents also always let me order Shirley Temples. I am bookmarking this thread for future reference. It's gratifying to see other parents agree that 2 to 3 is not a great restaurant age. It's just really hard for her to wait for food (especially when she can smell it) or sit in her chair once she's finished. That's a 10-minute window.

                                                1. re: julesrules

                                                  my parents also always let me order Shirley Temples.

                                                  --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

                                                  Along these lines, our son is allowed to order "treats" at a restaurant, things that we don't have at home, like chocolate milk. Such a little thing can make a huge difference.

                                              1. We have never had to leave a restaurant due to poor behavior from our son. My suggestions:

                                                Always have some amusements on hand. I kept a couple small cars just for restaurants so my son wasn't used to playing with them. They were like "new" toys and held his interests. I also had some crayons and paper and a small sticker book.

                                                Before heading out to a restaurant, make sure your child has had their nap (if age appropriate) or at least make sure you aren't eating too late when the child is tired and cranky.

                                                Don't let your child get too hungry. They just can't wait very well. Put a small serving of cheerios or whatever in a baggie to tide little appetites over.

                                                We didn't attend fine dining establishments but we didn't eat in dives either. Pick a family-freindly place to eat. BBQ places were a favorite as were ethnic restaurants. Chinatown is a great choice.

                                                Certainly good table manners at home were insisted upon.

                                                There was also the threat (little used but very effective) of going to sit in the car with me while the others finished their meal. "And believe me, you don't want to do that!"

                                                Take the child or children for a little walk if they are getting restless and flirting with getting in trouble.

                                                When we dined out with other families, the kids who were the most troublesome were typically not well-behaved anywhere, including home. They had no respect for their parents and did not take their threats seriously because mom or dad didn't follow up on any of them.
                                                My son knew if he got the "look" that he was flirting with disaster and settled down quickly.

                                                13 Replies
                                                1. re: three of us

                                                  three of us, I completely agree with your post, especially the part about EXTRA special behavior, and imo, the behavior at a find dining establishment should be EXTRA EXTRA special.

                                                  I'll never forget the couple who, while waiting on line to get into a restaurant (I can't remember why I agreed to wait on a line but that's neither here nor there), decided to change their kid's diaper. On the line. On the sidewalk. In front of the restaurant.

                                                  I knew then that the dining world as I knew and loved it was coming to an end. I wasn't far from wrong.

                                                  Oh well.

                                                  1. re: dolores

                                                    Yes, it's sometimes it's not the kid that is at fault but the parents. A few weeks ago, I was at the restroom of a restaurant washing my hands when I just couldn't help but notice the woman next to me holding her kid over the sink while he was urinating. The urine was also not coming out in a clean stream, but was getting all over the sink, the faucet handles and the counter. Why couldn't she do this over a freakin' toilet?!?!?! Some parents just have no clue.

                                                    A lot of great and thoughtful responses in this thread. I hope some of the more clueless parents out there reading will pick up some tips..

                                                      1. re: Miss Needle

                                                        Only thing I could think of is, were all the stalls occupied?

                                                        Other than that.... yeah. >.<

                                                      2. re: dolores

                                                        Oh my. That's (almost) unbelievable. And the child they're raising is supposed to have manners? Ummmm, I doubt it very highly.

                                                        1. re: dolores

                                                          Admittedly, I was at the zoo in their cafe, but a couple 4 tables away changed their daughter's diaper AT THE TABLE.

                                                          1. re: sebetti

                                                            OK, there's got to be a health code violation here. I cannot believe no one from the cafe asked them to not do so.

                                                            1. re: LindaWhit

                                                              i would have a heart attack and die if i saw anyone do that. bet they change the kid on the kitchen counter or eating table at home, too. where was the mgmt of the cafe?

                                                              1. re: soupkitten

                                                                Come on you guys! She said they were OUTSIDE the restaurant standing in line (actually "on line", meaning she's probably from New York? <g>), and they laid the baby on the SIDEWALK to change it! My prime concern was whether it was a hot day and they ended up with fried baby!

                                                                1. re: Caroline1

                                                                  we're responding to Sebetti's post, C-- not Dolores.'

                                                                  <<
                                                                  a couple 4 tables away changed their daughter's diaper AT THE TABLE.
                                                                  >>

                                                            2. re: sebetti

                                                              I'm nauseous. Ugh. Someone should've escorted them to the gorilla cage so they could dine there where that behavior would be welcomed.

                                                          2. Just let the little one bring along his/her gameboy. That will keep them occupied.

                                                            25 Replies
                                                            1. re: The_Whistler

                                                              Thinking about this more, I do think that adults also have a responsibility, once children reach a certain age, to make sure the children are engaged in the conversation. We went out on the Fourth of July to a BBQ at my husband's tennis club to watch the fireworks, with a friend and his two children (12 & 15). Because of traffic/access issues we had to be at the location three hours before the fireworks started. That's a long time to have for kids to have to "hang out" with three adults, but my husband and I made a big effort to make sure at least one of us was engaging them in (hopefully interesting to them - we try!) conversation. I do think it's a bit sad sometimes when I see older children in their own world with their game boys or whatever, rather than a part of the conversation (understanding that teens can be sullen, withdrawn, etc.!).

                                                              1. re: MMRuth

                                                                I agree, MMRuth. I think one of the reasons my 7 y/o nephew is not a problem in restaurants is because he is usually engrossed in his Gameboy, to the point where you have to take it away from him to get his attention. Oh well, at least he's quiet. And he stops playing when the food comes. At 12 and 15 I would hope the young adults would be more socially involved, but I also know that doesnt always happen either (depending on the situation).

                                                                1. re: Cheflambo

                                                                  I don't object to a Gameboy or other handheld game, but please make sure the sound is turned down. It really grates on my nerves to be next to a table with all the weird electronic noise spewing forth. Same thing goes for the toddlers that have the noisy toys that the child bangs on the table or rattles incessantly.

                                                                  Medgirl, you can gauge how your child will behave, by how they do at home. If they are food flingers, and at some point they all are ;-), then you may want to wait until they get past that stage. Our first born was fine at home, but for some odd reason it totally unnerved her to be in a restaurant. I don't know if it was the people, the noise or what. I took snacks, books, quiet toys, but as soon as our food was set down she would break into sobbing tears. She wasn't that loud, but it distressed us to the point that we would pack up the food and go home. For awhile we only ate at cafeterias. She was too young to scold, and the "LOOK" didn't work yet, so we just had to do our best. We kept after it, to a certain extent, and after about 6 months she got over it and was fine. It was just a stage. Every 6 months you have a whole new child, so keep that in mind! Good luck.

                                                                  1. re: danhole

                                                                    danhole, I've never seen it again, but at a Christmas eve dinner out a number of years ago, a family at the next table had set up in front of a child, possibly 5 or 6, a DVD player, and he watched a movie the entire duration of the dinner. He was dressed in an smart little suit, and I am not sure if his dinner was placed behind or alongside the DVD player.

                                                                    Incredible.

                                                                    1. re: dolores

                                                                      As far as table manners go, there should be new rules for this century. No electronics at the dinner table. No ipod, gameboy, handheld games, DVD players, CD players, etc. The art of conversation should be more encouraged. I have some delightful conversations with my 6 yr old grandson while waiting for a meal. So far he thinks his "Gigi" is pretty entertaining. Let's hope that lasts for a few more years!

                                                                      1. re: danhole

                                                                        Totally agree with this, Danhole. I think the point of eating together is the conversation, and children need to learn the art of socialization. Part of manners is taking part in what is happening around them, and being able to converse with others. I have a 10 month old son, so I'm not there yet as a parent, but I don't want to buy him off for good behavior. I want him to behave well because he's a well-behaved child. Hope that makes sense.

                                                                2. re: MMRuth

                                                                  Extremely perceptive. Talking to children and including them in the evening is one of the best ways to insure good behavior in older children. My own kids had some spectacular meltdowns in restaurants when they were young. The stuff of family legends.
                                                                  We learned to build-up the event ahead of time, to give the pep talk and "the look" as we entered and to select their dinners first. Now my grand-daughters started ordering for themselves at the age of 5. We always get terrific service when dining with the grands because they are cute, well dressed, well behaved and articulate. Also they are well versed in please and thank you. No gameboys or toys for our kids. Just engaging family conversation that all take part in.

                                                                3. re: The_Whistler

                                                                  Geez, I hope that was supposed to be sarcastic, Whistler. There's nothing I hate more about childhood behavior than watching a little kid plugged into an electronic device, oblivious to the world around them. Besides, those things are annoying to other customers.

                                                                  Back to topic, we've brought our child to restaurants since she was born. We followed all the common sense advice - don't let the kid get too hungry, always have crayons or a book available, be ready to walk out on a moment's notice, etc. Two other things. I always, always checked out a menu first to be sure there would be at least one item I knew she would eat and, when we started upping the ante to include more "adult" restaurants, I would explain beforehand that we were going to a very special restaurant and even better than usual behavior was required. She's 6 yo now and never had a problem, thank goodness.

                                                                  At home, on the other hand, not a meal goes by when I don't have to make an issue over table manners. Some kids just know when to pull out all the good behavior and it isn't at home.

                                                                  1. re: rockycat

                                                                    What's the difference between a kid that tunes out the world by playing a Gameboy or watching a DVD (both either muted or with headphones) and a kid who tunes out by colouring with crayons or by reading a book? I thought that the goal is to keep the kid(s) from being disruptive and how ever the parents reach that goal...

                                                                    Not trying to be argumentative, just curious.

                                                                    1. re: viperlush

                                                                      I think most parents would rather see their child coloring, or reading a book rather than playing a game boy, or staring @ a t.v..

                                                                      1. re: viperlush

                                                                        In my three daughter-units' cases, they were more interactive, trying to win at the games or asking about colors. Playing a gameboy or watching a movie is pretty solo.

                                                                        1. re: viperlush

                                                                          You don't just toss the book or coloring page at the child. You color with them or read with them, or just talk about the pictures. It's best to have an activity book, for the older ones (3 & up) so that you can do something together. If it's a younger child you can always play the "can you find the ____?" in the illustrations of the book. The children I see that get so out of control are the ones where the mom & dad order their drinks, toss something at the child and expect the child to entertain themselves. And the child does so by causing a ruckus, just to get a little attention.

                                                                          1. re: danhole

                                                                            you are 100% correct. I dont want my daughter to tune out the world, I like to interact with her and her coloring, and reading.

                                                                            1. re: swsidejim

                                                                              It's like a prop to help faciliate conversation and engagement, because young children don't really "make conversation".

                                                                              1. re: julesrules

                                                                                I guess it depends on the child and what age they are at. My daughters conversed from a young age, and my grandson did also. Now My granddaughter is 2 1/2 and she is just beginning to have conversations. She will ask me "Gigi, are you happy?" and it goes from there. It is a short conversation, but it is one she initiates. The boy, though, often strikes up a conversation, and has since he was very young (about 2 years) with whomever is nearby. It's was fun to watch adults leaning over to tell him where they live and what their favorite movies are. They looked like he was some kind of alien!

                                                                            2. re: danhole

                                                                              Thanks, that makes sense. They way that I was is the parent just handing over the toy/crayons/book and just letting the kid have at it. I just assumed that the goal is to keep the kid quiet and occupied so that it doesn't disturb others. I thought of them as aids for when the kid is bored, everything else has failed and the parent is trying to hold things together (hence the "tuning out"). It didn't occur to me that the parent would be bring this stuff so that they could use it to interact with their kid.

                                                                              Obviously I have no kids and have never spent any time around them. But since I will soon be an aunt I am trying to learn :)

                                                                              1. re: viperlush

                                                                                viperlush, when I think crayons, I think of something to keep the kids occupied 'before' the food comes. The kid I saw had the DVD player in front of him for the entire meal. I didn't have a good view of this atrocity, so I couldn't see where the server put the meal nor how the kid managed to eat his food.

                                                                                On crayons, one of my most favorite restaurants in NJ has a paper tablecloth, crayons AND the most amazing food in the state. Last I was there, they put up the picture I made for them extolling their virtues.

                                                                                Nice to see there is a 'Y' with parents, I didn't think there were still Y's.

                                                                                1. re: dolores

                                                                                  Also if the restaurant provides the crayons, I can see that even at age 2 it makes my daughter feel like "this is a place that has something to offer kids" rather than "a random place my parents dragged me to". I know a lot of people have the idea that kids should be brought up to interact with adults, etc, but I think it's a two-way street... if there's NOTHING to interest her at a restaurant why should she want to be there very long? Even just the server making nice and asking her questions makes a big difference. The crayons themselves at this age don't actually interest her all that long, I often end up using them to draw pictures of family members, letters / numbers and other things that interest her and we can chat about.

                                                                                  1. re: julesrules

                                                                                    Good point. Also, as soon as they are able to be understtod, let them give the order to the server. They will feel like they 'own' the dish, and be more patient/eat better.

                                                                                    1. re: lgphil

                                                                                      This is a great tip and so true! Thinking back, I remember that my parents did this with my little brother and I at a very young age. I can remember feeling very grown up and a respected member of the dining party. You know, I never really thought about just how great my parents were about this until I read your post. Not only could we give our own orders to the server, we could usually order whatever we wanted and my parents never said a word. (We didn't go out that often, but when we did, there were little to no restrictions.) I learned how to be an adventurous eater at a young age because of this and I can even remember ordering snails at a french restaurant when I was maybe 10 and loving them! :)

                                                                                      1. re: flourgirl

                                                                                        Hadn't given it much thought, but I also let the kids order their own food from the menu. I also had a "rule' that when one of them had a doctor appointment, that child got to choose the restaurant for all of us to go to afterward. When my daughter was about four or so, and we still lived in the San Diego area, she chose the Ruben E. Lee for lunch, a big "river boat" anchored in the harbor. When I read her the menu, she decided she wanted the bucket of clams, and that's what she ordered. I thought to myself, "Well, this could be interesting. Let's just see how it goes." She loved the clams! Sopped up the juices with bread like she had clams three times a week. When the waitress brought a finger bowl, I promised myself that whatever she did would be fine. If she picked up spoon and had it for soup, I would not say a word. The finger bowl was set before her, she looked over her place setting, carefully rinsed her fingers in the bowl, dried them on the extra napkin provided, and thanked the server. I was STUNNED...! We also gathered an audience of wait staff. Kids can be so amazing if you give them half a chance. :-)

                                                                                        1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                          "Kids can be so amazing if you give them half a chance."

                                                                                          That's it exactly! I really believe that. And I loved your story. The part about the finger bowl is priceless.

                                                                                2. re: viperlush

                                                                                  I also think that the difference between a coloring book and a gameboy/dvd is the level at which a child can tune out their environment. With a coloring book, the child can still see and hear her parents talking to one another and talking with her. She can learn the patterns of conversation and how to sit of extended periods of time with out high expectations for stimulation (i.e.- video games and movies.) This is one of the reasons my husband and I refuse to get DVD Player/ Screen in our car.

                                                                              2. re: viperlush

                                                                                Interaction. That's the difference. That's why they call watching t.v "vegging out" or a person who is constantly plugged in, a couch potato.

                                                                              3. re: rockycat

                                                                                I agree with your first statement. Letting your child watch tv or a movie while at a restaurant is kind of a cop out to me. A child will never learn how to properly interact with other people if they only have a relationship with the DVD player.

                                                                            3. Thanks to all who replied. 'THE LOOK', lol !!! I so admire parents who have 'THE LOOK' down to a T. It's an art. I dread not being able to achieve it.
                                                                              The ideas are great. We love to eat out, and hopefully with tips picked up here, can continue to do so with the pup in tow.

                                                                              9 Replies
                                                                              1. re: medgirl

                                                                                The fact that you even asked the question means that you're attuned to the possibility of problem. Just ask yourself, "as a diner, would I enjoy being seated nearby?" and you'll know how things are going. Paying attention to your child will give you all the clues you need. Parents with good manners generally rear mannerly children.

                                                                                THE LOOK is powerful when used appropriately, which means not too often and likely has zero impact on a very young child. Making a game of "who can sit the stillest" or "drink their water most slowly" worked for us when we first began taking our boys out to eat. We also played Restaurant at home, with actual written menus, Dad as waiter and Mom as cook. The boys played along with the gag but learned in the process. And, yes, we chickened out by using child-friendly places as training restos before progressing to more formal environs. FYI: the downside of rearing a young CH is that they really do enjoy food and will not be fobbed off with PB&J, instead asking for artichokes, lobster and oysters. $$$$$ be damned, I'm glad I did what I did and would do it again ..... oops, have already begun with the grandchildren.

                                                                                1. re: medgirl

                                                                                  One more thought about the "LOOK." Some children respond better to a hand signal, as in putting finger to mouth meaning hush, or the famous zip your lips motion, or whatever you find to distract them and let them know that you mean business. My granddaughter responds to the "LOOK" by imitating it and giving it back to me, lol! But a finger to the lips and a gentle "shush" and she settles down.

                                                                                  1. re: medgirl

                                                                                    There is one hard fast rule about making "THE LOOK" an effective tool. I've seen too many parents threaten to discipline their children, but never follow through. They just keep repeating warnings, telling their kids to stop or else, and the "or else" part never happens...the pattern just continues ad nauseum, ad infintum, and the kids, smart critters they are, learn rapidly when the threat of discipline is hollow.

                                                                                    For "THE LOOK" to be effective, like any other technique, has to lead to consequences as promised, or it is just idle talk. I have even told my kids "I ask nicely the first time, I tell you want I want you to do immediately the second time, and if I have to get to a third time, you will know you are in big trouble." When you start early, and they know you are serious, you may never even get to a third time.

                                                                                    Once you get that down, you can take your kids anywhere. Mine have been going to restaurants with us since babyhood, and I can't recall them ever disturbing other patrons or causing a meal to be unpleasant. In fact, they love going to restaurants more than my wife and I do, and I love taking them with us to enjoy good food and company.

                                                                                    1. re: ChefBoyAreMe

                                                                                      Very good advice Chefboy! We had the "3 strikes you're out" rule and they knew what that meant!

                                                                                    2. re: medgirl

                                                                                      "The Look" includes raised eyebrows. Even now, my 17 year old daughter is extremely sensitive to the distance between my eyebrows and my hairline.

                                                                                      1. re: somervilleoldtimer

                                                                                        Yes, "the look" was all that I needed to get the point. If I got one of those, and from each of my parents, I quickly changed my antics.

                                                                                        Hunt

                                                                                        1. re: somervilleoldtimer

                                                                                          "the look" or instant quiet was all we needed.We passed it down to our children and on to the grandchildren ( youngest is 15 ) who now practice on the younger,less than eight year old squirts at family gatherings.

                                                                                          1. re: somervilleoldtimer

                                                                                            Ha. My version of the look was the phrase, "I beg your pardon?" Even the dog was afraid of that one! He put his paws on my lap and stared at my plate of food once during dinner. I gave him the, "I beg your pardon?" and he absolutely cringed, laid back his ears, and slunk away. It was hysterical and he NEVER did that again.

                                                                                            1. re: somervilleoldtimer

                                                                                              My sister calls the look "the eyebrows" and we are in our 20s!

                                                                                          2. some great advice here, and it does truly begin at home. i think that kids' natural desire to be "big girls/boys" can really be cashed in on, and special, memorable meals at nice places can be a great reward for kids for good report card, etc. i remember when i was very young being taught how to eat with chopsticks, and when my abilities were deemed acceptable (it seemed to take *forever,* though it was probably like a month), my mother set the table with the beautiful dishes she brought back from japan and the family had a special meal, and after that, i could go eat in chinese and japanese restaurants! i was really proud of myself and thought it was a huge milestone in my young life. i think kids respond positively to: "wow janie you were so well behaved at the buffet that i think you can go with us next week to a real chinese restaurant, where you can order whatever you like off of the menu!-- & then you can have "menu practice" with takeout menus at home. i really think that "practicing" for restaurants can be fun for kids, & if kids are prepped about how the restaurant will be, how the server will act, the elements of the meal, and, of course, how they will behave, then they know what's going on, they pay attention, they try to be good!

                                                                                            when they are really little, the leaving restaruant/going out to sit in the car with one parent while everyone else is eating is a necessary threat. i'd add that appropriate rewards can be very motivating for small kids-- if you are good through nice dinner w grandparents, we'll stop at the playground on the way home to run around, and then after that we'll get some ice cream! then they have something to look forward to.

                                                                                            dh and i were at an african restaurant recently and a lady was dining with her three children, two girls ages around 7-8, and a boy who was four. all of the children were well-behaved for their ages, but the boy eventually got squirrelly and the mother quietly admonished him to sit down properly in his chair and mind her, that he was four years old, and old enough to behave. his older sister who was across from him gave the boy "the look," and piped up loudly: "especially in a restaurant!" he shaped up immediately, trying to emulate his big sisters' good behavior. it was awesome. :)

                                                                                            1. I think a lot of people gave some very good advice...for older children. Your problem, right now, is that you have a child who doesn't have the capacity to understand the idea of behaving well in public...and it might be awhile before she does.
                                                                                              A few rules I've picked up over the past year (23 month old) are:
                                                                                              Don't go anywhere that might have too long of a wait time. I thought my son would love Ethiopian (and he did, at least the next day) but the 90 minutes that it took to get it to the table was a total deal breaker and the efforts we had to go through to amuse our child for that long in order to keep him in good humor pretty much wrecked the dinner for the rest of us…and since our child consumed so much of our back-up food, he was NOT interested in dinner once it arrived.
                                                                                              Be flexible. Sometimes, it just doesn’t work no matter how well you try to plan it. Yes, we have left a restaurant after the apps with our entrees in to go boxes. My son just had too much energy and was too happy and just wanted to play, not sit at a table with crayons. Although he wasn’t screaming and whining, we realized that his desire to move around and explore (and invade other people’s space) just wasn’t fair to the other patrons.
                                                                                              Understand that your child really is too young to amuse herself, you do need to interact with her the whole time. If you need some one-on-one conversation with your SO, save it for home or get a sitter.
                                                                                              And finally, just ignore those people who visibly shudder and scowl at you when you are seated near them; when your child is older, they can be examples of how NOT to behave in public.

                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: sebetti

                                                                                                Spot-on. There is so much wonderful advice in this thread that will not do jack for the OP for several years out.

                                                                                                Sebetti gets it right on the nose. For a wiggly toddler, we'd generally do this:

                                                                                                * arrive in restaurant with rested child in good mood & with well-stocked "restaurant bag". child is hungry but not ravenous.
                                                                                                * get seated; Parent #1 consults menu & orders.
                                                                                                * Parent #2 departs with toddler to toddle places *out*of*the*way* of the servers and other customers. If there's a fish tank, you look at it; koi pond in the parking lot, pictures on the walls; waving at people; peeking out the window, admiring the pizza oven / sushi bar / open kitchen / etc.
                                                                                                You do this because your toddler is DRIVEN to use his/her gross motor skills. She/he will only sit for a few minutes and you want those minutes to be when your food arrives and you are all eating together. Do not plunk your kid in the high chair and then be surprised when their patience for sitting is over once the food comes.
                                                                                                Parent #1 & Parent #2 may switch roles if the food takes awhile.
                                                                                                * food arrives. Return to table, ensure clean hands, get the bib on, napkin on the lap, and give your chowpup something unfamiliar, but that you are reasonably sure they'll like. Ideally, this will be small pieces of food they can manage themselves. For Asian restaurants, get a starter chopstick deal like this:

                                                                                                http://babyccinoblog.com/wp-content/u...

                                                                                                or this:
                                                                                                http://www.wildline.com/images/farmst...

                                                                                                * before parents are done eating, the kid will usually run out of patience with the high chair or booster seat. If you think they're still hungry, you can try having them eat in your lap, or read a story to them while they're eating, or play I Spy ("Can you find a man with glasses on?" "... someone wearing plaid?" "... a pink flower?" "... the letter M?" etc.).
                                                                                                * If they're done eating, then you can mop up their hands and the tray/part of the table where they ate and offer them special toys that only come out in the restaurant. These toys need to be small, quiet, contained and engaging. This will only last for a short time.
                                                                                                * Eventually, Parent #1 will need to take the toddler for a walk. Parent #2 finishes eating, then they switch.

                                                                                                This is a lot of work. You cannot expect to go out to eat like you did without children. It's not worth it for everyone - if you don't want to do all this work, you'll have to get a sitter or skip going out for a few years. These tricks will stand you in good stead for the toddler years, and when they age out of toddlerhood you can start on restaurant tricks for bigger kids.

                                                                                                1. re: Mawrter

                                                                                                  We do what Mawrter said, with our one year old. I never thought about it, but it is a lot of work. Somewhere around 2 1/2, children start being able to sit calmly (for short periods of time, at first), and you can start just sitting and eating. But in early toddlerhood, I don't think there's any way to make them be still.
                                                                                                  It's not about parenting or rules, it's just what they do. Birds gotta fly, fish gotta swim, toddlers gotta move.
                                                                                                  Right now we also have a preschooler who is lovely in restaurants. I attribute that to her knowing the rules, and to our eating family dinners together at the table every night (just like nearly every previous poster said).

                                                                                              2. I have an 18 mo old that my husband and I are trying to "train" for restaurants. Here has been our strategy so far:

                                                                                                1. we have always allowed our daughter her leisure when eating (from day 1). you can't rush your kid at mealtime (while i realize this can be difficult in the morning, etc).. but it pays off to have a kid who enjoys a leisurely meal... the trade off is more time at a restaurant.

                                                                                                2. avoid taking your kid out when they are over-tired, over-stimulated or over-hungry.

                                                                                                3. Start with shorter meals. Right now is a difficult age for us, so we stick mostly with going out to breakfast. it is a quicker meal, food comes out sooner... and our daughter is usually at her best early in the morning. Dinner isn't impossible, but it is much more difficult (especially the closer to bed-time, etc). tired=cranky=not good at restaurants.

                                                                                                4. we have a strict meals eaten only at the table rule... some kids are just too busy for this, but we find even if the meal has to be shortened, it has helped her to stay put while we are at a restaurant (e.g. there is no expectation of getting down and running amok).

                                                                                                5. bring lots of little nibbles... we always try to order off the kids menu (if there is one)... but mostly she still eats off our plates. however, we always bring mess-free nibbles for her (cut up fruit, cheese, crackers). so that if she doesn't end up eating a whole lot of restaurant food she'll still have plenty to eat. save the messy food for at home (yogurt, items with sauces). also it can help to cut up the food in to interesting shapes, etc. I don't have the time to do this day to day, but it can help with the novelty of the whole thing when out. like other posters have said... treat it like a "special" occassion that warrants "special" behavior and privledges.

                                                                                                6. pre-order food... most restaurants will gladly fire your kids order early.. just ask! soemtimes this can backfire when your kid finished eating before you do, but that is one of the reasons we still favor breakfast.

                                                                                                7. though arguably not entirely necessary, I always try to clean up after ourselves (including the floor) and tip well... to compensate for the mess and extra napkins.

                                                                                                8. take a pal, we often double-date with friends with kids... the kids enjoy the social aspect of eating with other kids... (we tend to do this at dinner mostly) and you get an extra set of hands to help.

                                                                                                9. be prepared to leave without eating if need be... our daughter likes to be out and about and around other people... but if she isn't behaving or is fussy we leave... even at a young age, I think they get it quickly that they are rewarded more for better behavior... and lose out when they can't behave.

                                                                                                10. and last, totally my own personal opinion... while some quiet activities can be fine at the table (e.g. crayons)... I think it best to leave the electronics at home. (I've seen people bring a portable dvd player to dinner... lovely over-hearing "finding nemo" while you are trying to eat). anyway, IMHO, you are trying to teach children to behave in public, not just keep them occupied and distracted. nothing wrong with having to interact as a family while you are waiting for your food.

                                                                                                8 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: withalonge

                                                                                                    "10. and last, totally my own personal opinion... while some quiet activities can be fine at the table (e.g. crayons)... I think it best to leave the electronics at home. (I've seen people bring a portable dvd player to dinner... lovely over-hearing "finding nemo" while you are trying to eat). anyway, IMHO, you are trying to teach children to behave in public, not just keep them occupied and distracted. nothing wrong with having to interact as a family while you are waiting for your food."

                                                                                                    I completely agree with this. I see too many parents relying on the gameboy as a substitute for either family conversation or educating the kids on how to politely behave and be patient in a restaurant when adults are sitting and talking. It will not kill children to not have them be constantly entertained. When they are babies I think it's a different story. But when they're old enough to know better, they should (IMO) start to learn to behave and not just tune out and play games.

                                                                                                    1. re: rockandroller1

                                                                                                      Bring books! Picture books, chapter books, whatever the age calls for. I have never objected to my kids reading books at the table while waiting for the food, although once the food arrives, the books go away.

                                                                                                      1. re: somervilleoldtimer

                                                                                                        I totally agree with all of the suggestions by withalonge . We don't usually get up and leave the table with our toddler, hasn't been necessary, but I completely agree that she needs constant engagement. We bring lots of things for her to do -- her magnetic doodle pad is our restaurant standby. The magnetic "pen" is attached and we take turns drawing things and talking about them. Crayons roll off tables and you need to chase after them...

                                                                                                        We always bring all kinds of "back up" food for her. cheese, roast chicken if the protein we order for her out is a bust (i.e. arbitrarily rejected by her), cheerios, fruit, edamame...
                                                                                                        basically what could suffice as a meal if the restaurant meal is taking too long or isn't accepted for whatever reason.

                                                                                                        We never order off the kids menu, but modify some things of the regular menu for her and she's done great and has been exposed to a wide variety of foods. two of her favorites at 2 are caesar salad and baked fish with herbed bread crumb topping.

                                                                                                        I agree that I prefer not to have electronics at the table. however, we do have some kiddo apps on the iphone as a very very last resort -- buying us the last 10 mins to finish the end of an otherwise lovely meal. 98% of the time iphone doesn't make an appearance, but we've resorted to it in dire circumstances. I want her to understand how to sit through a meal and interact with us as a family.

                                                                                                    2. re: withalonge

                                                                                                      Bless you for remembering to mention to clean up! I have seen tables that look like they were tossed in a tornado after a family with kids has been there. There is often more food and garbage on the floor than on the table,

                                                                                                      I used to be really firm about mess-making, i.e., throwing things on the floor. At a certain age, it is impossible (first high chair months to about two years), but they do understand after that. Sugar packets do not belong on the floor and restaurant employees are not personal maids. When my daughter was at the messy age, I picked up and often wiped up after her. I always had baby wipes with me, and certainly did ask for extra napkins.

                                                                                                      1. re: withalonge

                                                                                                        Withalonge, what a great list! You may want to consider writing a primer for training Chowpups.

                                                                                                        1. re: moh

                                                                                                          *blush* thanks... didn't quite think it was going to be that long when i started typing.
                                                                                                          :)
                                                                                                          I love to go out to eat... and have fond memories of fine dining as a child with my parents. I hope to enjoy the same with my kids when they are ready.

                                                                                                        2. re: withalonge

                                                                                                          We've been to a few places that bring DS his food first. I think it's awful. We generally enjoy family dinner together, but when a person's done eating, there's only so long they want to linger. I wind up having to choose between enjoying my meal and focusing on him. When everyone receives their meal at the same time, conversation rhythms naturally shift. I suppose it might work with a large group of grown ups, but for a mom & kiddo, just the 2 of us? No way!

                                                                                                          Also don't understand your point about bringing along food. If we're in a restaurant, that's dinner. Maybe it's a special occasion or maybe we're low on groceries, time or energy, but I just don't see how/why I would present the child with 2 meals at the same time.

                                                                                                        3. Ironically, don't expose them to "family": restaraunts and fast food places (I know this is hard, maybe use the drive thru) when they are very young. These are the types of places where kids run amuck. When they see this behavior they learn that this is how you act in a restaraunt. Take them to decent places where there aren't a lot of kids running around and screaming. They will then learn that restaraunts aren't places for yelling and running around.

                                                                                                          The first time my daughter went into a McDonalds (she was about 5) she was confused. She was looking for the waitress.

                                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: pemma

                                                                                                            Interesting theory. I used to bring my kid to Mickey D's for breakfast only, and playing with the balls and slides was acceptable. It didn't seem to confuse her, because MD's was strictly a place for Saturday morning playtime with her friends when it was too cold to play outside.

                                                                                                            I did chuckle when I read about your daughter waiting for the waitress!

                                                                                                            1. re: RGC1982

                                                                                                              IMO, kids are smart enough to make the distinction, especially if you point it out. My kids have never actually been in the ball court at a McD's (though my husband brought him there once for a very early breakfast), but they have been to a few other kid-friendly restaurants. It can easily be explained as "this is a kid's restaurant, and here are the rules in a kid's restaurant", and "this is a (insert whatever adjective you want) restaurant, here are the rules for this kind of restaurant". They'll get it, especially with reinforcement.

                                                                                                          2. Lots of good advice above. I'd add one thing--as the years go by, try to make the restaurant experience enjoyable for kids; they'll be much better behaved.

                                                                                                            At a year old, your child isn't much of a participant in the meal, so this isn't a real factor. For the time being, he can join you for just about anything, but be prepared for the day when he decides that he's going to express himself in ways that aren't acceptable. Hope for the best, but know that you may have to bail out if things go sideways, and do so gracefully when they do. Your fellow diners thank you.

                                                                                                            As the years go by, your son will assert himself more, and will be less willing and/or able to endure some restaurant situations. Most six year olds simply don't have the patience to sit still through a 3-hour meal, whether it's a tasting menu at a fine dining establishment or a family style dinner at a Moroccan place. A pre-teen who's used to eating at six and is famished at seven is going to have a hard time minding his manners when your party is seated at eight and the adults enjoy a round of cocktails before ordering appetizers. And a child who's decided that she isn't going to eat anything but buttered noodles this week is going to have a hard time being on best behavior at a Punjabi restaurant.

                                                                                                            Accommodating the kids' wants and needs can head off potential problems. If you're eating late, serve an afternoon snack. If the kid is fidgety, choose a restaurant where you can be in and out in an hour. If you have an impatient eater (my younger daughter's picture goes here), buffet lines and dim sum carts eliminate the "how long until the food's here?" questions. And if you're going someplace where you know your kid won't like the food or be able to tolerate the restrictions that will be imposed on his behavior, get a babysitter.

                                                                                                            This isn't to say that every meal should be planned around the kids. They need to learn to behave themselves in situations that aren't of their choosing. But positive restaurant experiences will instill a desire to eat out again soon, which in turn will provide the motivation to behave during a less-than-ideal (from the kid's perspective) meal.

                                                                                                            My daughters are now 11 and 14, but they have been eating in everything from taquerias and pho shacks to fine-dining establishments since their early elementary years. I can't count the times that complete strangers have come to our table to compliment the girls on their behavior. They love to go out to eat, and know that their ability to do so in the future is contingent on their good behavior right now. Keep the challenges manageable and the meals rewarding, and your kid will be one of those who draws compliments instead of scowls from other diners.

                                                                                                            1. I always remember my parents reminding me of others, especially in a restaurant. As in, "there are other people dining here, and you need to remain seated and quiet so you don't disturb their meals." The same went for other public places and the need for quiet when living or staying in an apartment building.

                                                                                                              I rarely hear parents say similar to their kids, but it seems that teaching children early that the world does not revolve around them would be valuable.

                                                                                                              1. when mine were little we used to play word games at the table such as I-Spy, getting them to look at everything on the table for a few minutes then they shut their eyes and we would remove an object and they had to guess which. We would order their food and then take them to the bathroom (that took up a few minutes!). And we would try to take them to the kind of restaurant with pictures and things on the walls to keep them occupied and where it was acceptable to walk around a little and let them look.

                                                                                                                1. My kids are now forcing me into geriatric mode, as this year my son will turn 41 and my daughter 40. But sifting through my memory (seems like they were toddlers just yesterday) "restaurant training" them just happened naturally. I think restaurants that had actual high chairs, as opposed to booster chairs, were an advantage because the high chair keeps kids captive so there is no chance to leave the table to disturb others. (That drives me nuts!) I also think taking kids to restaurants, including fine restaurants, from an early age encourages good behavior. In my experience, it's the kids whose parents wait until they're "old enough" that are usually the wild bunch.

                                                                                                                  I never took anything along to entertain the kids, but if a restaurant insisted on bringing out crayons and placemats to color, I didn't object. The surprising thing was that it never gave those restaurant's any bonus points on the kids' preference list. Only the food did that.

                                                                                                                  For whatever reason (and I have no idea why), both of my kids were pretty observant of others, so they would watch which fork or spoon to use, and observe how other people behaved, so that made my life really easy. And sometimes they would pull off sophisticated behaviors that made my jaw drop! When the kids were three and two, a flight was delayed couple of hours, so I took them to a restaurant. The waitress showed us to table (I was carrying the two year old), and my son gallantly pulled out my chair to seat me. The hostess was impressed, and so was I as he helped push my chair closer to the table. Then he stood there in his cute little lederhosen and peed on the carpet! <sigh> Be prepared for surprises along the way.

                                                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                                                  1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                    I think that this is a safety as well as a convenience issue for restaurants. I know that they don't want small children running around because they may run into a server with a tray, let alone annoy other diners. I was truly grateful to those restaurants that really considered the safest and best equipment. Yes, I believe that keeping children confined (especially at very young ages) is a safety issue in restaurants as well as a helper to good behavior.

                                                                                                                    I alluded to "strapping her in a booster seat" in my response, above. When my daughter was little, we noticed that most restaurants offered either a high chair, or those little brown stackable "booster" seats that seemed like they would just fall over with a kid in it. Only some places had nice clean high chairs. So, we found a booster seat that had its own tray (which I could clean and sanitize) as well as straps that could be placed around the bottom of a sturdy restaurant chair. If the chairs weren't sturdy (think bentwood rattan), we just placed it in a booth or didn't eat there. The tray clamped her into place and she couldn't get up, and we could feed her on the tray. As she got a bit older, we didn't use the tray and pulled her up to the table. It was great and we never left home without it.

                                                                                                                    It is nice when restaurants have real high chairs, but I suspect there are space issues and they can't have too many, and it is easier for them to use those little brown boosters. I think they might be okay to use in a booth, with the child at your side.

                                                                                                                    1. re: RGC1982

                                                                                                                      Right on: a cheap little booster seat that you can take anywhere is a godsend because you never know what ickiness might be on a high chair. There will be times when you do not want your toddler to have access to the full range of what's on the table - a tray is very functional then. There are times when having your little one in one of those trayless wooden restaurant high chairs so they can be right at the table with you, too. It just takes observing your child really carefully to see what they can manage then. :-)

                                                                                                                    2. Is it realistic to expect a two year old to sit down for 2-3 hour for a dinner? I don't think so. Personally, I knew the limits of the nephews and would take them out for a long walk so that the rest of the family could enjoy themselves,

                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                      1. re: jlawrence01

                                                                                                                        I'm not even interested in sitting down for a 2-3 hour dinner, who can blame a toddler if they are not. ;-)

                                                                                                                      2. Consistency is key to teaching proper behavior both in restaurants and at the dinner table in general. The _one_ time you break your own set of established rules, you have let the child know that those very rules you've worked so hard to establish do not apply to them.

                                                                                                                        In Clan Ranger's home, if any of the girls (nieces and daughters) swatted their food or plates, threw their sippy cups or tried to form lakes and moors, clean-up was swift; they were finished eating. I don't do wear ponchos for any my Young Gallaghers. I didn't reason with any of them. I simply picked up the items with a "Looks like you're done" and the kids sat there while I finished my meal. Sure there were some learning curves involved: One niece was used to getting her way and it was a new experience this "no" thing. I don't yell (unless coaching) and have found dining out with all of them a pleasant experience. I also don't allow roaming, before, during, and after a meal. Dinner is a time to sit and talk, share, and listen; it's a gathering that rarely happens any other time during the day so spending 60 minutes together shouldn't kill anyone, even some teenangsters. Roaming in a restaurant will net nothing but trouble (and possible injury) so it's something I'm rather draconian when handling.

                                                                                                                        Launching food, plates, cups, and silverware was always met with a strong, "No. Don't."

                                                                                                                        I also found that my nieces didn't know about formal dining so recently we've (SWMBO and me) have taken it upon ourselves to teach them. <shrug> The girls have been amazingly attentive and receptive. Daughter-units Alpha and Beta have also been able to dine out at special occasion restaurants since they were 8 (they're teenangsters now).

                                                                                                                        My two nephews, OTOH, often required a more direct, a significantly more hands-on, approach. They learned very quickly about time outs and that "no" isn't a new point for ongoing negotiations with Uncle Ranger. When I saw them becoming bored, food and platewares were removed until everyone else finished. Chirping and screaming (which they were both prone) were also handled with similar consistency. (Personally, I don't believe you can reason with anyone under five.)

                                                                                                                        The one thing to remember: No child will starve. They eat until the edge is taken off their appetite. Yes, they might nosh constantly throughout the day but it's really the adults that set an amount on meals that "needs to be porked down." Let 'em eat until they stop, remove the toys, and be prepared for some cause-and-effect scenes until they understand that if they don't want to do something antisocial... (This doesn't take as long as many seem to think.)

                                                                                                                        The times we dined out when Daughter-units Alpha and Beta were infants, and later Spawn, we were both fully prepared to take a daughter outside, away from the attentively craning audience; the meal for them was over. We rarely had an issue because I didn't allow them to roam if we went out.

                                                                                                                        Remember to be consistent and then follow through with the cause-and-effect; if X happens, then Y follows.

                                                                                                                        5 Replies
                                                                                                                        1. re: The Ranger

                                                                                                                          Brilliant, Ranger. A set of parents with rules that the little Rangers must follow, or else there are consequences. It really is as simple as that, isn't it?

                                                                                                                          It's the "consequences" part that the little ones figure out aren't going to happen unless the parents actually follow through. As you said - consistency.

                                                                                                                          And the "No child will starve" is also so very true. Filling the plate with almost adult-sized portions and expecting kids to eat it all is just nuts - they will eat enough for them at that time. And little kids usually eat a lot more slowly than adults, so their stomaches signal they're full at the appropriate time, not when the children have overeaten by eating everything on their plate in record time.

                                                                                                                          1. re: The Ranger

                                                                                                                            Sounds like a plan IF you have a sufficiently large group of other people to keep eating. In families that consist of 1 parent & 1 kid, it seems extremely unlikely that it would work. If my son was "done" before me, I sent him away from the table, wouldn't talk to him if he came back, and didn't serve up the next food any earlier than usual (the last point was somewhat moot bc we nursed on demand for years). He genuinely enjoyed/s eating and talking with me, so that worked. The lavish praise from waitstaff we frequented when he was 2 probably also helped.

                                                                                                                            1. re: The Ranger

                                                                                                                              I have to respectfully disagree. To wait until misbehavior occurs and then correct it is setting the kids up for punishment. I think they deserve a chance to do the right thing first. Tell them in advance (in a matter-of-fact way - not with threats/hositility) what is expected of them and give them a chance to deliver - much more civilized and less antagonistic.

                                                                                                                              1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                I agree. Best to set expectations -- in restaurants we use quiet voices, we don't run around, we order our food politely, i.e. "May I please have the steak?", etc. Then use "The Look" as a reminder.

                                                                                                                                1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                  I agree that kids should be set up to succeed, not to be punished. I'm a believer in starting at home. When they can get through a meal consistently without running around or throwing food, try them at a casual restaurant. Pick places where the food will come quickly, or that provide something you can snack on while you wait, so kids don't get fussy due to hunger. Go at your usual dinner time, so they're on schedule and not tired. Have something to keep them occupied if they get bored. I'm not talking portable DVD players here, but something like Tic-Tac-Toe that you can do with them. Use casual restaurants to learn about things that may not happen at home, such as how to thank the waiter or how to signal for more water.

                                                                                                                              2. If we practice what we preach chances are good we're passing on valuable lessons about appropriate behavior. Parents who act one way (cell phone at table, loud talkers, leaving a table a horrible mess) shouldn't be surprised when their children mimic with iPods, yelling, rude manners. Practice what you preach, simply put.

                                                                                                                                1. I have one child, so I don’t know if it’s harder with more than one or not because they can get each other riled up. She needs to be reminded about her manners when she’s with her cousins… who are older, very sweet wonderful nieces of mine, but who don’t have much opportunity to go to really nice restaurants (big difference when you have 1 vs. 3 children, moneywise).

                                                                                                                                  I believe it’s good to start young and not necessarily at restaurants like McDonalds or some ethnic restaurants where children are apparently allowed to act up and run around. I don’t think that’s the standard you want to set or have them see, right? It also means that the other diners need to be tolerant when they see the parents looking like they are training the child. Ever since she was an infant, we brought her to restaurants. We would bring a coloring book and crayons or some other non-noise making object to entertain her. I don’t think we did a whole lot of manner teaching at home or at the restaurant except… you had to stay in your seat, you can’t throw things on the floor and expect to get them back, and don’t make too much noise. I wasn’t big on chewing with your mouth closed, elbows off the table, etc. Since there were two of us, we could take turns keeping her engaged in conversation about things around her, talked about the food, asked about what she was coloring, asked her about her favorite things, etc. And yes, several times we had to remove her, bring her to the car, probably spanked her, and repeat. I don't remember those 4-5 year old days as much.

                                                                                                                                  We’ve also gone on cruises and only ate at the formal dining room, so that was extra training opportunity. I would say ever since she was about 3, I was confident in her “eating out at high class restaurant manners.” My DH had a conference at the Sheraton Palace in SF and stayed several nights, so we drove over to use the pool and decided to eat dinner there. She was about 3 ¼ at the time, and I said, “C, would you like shrimp and scallop pasta for dinner?” She replied with enthusiasm, “Mom, I LOVE shrimp and scallops!” She’s 11 now, and the only things we’re really trying to coach her on are cutting steak with a knife correctly for the proverbial interview situation and using chopsticks properly without crossing them.

                                                                                                                                  1. Lots of sensible advice above. Exposure to lots of different items at home and away is a big deal. I find it helps if the parent is relaxed cuz the kiddles are enormously perceptive of our mood and pick up on anticipatory tension. We had some rituals depending on the formality of the restaurant. At a Denny's type of diner, there are usually crayons and a menu to color on offer. He was also allowed to have a few coffee creamers (in the little plastic cups), and it was o.k. to take the ice out of the water glass and suck on it. Cutlery was NOT to be used to tap tunes on the glassware or dishes or tabletop- so after one infraction he would have to eat with his hands. No flinging of anything or yes the low threatening word or two along with "the look". At higher end places we tried to engage the kids in checking out the cool surroundings, maybe visiting the lobster tank or strolling over to the dessert trolley. The loveliest meal out I had was when mine was 3-1/2 and his cousin was 2-1/2. I had them alone in San Francisco. We decided on ann Italian restaurant we could walk to that looked like the tables were well spaced and the crowd was low-key. After we got seated at least 2 tables took a look at one mom with 2 toddlers and no other adults, and asked to be moved. We just shrugged and proved them wrong. It was their first experience dipping bread in little plates of olive oil. They were entranced. I ordered a pasta dish with whole clams. As the meal neared a close I let them wash the clam shells neatly in their water glasses and wrap the treasures up in extra paper napkins from the server. We did gelato as dessert down the street so as not to be seated too long. The clams shells provided a hilarious amount of fantasy play in the tub that night. The patrons who quaked at the sight of us hopefully got a happy lesson in the possibility that kids did not have to equal dinner mayhem.

                                                                                                                                    1. Got got great advice from this thread. I plucked up the courage to book Sunday lunch, including our one year old, at a gastropub in Hay-on-Wye. Since this was Wales and not London, we were welcomed with big smiles and waitresses cooing over the baby. Baby sat in high chair and I fed him his own little meal that I had packed (he eats lunch quite early, around noon) while we looked at the menus. He was happy to look around the room (but he has an embarrassing habit of pointing at other people and babbling. He has just learned to point and it seems pointless (!) to try and teach a one year old that it is rude) and drink from his sippy cup. When our meals came he started smacking his lips, but was patient enough to wait for us to give him little bits of roast meat and veg while we ate. He wasn't really hungry, just curious. The waitresses making a bit of a fuss over him helped, he loved the attention and was in a good mood throughout. Whew!

                                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                                      1. re: medgirl

                                                                                                                                        LOL, it is pointless to teach a 1 yo not to point- this is not only developmentally appropriate, but a sign that he's right on target as far as development goes. It's like learning to walk! :)

                                                                                                                                      2. A suggestion: patronize one restaurant regularly. We did that when my two were young. It was Millie's in Richmond VA. Yes, we had sit down meals at home, but at Millie's, we were known, and that's where the children learned about restaurants. Millie's appreciated our regular patronage, and in a sense allowed, our instruction to take place. Not just about proper behavior, but who the players were. What a menu was, who did what, why. The children knew the chef, all the wait staff, the bus boys. It was like theatre to them. We always ate early, but the kids loved it, and now in their twenties (with Excellent Manners! and Great Food Sense!) they fondly remember our dinners at Millie's.

                                                                                                                                        6 Replies
                                                                                                                                        1. re: pickypicky

                                                                                                                                          I'm a Millie's regular and there are often kids in there and I've always been impressed with the parents and the staff at taking a place that on the surface may not seem child friendly and adapt it to the situation and not at the expense of the other patrons.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                                                                                                                            Janet! You made my day! I haven't eaten at Millie's for 13 years -- since a divorce and cross country move to San Diego. I've forgotten the owners' names-- Sosie and ? An Englishman? Our daughter drew a picture they used in their annual calendar. And my ex-husband's company supplied their wine. Very very happy memories. . .

                                                                                                                                            1. re: pickypicky

                                                                                                                                              Paul and Lisa Keevil (he reminds me of Sting <g>) are the owners. They are divorced but still have the business together and get along well by all indications. It's still a "must go" place in Richmond...for both dinner and brunch.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                                                                                                                                Yes, Paul! I may not have met Lisa. Paul started Millie's with his lover, the chef, Sosie. Yes, very Sting he is. We lived on Church Hill and would walk to and from dinner. Next time you're there, a sip for Alex in San Diego, and her children Juliet and Augustus-- and even former husband Kip who I've forgiven for losing his wine business, The Country Vintner. (That's how Paul would remember us. Kip embezzled money and lost the wine company he had created. The CV lives on.) I am marrying a sous chef in the fall, and for years I've told him that Millie's is the perfect restaurant. We must make a trip there. . .

                                                                                                                                                1. re: pickypicky

                                                                                                                                                  I will do that Alex :-) We may have brunch there tomorrow! Where was The Country Vintner located in the city?

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                                                                                                                                    It's a wholesale company-- maybe now supplying as many as four states. It was originally located in Shockoe Bottom in an old warehouse, but I believe, the new owners moved it outside town. It was a pioneering concept when my X conceived it: a statewide company devoted to fine wine. Back in the day, beer companies were the wine wholesalers. The CV is very well-respected, and even here in CA I meet people who have heard of it. We started it together, when I was pregnant with our first child.

                                                                                                                                        2. It really is about eating as a family everyday and practicing good manners on a daily basis. My mother was a bit more relaxed at home, e.g. I was allowed to slurp my spaghetti with a bit more gusto at home, but we were always supposed to have good, or at least fairly good table manners even in the breakfast room. Napkin on lap, use the proper utensil, and Do Not Throw food at your siblings!!

                                                                                                                                          Even though I grew up calling adults by their first names, but we were taught to respect them, and in general, to not speak unless spoken to, or if you had something to add to the conversation. We were also taught that we had to at least try something before we decided it was "yucky". And we never, never ate off the children's menu. As an aside I am horrified by the children's menu's at many places, my mother would never let us eat most the items on them as they are far to unhealthy.

                                                                                                                                          My parents also chose restaurants that were age appropriate. For example, growing up we ate at Spenger's a lot as there were so many things for kids to look at, boat models, antique fishing gear, the large diamond on display, etc. So we were never bored.

                                                                                                                                          Also, any transgressions were corrected verbally, or with the aforementioned "look". Severe transgressions were dealt with in the bathroom.

                                                                                                                                          We were taken to many different kinds of places, even expensive ones, although those were very special as we didn't always have a lot of money Going to nice places had a great side effect in that I never felt that there was anyplace that I felt like I "didn't belong" or was "above me", a feeling that some of my friends have about certain fancy places.

                                                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                                                          1. re: cosmogrrl

                                                                                                                                            Late to this comment, but I agree with your comments.

                                                                                                                                            Being from the Deep South, we called adults by their first names, BUT we prefaced this with Mr. Tom, or Mrs. Vesta - note: back then, the term MS had not been coined yet.

                                                                                                                                            In our family, my father was the more lax, and my mother did her best to keep both of us, and then years later, my brother, in order. She was by far the most formal of the entire family, but then she was DAR, so it was ingrained in her from just after birth.

                                                                                                                                            Looking back, I greatly appreciate that greater formality, and understand the dynamic of the family dining. Then, I seldom acted out, in public, but when I did, it was a very stern lecture from my mother. Her words hurt, but made a salient point. I have never forgotten some of those talks, and wish that she could take all ill-behaved youngsters in restaurants aside, for such a lecture.

                                                                                                                                            Those basic lessons took, and have served me well over the decades. Oh, there have been a couple of times, that they let me down, but then I hired a "protocol instructor," to fill in the blanks, when I began hosting and attending formal events in Europe.

                                                                                                                                            I also understand the "special" dining occasions. My mother insisted that the family take the train to New Orleans about twice per year. She would shop on Canal Street, and then choose the restaurant for the evening, before we caught the train back to the Coast. She always wore her gloves, and insisted that my father wear a suit. I often got by with a blazer or sportscoat, and at about 4, my brother had to wear his blazer too. These were extravagances beyond the family's means, but very important to her. They made an impression on me too.

                                                                                                                                            Though I knew most of the "old line" restaurants in NOLA well, when I was about 13, I was a guest of another family. I had my blazer, but forgot my tie. The host handed me a clip-on paper tie, and I had to walk through the entire length of the dining room wearing that. It was like a "scarlett letter!" I was mortified, and mad at myself, as I knew better. I felt that every diner was looking at me, with my paper clip-on tie. Even at that age, I would never have worn a clip-on tie, let alone a paper one. Point well made. Guess who travels to Hawai`i with at least a couple of ties?

                                                                                                                                            Well said, and thanks for the comments,

                                                                                                                                            Hunt

                                                                                                                                          2. As a mother of two, I think it's a lost cause until the kiddo is a little bigger- say around 3. I would start out by taking your wee one (when he's a little older) to a nicer restaurant during off hours. Get him excited about going out, and then explain to him (before you go) that it's a privilege to eat out. If he's not well behaved, the two of you are grabbing a doggie bag and going home to some unpleasant activity. Explain a few basic rules- try to eat with your mouth closed (this might be tough until he's 4 or 5), stay in your seat, you will get what you order so make sure you want what you order, things like that. If you go to any kid-oriented restaurants (like Chuck-E-Cheese or McDonald's) I imagine it would be important that he knows there are different rules for those restaurants.

                                                                                                                                            Just as important is to ensure that he doesn't get bored before the meal comes. Bring quiet things for him to do while he's waiting; remember, he's not an adult. Someone should be occupied with keeping him busy- reading to him, talking to him about what he sees there or how his day went, etc. Bring kids' books, coloring books and crayons, or whatever you think might occupy him. Also remember a sippy cup and bib if he's still using these. Also remember, it gets better. Someday you'll be taking a teenager to a restaurant, and if you're lucky the conversation will improve! ;o)

                                                                                                                                            4 Replies
                                                                                                                                            1. re: SaoirseC

                                                                                                                                              Good points.

                                                                                                                                              I recall at about 4 years, that I stood in a booth, and talked to the diners behind us. At that age, my mother explained that this was just not done. It sunk in. Now, she might have made that point earlier, but I do not recall it. Could well have been too young.

                                                                                                                                              That was the last time that I did such, so the point was made.

                                                                                                                                              Hunt

                                                                                                                                              1. re: SaoirseC

                                                                                                                                                I don't think you can put an exact age on when a child is ready to go to restaurants with his parents. A lot has to do with when the child can neatly feed him/herself solid food, whether he/she has a good appetite, and how fidgety he/she is. Our first outing with our son to a restaurant was when he was about 7 months old. We went to a small ethnic restaurant near our home, where we were "regulars," and the service was fast; if our son was too squirmy or noisy, we planned to get up mid meal, have the food wrapped, and bring it home, but that was not necessary. While we waited for our meal we fed him a bottle and baby food that we'd brought along; while we ate, he fed himself Cheerios, and played quietly with some small toys. We continued to bring him to a variety of ethnic restaurants as he aged, and started feeding him some of the restaurant food from our plates has his range of solid food expanded. I can especially recall taking him to Indian buffets when he was 1-2 years old, where he would eat rice pilaf, tandoori chicken, naan, and rice pudding. As he got older, he branched out into more exotic and spicier fare. We did generally bring sippy cups and bibs, and often toddler silverware, until he outgrew those items.

                                                                                                                                                By the time he was a year old, he could feed himself with utensils, and we started a few basic rules, which set the tone as he aged for appropriate restaurant (and at home) behavior:
                                                                                                                                                1. The utensils on the table are not toys. They stay on the table except to be used to eat. The counterpoint to this rule, as Saoirse suggests, is you do need to bring some small quiet toys for amusement, at least through the toddler years.
                                                                                                                                                2. You must stay in your chair. You cannot walk around. As far as sitting in an adult lap, our rule was that he could do that during the dessert course, but not before. From the adult standpoint, one-handed eating is a lot easier during dessert. From the kid standpoint, by the dessert course his patience is wearing a bit thin.
                                                                                                                                                3. You must speak in a quiet voice.

                                                                                                                                                By the time he was 2-1/2, our son was accompanying us on a nightly basis to the "fine dining" restaurant of the summer resort where we spent a week, sitting through the multi-course dinners that we consumed. His 3-course dinner typically consisted of a "starter" of apple juice, some sort of entree course, plus of course dessert. The dining room had a dress code and, like Bill Hunt described, even though children under 12 were exempt, we dressed him in a navy blazer every night. I think that making him wear "dress-up" clothes reinforced the message that this was a special occasion and he was expected to use special behavior.

                                                                                                                                                Ultimately, children who like to eat are more likely to be ready for restaurant experiences at a younger age. Our son had curiousity about our food, and we always let him sample it. For a child who is a picky on non-eater, the whole restaurant experience is a lot more boring and they get fidgetier soon.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: masha

                                                                                                                                                  We brought our son to restaurants at about 6 weeks. My wife would nurse him in the car outside the restaurant, he would pass out, and we would have 2 hours to have dinner.

                                                                                                                                                  The very few times he woke up early and would start to cry, one of us would take him outside while the other one settled up the bill and got doggy bags. But with proper timing, this didn't happen often. Usually we would be home by the time he was awake again.

                                                                                                                                                  Key to kids in restaurants is flexibility. You have to be ready to bail if your plan fails.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: masha

                                                                                                                                                    I agree--no minimum age, just clear expectations, aimed first of all at not interrupting other diners. I can think of 3 restaurants we went to when my son was no more than 2 where we were enthusiastically greeted by (his) name, seated in high-visibility areas, and frequently given comp bites of this or that.

                                                                                                                                                2. Yep, make family dinner be a real dinner, with conversation and all. My mother pulled out all the stops nearly every Sunday when I was growing up; we ate in the formal dining room, with real silverware, from bone china, listening to classical music (1812 Overature no more than once every 2 weeks). Proper manners were absolutely required. On her "Sundays off" we went out to nice restaurants and behaved as we were accustomed to at Sunday dinner.

                                                                                                                                                  You don't mention whether you're taking him out on your own or with another adult (or more). My son and I have been alone for his whole 7.5 yrs. When we go out, he IS my dining companion. I think having my focus in that way helps matters immensely. (Now that I've started to date someone for the first time ever as far as he's concerned, we're in a new ballgame)

                                                                                                                                                  You also have to recognize what a child of whatever age can reasonably be expected to do. When he was 2, we'd go for a walk around the restaurant (if the place was busy, we'd just take the long route to the restroom, but if not, and if it had a courtyard or the like, we'd take time to explore) so the he wasn't already bored and ready to misbehave before the meal even arrived. Now that he's an avid reader, we take along a book. No, that's not ideal dinner companion behavior, but he is a fast eater and it keeps him at the table when he's done.

                                                                                                                                                  Some other things that work for us: if I can look at a menu before we're seated, I say that we're ready to place our order while we are being seated. Besides getting the order moving, I think this also announces that we'd like things to move along in general to all but the most clueless waitstaff. We have only very rarely had the problem of his food being brought before mine. That might work in a group, but not when there are just two of us. A routine I learned from my parents is that the natural order of events is to place one's order & then go wash hands. This isn't only for hygienic purposes: it also kills time and instills a good lifelong habit.

                                                                                                                                                  One other thing I like to do is NOT order from the kiddie menu. At first it was hard to figure out what would be appropriate for him in various cuisines, so I asked restaurant employees what they ate when they were little. Right now we're going through what I think is a fairly typical refusal to eat anything "strange". In my kid's case though, pad see ewe is as comforting as mac n cheese, so his palate hasn't shrunk as much as it might have.

                                                                                                                                                  Unfortunately, there will be bad days when you have to be prepared to bail and might have to leave a mighty big tip on top of it.

                                                                                                                                                  1. Yup, starts at home and set rules: no toys, no getting up from seat, etc. Start a game where each answers a question or two, going around the table. Things like this at a younger age teaches the interaction/conversation that goes with dinning. If they aren't involved in conversation, they might not be patient siting through a nice night out but engage them and they learn that dining IS an event Not just about eating.

                                                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                    1. re: lexpatti

                                                                                                                                                      Those are good tips.

                                                                                                                                                      Thank you for sharing,

                                                                                                                                                      Hunt

                                                                                                                                                    2. What a great post. I have two--ages 8 and 2. They were both brought to restaurants from infancy, which I think is most important--exposing them at an early age and setting rules, being consisten, and following through as many have said. I only had to walk out twice--once with both kids, both times before the meal was even ordered sadly.

                                                                                                                                                      One area that I have an issue with is folks getting up and walking around inside with their children. In most restaurants this is not safe. While I understand if there is a fish tank or koi pond, fine, but most do not have these type of things to look at inside. I see so many getting up with their children who then begin to expect an inside walk every time they go out to a restaurant. Same with bathroom breaks--get in and get out; it shouldn't be a social visit that is required every time you go to a restaurant. Remain seated, face forward, sit quietly, restaurant voice, the usuals. You need to nip this in the bud from the get-go or it becomes routine. I cringe when I see folks walking around the restaurant with little ones in tow (btw, not everyone thinks your kid is cute while on parade), trying to avoid tripping a server, knowing full well that our kids are master manipulators and will begin to expect this. I hope this isn't harsh; just my two cents.

                                                                                                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                      1. re: cheereeo

                                                                                                                                                        Somebody else mentioned the safety aspect of wandering children above, but I'll respond here since I don't want to go hunt it down.

                                                                                                                                                        I waited tables in college at a '50s theme restaurant, and I cannot tell you how many parents let their children not just wander around the restaurant but literally run around like little maniacs. It was so common that there was a sign at the front stating a policy of kids remaining accompanied at all times. I still can't even count how many times I had to approach the parents and remind them that it's unsafe to have small children running around in the aisles when waitresses are carrying heavy trays and hot coffee on roller skates.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Mestralle

                                                                                                                                                          Even without the roller skates, there is a major safety issue there, plus a "dining pleasure" aspect too.

                                                                                                                                                          Children can be great, as can adults, but behavior is the key with either.

                                                                                                                                                          Hunt

                                                                                                                                                      2. children take their cue from parents.
                                                                                                                                                        dine out early, dine out often.
                                                                                                                                                        bring the kids only if you're good parents.
                                                                                                                                                        we diners will thank you later.

                                                                                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                        1. re: steve h.

                                                                                                                                                          i completely agree with this. we have been going out with our 1.5 year old since she was born. she is generally well behaved as she is "used to" restaurants. she understands what we're doing at the table. that doesn't mean she's perfect, so we definitely go early, when she's hungry, and no place too upscale. but she's had a great time eating sushi/sashimi, indian, thai, etc. she does have a bad habit of standing up in her chair when she's done, which we have to talk her out of or she sits on my lap - and she will hopefully outgrow!. but she is otherwise quiet and well behaved.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: fara

                                                                                                                                                            Thanks for sharing.
                                                                                                                                                            When Deb and I came back to the states, we took our baby to the Caribe Hilton (first vacation for my young bride and me in a long-long time). We took Chris to the Rotisserie, a fancy restaurant there back in the day. The captain was appalled and sniffed his disapproval. At the end of the day, son was quiet and charming, the meal was excellent and the captain caught up with us on our way out to express his appreciation for our patronage.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: fara

                                                                                                                                                              At 1-1/2 years old, she's doing splendidly! If standing on her chair when she's done eating is the worst of it, she gets an "A" from me. :-) I commend you in introducing her to such varied foods at her age, and I love that she enjoys the food as well!

                                                                                                                                                          2. Stay out of fast food places, for starters. The atmosphere there spoils them for real food and real restaurants.

                                                                                                                                                            Make sure your kids are nice and hungry when you arrive--time the meal previous so they are not melting down hungry, but ready to eat.

                                                                                                                                                            Try to go as early as possible in the dinner hour. 4 and 5 pm are perfect for young kids--less cranky, and the restaurant will be less full.

                                                                                                                                                            Immediately remove any child who is misbehaving, even toddlers. Mom, Dad, Grandpa, WHOMEVER should accompany the kid to the car or parking lot for a few minutes until the behaviour stops. If the kid doesn't get himself under control, do not let him back in the restaurant NO MATTER WHAT.

                                                                                                                                                            Ensure your own behaviour is impeccable. Quiet voices, respectful attitude toward serving staff. etc. Let your kid order for him/herself as soon as they are able.

                                                                                                                                                            Be fair to your kid's age. Order quickly, and if you are needing to stay a long time for a wedding or something, take turns going outside for short walks etc. Quiet toys or video games are definitely acceptable for long events.

                                                                                                                                                            We have beautiful twin boys and have always been able to take them anywhere. It's work though!

                                                                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                            1. re: applgrl

                                                                                                                                                              This is all very good advice. We did pretty much the exact same thing with our son when he was little with the same results.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: applgrl

                                                                                                                                                                You know, I had not thought of that aspect. I cannot imagine a child, having been brought up at a Chuck E. Cheese, having a clue how to behave at a fine-dining restaurant.

                                                                                                                                                                Never even considered, and thanks for making that point.

                                                                                                                                                                Hunt

                                                                                                                                                              2. I have no children either, but one of the best lessons I learned was: dinner, every night, at the table. The only exception was Sunday, when we could eat in front of the tv – usually while a game was on, or an old movie. Well-mannered behavior was expected and toys, books or horsing around at the table were not tolerated. Those proprieties easily segued to the restaurant table as well.

                                                                                                                                                                Dining out was not a regular occurrence for me as a child. My parents ate out often and usually left me at home with a babysitter. On the occasions when I was allowed to come along, I was so excited; it was a real treat to go to a restaurant. I believe I was always on my best behavior, I can’t remember acting up. I was too scared about the consequences if I did, not so much from my parents, but from the staff!

                                                                                                                                                                The first restaurant I really remember going to was a Chinese restaurant, and (forgive me) but the Chinese staff scared me to death, they were so different! Forty years ago, this little town had nowhere near the ethnic population it does now, and to me, it was like entering another world with strange people. I laugh about it now, but I really think that was another reason I was a well-behaved chowpup.

                                                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                1. re: cuccubear

                                                                                                                                                                  I very much agree. We ate breakfast and dinner as a family at the table everyday, plus lunch on weekends. By the time I went to a restaurant I already knew that meal time was a time for sitting still and using an inside voice. Plus my mom had (and still has) very good "angry eyes" so it only took one meaningful look to know I was wading into hot water. In general I didn't misbehave in public (big emphasis on in public!) because the punishment would be greater than for the same misbehavior at home, and just not worth it.

                                                                                                                                                                2. I agree with training starts at home. Let them get used to the "dinner table" is for dinner..not running, jumping, singing, screaming, etc. You can have a couple of pencils on hand and paper to keep them occupied while waiting for the food or engage them in conversation that interests them when old enough. My child started going to Michelin starred restaurants in France and Spain at age 6..yes, through the entire tasting menu. The staff loves her behaviour and they always cook something special for her. Remember that most people that work in the restaurants, head chefs included have families of their own and can relate. They even brought us to see their wine cellars (50,000 bottles!) and kitchens. I'm the one getting nervous that we might knock a bottle or two..

                                                                                                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: trvlcrzy

                                                                                                                                                                    I think I lucked out fostering kids....the boys I had here never anything resembling a decent restaurant meal, and knew it was a special treat more than most kids. They didn't even try to act up, they were too busy enjoying the time out. Mind you I always made them behave at home at the table so I suppose it was just another table somewhere else, same rules.

                                                                                                                                                                    Had to pick up a 3 year old once during a family emergency situation, and also had to do some running around that day that I couldn't put off. One stop was a licenced restaurant a friend worked at and I kind of felt like eating a bite....so I told the little girl it was a bar and it was really for grownups...but if she behaved like a grown up no one would notice she was 3. It worked! We sat at the bar drinking chocolate milks and all the wait staff oohed and aahed over how good she was.

                                                                                                                                                                    Of course I have had to answer questions about why Auntie CraZee took a kid to a "bar" LOL they seem to like to tell their pals and teachers about our adventures ;-)

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: crazee

                                                                                                                                                                      Funny, due to a mis-heard word one year at my sister and BIL's house by my mother, I'm now known as Aunt Crazy to my 6 year old nephew.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: tracylee

                                                                                                                                                                        LOL that's how I got the name too-my friends kid couldn't say Tracey, when she called me CraZee it sure stuck with the adults ;-)

                                                                                                                                                                  2. Children who are not overtired CAN sit still and behave well in a restaurant. Expectations need to be made clear, nicely but firmly, for one. Very importantly, though, is the child(ren) needs to be INCLUDED in the social aspects of the outing. Parents who plunk their kid down in the high chair or booster seat and then proceed to ignore them will get a rude awakening. This is terribly rude to the child and will cause them to become bored and attention-seeking. I think there is a perception in the U.S. that we can only converse/socialize with others in our own age group, and certainly not with children. This is ridiculous. Children have things to contribute to the conversation and even babies need the eye contact and verbal inclusion before they are old enough to respond - indeed, they will eventually speak better for it. I was proud to observe my college-aged son recently strike up a pleasant conversation with an elderly stranger while we were waiting for a table at a restaurant. My son went to his first nice restaurant at about the age of two weeks and did very well.

                                                                                                                                                                    Include everyone and have expectations of everyone at the table - this is likely the formula in Europe.

                                                                                                                                                                    4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                                                      because it seems more civilized ;) ? i was raised in the mode of children were "seen and not heard," which I hated. But I'm not sure that Europe can be generalized about in that way as my strict mother/grandmother had some close European roots. :) but I agree with you.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                                                        Not sure what part of Europe you're talking about. I've been in several parts of Germany where kids were "seen and not heard". That's my parents' preference as well; until he can participate in grown-up conversation, they'd just as soon my son not participate in conversations with the rest of us. This is especially irritating to me because our household is just the two of us, and I emphasize family dinners, even in a family of 2, so he most certainly is expected to hold up his end of conversation when we don't have visitors.

                                                                                                                                                                        As for kids walking around in restaurants--unaccompanied wandering, especially if they tend to veer off towards other peoples table/food=bad. Purposeful walking to use the facilities before the meal arrives or meandering at the fishtank, courtyard, garden, whatever=good.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: saacnmama

                                                                                                                                                                          I've never understood the attitude that kids are not "real human beings" until they are old enough to drive :) We've always included our kids as participants in our family discussions at table.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: DGresh

                                                                                                                                                                            No doubt you and your children both benefit from this habit.

                                                                                                                                                                      2. Probably not of direct help, but we just returned from a wonderful resort in the Smoky Mountains. Most times, there are no children allowed, except for special occasions, like "Kids in the Kitchen."

                                                                                                                                                                        This time, there were quite a few, and all were very well behaved. We did not see them at dinners, but did at both lunch and breakfast, and they were all "little ladies and gentlemen."

                                                                                                                                                                        Though we have none, and do not really gravitate to the majority, when dining, I have to say that in all of these occasions, they added a very nice aspect. The parents were all younger (as should be expected), and all of the children were extremely well-behaved. We appreciated their presence.

                                                                                                                                                                        I am totally uncertain of any training, but the comportment was so good, that much work must have been done beforehand.

                                                                                                                                                                        Do not know about the dinners, and maybe they were not allowed in the main dining room. I should have asked.

                                                                                                                                                                        Hunt

                                                                                                                                                                        1. I live in Spain and I think having very solid routines and sitting long stretches at the table is the key. Here, kids accompany their parents going out from infancy and they eat around the table at home. There are set times to eat and very little extraneous snacking or eating on the go (eating in the car or on the street is pretty much unheard of). When it's time to go to school, they get an hour for lunch and eat it at a table in three courses, with people bringing them each plate, just as they would at a restaurant (and the food is also what you would find in restaurants: roast chicken, squid, paella, lentils, garbanzo bean soup, salads, etc.). Along with a regular report card, each trimester we get a very detailed report card from the lunch room monitors and are expected to talk to our kids to improve any problems. Long story short, the whole society supports the participation of kids in public life, a structured culture of eating, and families eating together.

                                                                                                                                                                          About the logistics, I think age 1 to 2 1/2 is the trickiest. It gets much easier after that, if you have established a good routine where they are able to sit and eat and not get up incessantly (which is what usually causes problems in restaurants--that, and whining, which is a whole other problem that has to be nipped in the bud early). Sitting for long stretches is really a skill that needs to be learned and some kids come by it easier than others. When our son was little, we encouraged him to draw at the table when he got antsy and he really got hooked. He's nine now and he still loves to draw after dinner while everyone else is talking.

                                                                                                                                                                          4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: butterfly

                                                                                                                                                                            "Along with a regular report card, each trimester we get a very detailed report card from the lunch room monitors and are expected to talk to our kids to improve any problems. Long story short, the whole society supports the participation of kids in public life, a structured culture of eating, and families eating together. "

                                                                                                                                                                            I. LOVE. THIS. :-)

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                              Son Chris made sure I never saw a high school report card He was active in theater, hung out with an older crowd. On occasion, I would pass him on a city sidewalk at lunchtime when he should have been in class: I would smile, his friends would roll their eyes. He would be unsettled.

                                                                                                                                                                              Time has passed. Chris is now an accomplished cook and a highly successful business (technology) guy. I guess my point is that young folk figure things out over time but home values seem to leave an impression. Report cards? Whatever.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: steve h.

                                                                                                                                                                                @steve h. - very interesting. We told our son at a pretty young age that school was his business, but that we would support him in any way we could and step in anytime that he needed it. It worked well for him - he graduated very well this past spring from a top university AND he has a job!

                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                                I love it too! That's just brilliant, and will produce an educated and civil society.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. I've found the key is to take them to resturants but go early when its not busy and when the service is faster. Its just something that takes practice like anything else, and they will learn from doing.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. I believe it has to do with teaching them to behave at THE TABLE, no matter where that table may be.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: PotatoHouse

                                                                                                                                                                                    @PotatoHouse....How well-put! You can't let them run wild at home, then expect them to magically behave in public. Any parent who fails to consistently and effectively communicate (and enforce) expections for behavior is doing an extreme disservice to their child. How else will the poor kid learn how to get along in the world? Old-style version: Good manners begin at home.

                                                                                                                                                                                  2. Hi:

                                                                                                                                                                                    We brought our kids to more grown up restaurants as babies and toddlers, and had great success with ordering their main course as we had appetizers, and then their dessert during our main course. The dessert was a welcome treat in exchange for keeping their "bottoms in the chair", and it worked very well until they were old enough to eat each course with us.

                                                                                                                                                                                    I would also agree with so many others -- we all have our days. If your child can't handle the restaurant, ask the server to bag your food and leave as quickly as possible.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: kjkcle

                                                                                                                                                                                      I said it earlier in this thread, but it's very long so I'll say it again:

                                                                                                                                                                                      The early-dinner-for-kids strategy only works if there are several adults along (or enough kids to entertain each other). For single parents dining with one kid (yes, single parents like nice meals too, and don't want to wait til the kid hits puberty to get them) that strategy is a nightmare! Once the child has eaten their meal, s/he's done. It's much easier to entertain a child who's doing the same thing you are (nibbling on appetizers while you wait for your meal) than to try to enjoy your dessert/coffee/last bites while keeping a little one occupied.

                                                                                                                                                                                      If the meal is delivered in inexplicable batches (not 1 course at a time or all at once), I lower the tip, regardless of my dining companion's age.

                                                                                                                                                                                    2. I just don't know where I went wrong... We ate dinner as a family, no butts left the chairs until we were done, but my little grandboys leave the table during the meal, run around like crazy hamsters, and do not finish their meal, yet are allowed sweets afterward, thanks to their mother, who was most certainly not raised that way. When I take care of them, such nonsense is not allowed.

                                                                                                                                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: RosePearl

                                                                                                                                                                                        My guess is she very well could have been raised that way and decided not to raise her children that way. My MIL was very strict with my husband and his sisters. In turn, they are not.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: RosePearl

                                                                                                                                                                                          I literally dragged my son out to the curb and put him on time out once. He was about 2....people stared, but I think it's bette than a child acting up, interfering with service potentially dangerously, or causing other people to not enjoy their meals. By the time he was 2 1/2 he was calmly ordering his steamed mussels and garlic bread,

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: katy1

                                                                                                                                                                                            I love you. No, really, more parents need to do this. I understand when children act up, it doesn't mea n that the whole restaurant has t hear about it.

                                                                                                                                                                                        2. I personally believe this is a segment of knowing how to teach your child general manners. I would never call my parents strict, but I knew exactly what their boundaries were and what would happen if we didn't obey. Someone has to be the parent and the other the child. I understand that a young child, like your own, may be more difficult to rangle, but in time a she/he will understand how one should act in public situations.

                                                                                                                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: LN2008

                                                                                                                                                                                            It is a matter of having expectations and communicating them.

                                                                                                                                                                                          2. Keep it age appropriate. Right now maybe those little hole in the wall places are all you can frequent. A few tips, make sure your baby its not hungry when you go in....he will be better able to focus on your instructions to him. Also, as they grow older never tolerate bad behavior in public. As long as you have done your best to make sure the kid isn't tired, hungry or poopy, be prepared to let them know that bad behavior will result in the outing being cut short. When they are able to understand give them plenty advance warning on what you expect from them.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: riversuzyq

                                                                                                                                                                                              The one and only time my son wouldnt sit down, I dragged him outside and had him do a time out on the curb. He was about 2. We went back inside and had an enjoyable dinner. He learned quickly that meals out are a good time to socialize, and get attention from adults in a good way. Crayons are a good thing, phone texting and movies are not....well, to my way of thinking.

                                                                                                                                                                                            2. This is a very old thread, but I'll add a comment here. Since this thread first began, I have held back on making this comment, but it seems to me it is relevant, so here it is: If a family gathers around the table for meals AT HOME and include the children in that gathering from the time they are first in a high chair, the children KNOW how to eat at a dining table and will not be a problem in a restaurant. I speak from experience. It's how I raised my kids and it worked. The FIRST time I had a problem with either of my kids in a restaurant was with my daughter. She was thirty two and refused to even try the sashimi.

                                                                                                                                                                                              5 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                                                At 32, let her get teriyaki or tempura! At least she wasnt running through the tables (hopefully)

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Agreed.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  - Install manners at home - demand them.
                                                                                                                                                                                                  - Make sure to make sitting and eating dinner daily AT the dinner table as a family(not TV tables)
                                                                                                                                                                                                  - Make sure that they must be disciplined and sit at the table until dinner is finished
                                                                                                                                                                                                  - Do not allow mobile phones at the dinner table (which make it harder these days)
                                                                                                                                                                                                  - Do not allow them to get up and go watch TV - TV remains off
                                                                                                                                                                                                  - Remember your their parents - not their friends - you are responsible for teaching them how to fit into society.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Only after this expectation is drilled into them at home and they are disciplined do you start to bring them out to a restaurant from time to time.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  If you can't do that -- don't have kids.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: cacruden

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Eating in front of the TV should be an occasional treat. (It's your birthday, so we're going to have ice cream and watch your favorite movie while eating it!) not a routine. I live alone, so I'm pretty bad about eating in front of the TV or the computer, but even I have days where I'm like "I miss the ritual of the table" and set up a nice meal at my table.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Terrieltr

                                                                                                                                                                                                      I got to watch "The Wonderful World of Disney" and "Wild Kingdom" on Sunday nights in front of the the TV if dinner wasn't on time (Yes, getting old). Or maybe some special, but that was about it. It did make the experience special though.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Well-said. I totally agree about ritualizing "supper time." It is a welcome respite to our day and a great place for communicating. I cracked up the other day when my three-year-old said to my nine-year-old, "So, [name], what did you do at school today?" at the dinner table. My boys have been in restaurants since infancy, and it has never been a major issue. One time it was, and we got up and left.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  3. I think it also helps to have somewhat formal dinners parties at home with family friends. You should have clear expectations of when the kids can get down and go to play/how long they have to stay. My kids (and their peers who we do this) have, on the whole learned to have conversations with adults (rarer than it should be in American society, I find).

                                                                                                                                                                                                    They also know how to behave and contribute in restaurants (though their friends whose parents don't have boundaries do not). My ex and I are known by our friends as "strict" parents, but you know what, our kids are the ones being complimented on their behaviour by restaurants, school, etc.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Finally, I found Asian restaurants a good bet with little children -- a bowl of plain rice will keep little fingers occupied for a long time! Order at least one mild curry, some noodles, fried rice. Enjoy!

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. An anecdote to share - When the little cookie was 3, he and I were having dinner in a Chinese restaurant. He had his elbows on the table, he was resting his chin on his hands. I explained to him that it is considered bad manners to have ones elbows on the table. He said to me, "But Mom, if I take away my elbows, gravity will make my face fall into my food." At that moment, he took his hands away from his face, and let his face fall into his food! Priceless!

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Except for a phase when he and his cousins were 1-3, we dined in when we were all together. After that, they were able to sit longer, enjoy the company of each other and adults, and enjoy eating at the same pace as adults. We did have books at the ready, usually needed at the very end of the meal.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. OK, I'm not a parent but I want to weigh in here--especially as someone who has worked in a variety of restaurants and served a variety of families. But I'll start with a question: WHY does every parent today think their toddler needs to have the experience of tagines and sushi and foie gras and lobster, and, and, and...?!?!?!?! Don't even get me started on the museums and the casinos and the boutique shopping. I'll stick to food. NO ONE 40 years ago was bringing their small child to ethnic or hot-spot, trendy restaurants. You can teach your child manners at home and try them out in family style restaurants--WHERE THEY LIKE THE FOOD, and you're not asking a Korean chef to make food with no garlic or chilis or a 3 star Michelin chef for "plain noodles with butter and NO PARSLEY! because little Madison and Hailey won't eat it. "

                                                                                                                                                                                                        We were taught manners at home, so restaurants were no different and my parents never had any issues with us whatsoever when we finally DID get taken to restaurants when we were 9 or 10 years old. The only thing I do remember getting reprimanded for was staring at the unruly brats that were yelling and running around the restaurant!

                                                                                                                                                                                                        If you're not allowed to yell or throw food or jump up from the table and run around at home, why on Earth would you be doing it in someone else's home or establishment?!?! It's that simple.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Also, on the French/Italian thing. In those cultures, it's no big deal to nurse a child at the table (if that's the issue), and if someone ELSE's kid is being inconsiderate of other people, the French and Italians (fellow diners AND restaurant staff) have NO problem whatsoever telling the errant parents to control their children or take them somewhere else. In the USA, that would instigate a law-suit.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        10 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: staughton

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Feel better, staughton. While I don't love unruly behavior anywhere, kids aren't the only culprits. Plenty of adults act up, are rude, leave an ungodly mess and ask for accommodation to the menu as printed. Maybe when these adults were children they acted the same way. So, generation to generation (some) people haven't changed all that much. These behaviors have little to do with food. It's easy to see anywhere you go some people just feel life owes them and they have no problem demanding special treatment. That's life.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          How can parents teach children proper behavior in a restaurant if they tolerate it or have in essence taught their children that the behavior is fine.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Yes, but the thread is about children in restaurants - not the adults, who can also exhibit extremely boorish behavior.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Hunt

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Children are usually dining with adults, BH. They are the "teachers" which is very much the focus of this thread. My point being if adults are tolerating bad behavior how exactly are they teaching their children appropriate manners.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                                                                                                                If adults are tolerating bad behavior, they are only re-enforcing bad behavior.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                If the adults do not have good manners, they are ill-equipped to pass on good behavior.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Hunt

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Echo, echo, echo...you must be saying this much better than, Bill Hunt.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: staughton

                                                                                                                                                                                                            We've been taking our son out to eat with us since he was about 3 or 4. Yes, we made sure to choose places where we knew we'd be able to order things he would probably eat. But we never once asked a single restaurant to accomodate special requests to suit his palate. We ordered things that we figured we had a good shot at getting him to try and eat and we shared with him. He never once yelled, threw food, jumped up from the table or ran around the restaurant.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            So early on he developed a love for dining out in nice restaurants and by the time he was 8 he was asking to eat at very good restaurants for special occasions like his birthday.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Dining out is one of our main sources of entertainment and where most of our entertainment dollars go. We have made wonderful memories sharing those experiences with our son and now he will be a life long lover of fine food and fine dining experiences.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            I guess my point is that I really don't care what parents of 40 years ago were doing. I would never allow my child to disrupt others or allow him to misbehave like that in public. But if he could behave himself and enjoy the same food we were eating, than I was more than happy to have him along with us. And I don't regret a minute of it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: flourgirl

                                                                                                                                                                                                              completely agree with you, on all points. I remember a few years ago, when my kids were about 9 and 12,we were at a jersey shore resort town (i.e. LOTS of families). There was a new sushi restaurant in town that we would have gone to (my kids love sushi), except that they explicitly said "no kids under 16". Guess what, that restaurant is out of business. The idea that kids should only like "their" kind of food is part of the problem in our society.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: DGresh

                                                                                                                                                                                                                "The idea that kids should only like "their" kind of food is part of the problem in our society."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                HUGE PROBLEM. Also, stupid parents who do not include their children socially at the table. They ignore them and then wonder why the kids are bored.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: DGresh

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I find the idea that kids can't/won't eat ethnic food to be so strange. What do people think kids in those parts of the world eat? I was a horribly picky eater as a child, but always managed to find something I'd eat on at every place we went to eat. In fact, it was a huge factor in broadening my tastes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Terrieltr

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I was talking about spicy food--which babies and very small children do NOT eat in other parts of the world. It's gradually introduced in their diets, long after they start eating solid foods. I once saw a white couple in a Thai restaurant put spicy coconut-galanga soup in their toddler's bottle (because it was white?) and the kid choked and screamed for a solid half hour before they finally just left--with the kid still whimpering. When I told Thai friends about it, they started to laugh, but it was just too pathetic and sad. They couldn't believe it. THAT is the sort of thing I was referring to--not a ten year old eating curry.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. I think that much of it has to do with your child's natural temperament. We did start taking our chow pup to restaurants ( casual ones) from the age of 6 weeks, but he is just a pretty quiet kid, always has been. There was no period of "training" him how to behave in restaurants. He doesn't run around wildly at home and neither does he do so in public. I think you just need to know your own kid and the limits to his/her tolerance when planning your restaurant meals.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. Do what Bourdian's parents did. Leave the kid/s in the car. "Guess what kid/s. I've got some good news. Tonight I'm taking your mom to a really fancy restaurant. It's got delicious food and you'd love all the delicious deserts. The good news? Oh yeah. We're leaving you at home with the babysitter you hate so we don't have to put up with your misbehavior ever again like every time we go to a restaurant. Tomorrow we'll tell you what desert we had. We'll have a little 'how to behave in public' lesson soon. Then we'll take you to Wendy's. ONE millisecond of misbehavior out of you and the next time we are with you in any restaurant will be never! Enjoy your Kraft dinner." I never had a single second of trouble EVER! with our kids misbehaving in public. We raised them to feel/show respect for especially themselves and others. I remember sitting in a restaurant with our kids and another family. Their kids were behaving like they were mentally ill. Every one in the restaurant were staring at them. The parents had ZERO control. Our kids were looking at the other kids and were clearly embarrassed to be sitting at the same table. Needless to say we never went anywhere with that family again.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Puffin3

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Sounds like the kids were in this arena:
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nGeKSi...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  At least they got to know what was eaten, while they were with that babysitter, that they did not like.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Hunt

                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. Duct Tape is a wonderful product, it can even keep your kids behaviour inline in the restaurants :o (ok, just joking).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  8 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: cacruden

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    You see, this is why I don't have kids. I heard you have to feed them EVERYday.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Kidding, but seriously, my sister has a very simple formula with her children. State the expectations. Give one warning when those expectations are not met (with a subsequent possible consequence), and if the bad behavior continues, issue the consequence immediately. Her philosophy is to not get wrapped up in "child-rearing methods" and programs, but concentrate on a straightforward approach.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Dagney

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Military background in your family? Too many parents today try to be friends first, parents second at most.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      My fathers military career was short (4 years commitment), but there was some lasting effects. I remember bedroom inspections, and if bureau was not neet and tidy, the drawers were pulled out -- emptied and you were to do it properly.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: cacruden

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        lol! no military, but my sister is a wonderfully pragmatic woman.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: Dagney

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        And that is the proper approach. But often, parents don't want to ruin their *own* evening by actually disciplining unruly children. So they end up ruining everyone else's.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Linda, I wish there were a "like" button!~ I think your comment "But often, parents don't want to ruin their *own* evening by actually disciplining unruly children" extends to discipline at home as well as when dining out. The philosophy is that it's much easier to give in than it is to create a set of rules and stick to them. Specious reasoning.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: PattiCakes

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I was never spanked once or yelled at when I was growing up. Why? Because I loved and respected my mother. I would never do anything that would cause her to feel any hurt/disappointment in me. My only thought was to make her proud of me. And she was. I understood from an early age that if she was taking me somewhere she considered special it was because she loved me and was proud of me. Very sadly some parents and their children don't seem to understand such a simple concept.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Puffin3

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Puffin3, don't you think the 'concept' here is communication skills?! Simple concepts don't get built in the first place if basic communication, parent to child, is lacking.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I see plenty of parents who still believe in the idea that children should be seen and not heard...while other parents let their kids grow up believing they are the center of attention all the time...it's a parents job to find the right balance and teach skills that last a lifetime.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Clearly Puffin3, you had that balance and benefit. Teaching children how to behave anywhere begins with the adult responsible for raising the child.