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Restaurant rewards well-behaved children

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$4 and a bowl of ice cream seems a small price to pay (and the good PR will be worth much, much more).

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  1. Me likey!

    1. there's nothing like positive reinforcement.
      I wish certain places would change their tagline of "kids eat free" to "well-behaved kids eat free"

      4 Replies
      1. re: hill food

        Excellent idea.

        1. re: hill food

          I love the idea. But, I'm also cynical enough to think that parents of kids who aren't well behaved also think their children are well behaved and that would cause a problem. Some parents get irate when it's suggested their children aren't perfect.

          1. re: chowser

            well yeah, there is that.

            1. re: chowser

              It occurred to me as well after posting. We've all suffered those parents.

          2. Great marketing!
            But yeah, basically the resto is doing the parents' job ("be good and you get a treat"). Hopefully the parents take the money saved and take the kiddos out for an ice cream.

            Now if BAD KIDS were fed to a dragon? That would be...awesome!

            4 Replies
            1. re: pedalfaster

              <But yeah, basically the resto is doing the parents' job ("be good and you get a treat"). >

              Not really, because neither the parents nor the kids knew that behavior X would result in treat Y. The kids were good even though no one promised them anything in return. Which is why I like this story so much.

              1. re: small h

                Exactly. There was no expectation - it was a nice surprise. And if the restaurant *had* promoted this as a marketing tool, the issue just might end up that the parents got mad if their kids weren't "chosen" as golden and angelic child(ren).

              2. re: pedalfaster

                Bwahaha! Fed to a dragon :D My bother used to be threatened with the possibility of Krampus coming to drag him off at Christmas. He was always on his best behavior in December.
                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krampus

                1. re: pedalfaster

                  Reminds me of the oft-seen sign: Unattended children will be given a Red Bull and a puppy.

                2. How many CHs remember restaurants with a Treasure Chest for well-behaved kiddies at the end of a meal? The promise of a reward was all it took for my brother and me to behave (that and a very stern father).

                  Wouldn't it be a lovely world where all the kiddies behaved while at table? They would grow into adults with the same behaviors ....................

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: Sherri

                    You just rang a long un-rung bell in my head! It was at a restauraunt in Fresno, CA a hundred years ago. I loved that thing, although I don't remember it being tied to good behavior--my parents were such that any other kind was not an option (in a good way).

                    1. re: Sherri

                      Sherri... Your comment could not have been more timely. A large group of us, including four little one's were dining at North Woods Inn in Pasadena. At the end of the meal our waiter invited the kids over to choose a toy from the treasure chest for being so well-behaved.

                      I'd never seen such a thing, but was thinking what a wonderful idea!! Of course my kids will remember to be well-behaved next time with that kind of incentive.

                      1. re: Sherri

                        in the Midwest, I think the old Flaming Pit restaurants had those.

                        1. re: hill food

                          Flaming Pit, oh wow, what memories!

                      2. mixed feelings. i have a 4 yr old who sits thru a meal without digital help from an ipad/iphone. however, we do bring an activity book of his choice with crayons. we do include him in our conversations for the most part but he's 4 so we end up discussing cars and animals which can get limiting at times. we also make sure we go early before his witching hour (i don't care if you claim your child goes to sleep at 11pm. all kids under 6 seem to get cranky after 9) so that's like around 5pm but no later than 6pm. i'd hate to go there with my child and not get the discount. what's their criteria on what makes the "well behaved" kid? one who can sit thru the meal? a toddler who doesn't scream? hope it's basic.

                        i guess, my point is that i'm around many kids and their parents often and i'm finding that what's ok to some people is not ok behavior to others. i went out to lunch with a preschool mom and her child after pick up with my child. during the meal her kid slipped under the table and crouched down and played on the ground. i was not okay with that but she kept yapping on like nothing was happening. my son looked at me with this "uh-oh!" look which i thought was pretty funny.

                        what i don't get are the people who let their kids run around in the restaurant. i just don't get it! it makes me so angry!

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: trolley

                          I have been guilty of the running around child, but only a couple of times. let me paint the pic for you:
                          1. Me and child are out with visiting friend and her 3 children and spouse. It is a chain and lunchtime in the bar so sparsely populated. They make the dreaded mistake of bringing the kids' food out FIRST and in 5 minutes, my son is done. He is very, very active, loud and squirmy and he was really hungry so he plowed through quickly and starts asking to get up. I am asking for to-go boxes and trying to stall him and realizing once again I get nothing to eat. He is making the meal very uncomfortable for the visiting families and other guests because he's acting like a monkey on crack now because I won't let him out. Yes, he was overtired and overhungry and it wasn't an ideal morning before we hit this place so bad combo, but I hoped it would go more smoothly. He starts dumping things and knocking things over and jostling our guests and I am frantically trying to pay the bill and box up food to-go so finally I get up and let him up. He didn't want to do anything but RUN, which is all he ever wants to do. He got up and ran around the bar. He didn't scream or upset anything or make any more noise, he was happy just to be able to NOT be forced to sit there one more minute. I felt bad for the few other diners in the bar area because I know how people hate the running around kid, and I couldn't wrangle him because I was dealing with the check and takeout, but it happened. So sue me.

                          2. We were out and an errand took much longer than planned, and child was very hungry and it would have taken a long time to get home. We went to a chain and were seated very near the back of the restaurant where the wheelchair ramp is, which is also where the to-go orders are picked up. It was lunchtime again, and nobody was even working the to-go register/area as there were no to-go orders coming in. He was IMPOSSIBLE at the table. Squirmy, increasingly loud/shouting and threw all the crayons on the floor and wouldn't leave crap alone on the table. I let him up and he ran up and down and up and down the ramp until the food came. He wasn't in anyone's way and there were no other diners around us. There were a few servers that came back to use the to-go register when other registers were busy but I seriously don't think he impacted their service. I felt bad, but what am I supposed to do in that situation? He needs to eat, we have to wait, and making him stay seated results in screaming. I was solo with him again.

                          Obviously dining out is a work in progress and when we PLAN it as a family, it goes much better as there are two of us and one takes the child outside if he is too active to wait, and they play outside until I call and say the food is ready. And we of course prep about being good or we will leave, and have gotten takeout as soon as the food arrives knowing it's not working this time, and we work and work on it. It is a PROCESS and it takes repeat visits for him to understand the proper way to behave in a restaurant, and some of those visits are fails.

                          You never know the circumstances. If it looks like the parent is ready to tear their hair out and is trying to handle the situation as best they can and with minimal disruption to everyone else by packing up quickly or letting the kid run up and down the ramp, consider cutting them some slack, would you? Both the incidents above were over a year ago and he is much better now than he was then.

                          1. re: rockandroller1

                            as a former waitperson in my former life running kids were not ideal bc it was dangerous and we wanted everyone to eat and be safe. I've only worked at one place that people brought kids. but i have bumped into running kids and luckily without food or drink in my hands. imagine tripping over your kid and spilling a hot curry on top of his or her head? or breaking glass on top of your child head? think about it. running kids are for outside and never in a place where busy workers are trying to get a bunch of food to a table full of people. it's hard to see below you with plates or a tray too. and as you said, kids who run tend to be squirmy also tend to be unpredictable.

                            in any case, i wasn't referring to the parent with the squirmy kid who starts running off while the parent is paying or trying to control the situation (you). sometimes sh*t happens bc it's just life. kids get squirmy and run off and it is what it is. babies and toddler scream for unknown reasons bc that's how they communicate at times. i do believe children belong in most restaurants as some people would argue differently. i feel like those people think kids don't belong in planes too. ok, maybe not places like Per Se or a 4 star michelin joint but it's ok to see and be around kids.

                            however, there a difference between you and those adults who i was referring to and perhaps i wasn't clear. i'm talking about the group of adults immersed in some intense conversation while their kids run amok and pretend the eatery is the playground. it's just not fair to the kids who deserve to be in a safe place to play or the other customers who are paying for a meal.

                            1. re: rockandroller1

                              While I understand rnr, I raised 4 chowpups myself, your resolve to stay in the restaurant and not do take out is where we have differing styles. My scenario was this: 2 oldish, 2 youngish-all active kids. Eventually, the old watched young so I could get a moment. If the chat got loud we asked to wrap up the food and went to a park, a playground, the beach, the back of the car or home to finish the meal. Couple of those trips and ordering take away until they were old enough to join dh & me together without issue or for a time we did 2 and 2 (dad took 2; I took 2) until family meals could be enjoyed...and enjoyed without intruding on anyone else. 4 kids, 4 differing personalities and food likes/dislikes. Things got better and dh & I became pros on how to best handle our bunch.

                              I feel for ya.

                              1. re: rockandroller1

                                In scenario number two, where the child is very hungry and errands took longer than expected, there are options. The most obvious would be to keep /bring snacks in your purse and/or car anticipating that sometimes errands do indeed take longer than expected. Saves you both from the stress of trying to deal with a restaurant when solo, he is hungry, you are tired etc.; saves the servers from the stress of having to deal with it (if nothing else, they may be stressed about worrying whether they will get complaints from others, and/or what will happen if a party comes in who does need to use the ramp), and it saves you from having to eat at a quite possibly mediocre chain. (I am assuming that if you didn't have time to get home to eat that you didn't have time to choose a restaurant with really good food either, so likely you went to the first place you found, right?). Indeed, as long as we are talking a chain place, why not ask if you can do take-out or find a drive through if the problem is truly that the child is too hungry to sit still for the time it takes to order a meal?

                                I agree that is a process and it took a while with my kids also, so I am not unsympathetic. However, I don't think that parents in these type of situations should think of themselves as being without options. A little planning goes along way, and to me that includes planning for the "unexpected". (Edited to put unexpected in quotes, because let's be real: it really isn't unexpected if the parent recognizes that it is a process: at least not after the first time it happens.)

                                1. re: rockandroller1

                                  Scenario #2: drive through

                                  1. re: rockandroller1

                                    <I let him up and he ran up and down>

                                    So, basically, you've rewarded him for bad behavior.

                                    <I felt bad, but what am I supposed to do in this situation?>

                                    Leave. Show him it's not okay.

                                    1. re: rockandroller1

                                      Dear rockandroller1, as one who would been felt victimized by your child *and* your "so sue me" attitude, I say leave the child home until he is old enough that you don't have to say "so sue me" in reaction to my reaction to your his behavior.

                                      It really is that simple.

                                  2. Nice! Although my Chowpup is almost 12 (and much to my dismay, looks more like 15), I would have loved this concept during the "witching" years. We have always been aware of her behavior and the impact it might have on others (down to agreeing which of us would jump up and leave with her instantaneously should she get twitchy).

                                    Smart restaurant owners!

                                    1. Loved the article, the first hand appreciation, genuine surprise of the reward and his list of suggestion for parents.

                                      Always refreshing to learn that the bad behavior doesn't have to be the answer.

                                      Family pride in a public place should be reward enough. Well behaved FAMILIES.

                                      1. That's great PR for sure. I think even better PR is if restaurants that have dinners where the kids are not well behaved and running around or obviously being intrusive to other peoples dining experience. (not just crying you can't help that sometimes)

                                        I think in a case like that the other dinners should be allowed to asses a penalty to their check and then split it between themselves!!!

                                        1. I love this. Who wouldn't want to acknowledge parents, and their children, in a restaurant where they're being respectful of the other diners?

                                          It's with amazement that I watch parents who really do believe that it's incumbent upon other diners to tolerate the lack of manners they've been unable (or simply not tried) to teach their children.
                                          Positive reinforcement and a host of other techniques do work.
                                          There are dogs trained with better manners than some children.

                                          1. I wish a restaurant would reward well-behaved adults ...

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                              They do, when they hand them the check instead of showing them the door.

                                            2. In general, I love this story - however, I am a greater fan of what a restaurant like Chenery Park does. They advertise that Tuesday is "kids club" and basically encourage it as a night for parents with children to practice proper restaurant dining. I honestly think the idea of "if your kids don't know how to eat in a restaurant then don't take them" basically ensures that they'll never learn how to eat in a restaurant. However, the learning process may have some less than graceful moments. Therefore the idea of restaurant dining with training wheels I like.

                                              18 Replies
                                              1. re: cresyd

                                                great idea, what city is that? as that's a neighborhood in SF, CA

                                                1. re: hill food

                                                  It is a restaurant in SF, and I only heard about it through an article in the NYT about teaching kids manners (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/27/gar...).

                                                  I really like the idea because it's not so much based on the idea of reward/punishment but rather - if this isn't something you do regularly, it will always be a challenge. According to my parents, as a baby born in late April - by mother's day (in May) I was restaurant ready. However, my brother born 2 years later was one of those ADHD kids who until his teens found restaurants very difficult. Not taking him to a restaurant until he was 13 wasn't going to teach him how to behave in a restaurant. However, not all of our eating out experiences during childhood resulted in images of model behavior.

                                                  I think that there is definitely room for rewarding good table manners - but I also think it needs to be complimented by the idea of "we're going to practice this until it is routine".

                                                  1. re: cresyd

                                                    Cresyd, I had a brother like yours. It wasn't called ADHD in those days. Sometimes the answer *was* to leave him home instead of taking him to the restaurant I could go to, because he'd drive other diners crazy.

                                                    1. re: Jay F

                                                      I understand from this board that many CHers feel such children should not be at restaurants. For my parents, primarly they weren't taking us to truly fine dining places and ultimately I don't believe that leaving him at home until he "learned to sit" would have solved anything. My brother was not a kid who truly saw food as a means of survival, and telling him that he'd have to stay at home (and play....) until he could learn how to behave in a restaurant wouldn't have taught him anything.

                                                      What I like about the option at the SF restaurant is the notion that eating in a restaurant and such table manners is something learned. And when you're learning, you can have good days - and bad days..... My brother is an adult now and has appropriate restaurant table manners. I'm sure there were times when he was a kid that he irritated some other diners - but as someone who knows my brother, I think that ultimately he benefitted from people having a little compassion for him as a kid.

                                                      1. re: cresyd

                                                        <many CHers feel such children should not be at restaurants>

                                                        This CHer doesn't feel that way. This CHer feels that parents should *teach* their children how to behave in restaurants so they don't have the need to take them to a restaurant that teaches their children how to behave in a restaurant.
                                                        What's next? A class for children whose parents haven't taught them how to behave in other people's homes or the pediatrican's office or the grocery store?

                                                        1. re: latindancer

                                                          I find the key is not to teach "restaurant manners" but manners overall. Why does the fact your are public change how you should behave?

                                                          We have the same expectations at home as we do for eating at friends, a family/casual place or a high end place. Manners are manners.

                                                          There are some dining etiquettes that are different depending on where we are eating ie: which fork or spoon to use, where to place your napkin upon leaving the table, holding someones chair, etc but proper manners/being polite/being safe is SOP for our family.

                                                        2. re: cresyd

                                                          I love kids and have compassion but when his 'bad days' in a restaurant are ruined for me, the customer, who spent good money to have my meal ruined by the parent, not parenting their child, is so wrong on so many levels.

                                                          This sense of entitlement by some parents that the child has the right to scream, run around and be a total jackass in a restaurant, is only a reflection of the parent.

                                                          1. re: Beach Chick

                                                            <I love kids and have compassion>

                                                            I adore children. A 'wow you're doing great with your manners we've been learning' makes the child want to do more. It takes hard work and discipline and consistency. There's nothing more fulfilling to see a child, whose basic instinct is to do the right thing, be praised for doing so.
                                                            A child *wants* to be given the tools to excel...it's the parents who're failing the child when they don't teach them basic, core manners and how to behave around other people. That 'sense of entitlement' you're referring to is unnerving, to say the least. I don't look at the child, I look at the parent when the child is running around and making every other customer's experience miserable. In my opinion, it's the parents who should be taking the 'restaurant class in SF' not the child.

                                                            1. re: latindancer

                                                              we were once at a casual but sit down restaurant for lunch. the three of ate (two adults and my then 3 yr old) while we watched a toddler about 15-18 months old go from table to table to try to "talk" to everyone but it was more like shouting. we watched the parents in total awe and admiration of their child and was completely blind to the fact the everyone else was really irritated. we were too far for her to make the rounds to us but had she come over i would have marched her right back to her parents. finally the manager had to come over and escort the toddler back. i couldn't tell what was said but the parents looked a little shocked that this wasn't allowed and not everyone loved interacting with the little girl. i have a friend who thinks this is adorable when her 2 yr old does this too. i never went to eat out with her and her kids ever again.

                                                              my point is that what is unacceptable behavior to some may not be to others. i'm pretty loosey goosey with my child but not when we are in public. there is no shouting, no running as the restaurant/store/museum/whatever is not a playground or a hiking trail. and definitely no talking to strangers!!

                                                              i do feel for the parents who are told your child doesn't belong in the public but maybe they need to start out slow like at soup plantation/sweet tomatoes. or start at a park picnic table then move on to the restaurant.

                                                              i also find that it's not fair to the kids who can't sit thru the meal. i'm sure they'd rather be at a park running around instead of a restaurant. i work at my son's preschool and find many kids under 4 and even over 4 are not able to sit for a long period of time. so it's pretty unrealistic to ask a child under 6 to sit thru a long meal.

                                                              1. re: trolley

                                                                In this busy world we live in I'm dumbfounded by the parents who bring their very tired or sick children out to shop or eat in restaurants.
                                                                I won't bore anyone with the raising of my children but I knew that if they were tired then we'd stay home. If they were ill we'd stay home...
                                                                Nothing, ever, was more important than their welfare and, certainly, I would have never thought of trespassing on another diner's space with my child who may have been 'having a bad day'.

                                                                1. re: latindancer

                                                                  oh and yes, only if everyone thought the same thing Latind! and only if people didn't tailgate there would be so many fewer car accidents but they do...so you get the idea. Sigh!

                                                                  1. re: trolley

                                                                    Yes, I do.
                                                                    I concur....sigh.

                                                            2. re: Beach Chick

                                                              Based on your comment, I don't know if my brother would have bothered you or not. He was typically very quite and generally not very verbal, but was definitely a wanderer in a restaurant. Restaurants that were favorites of my parents were those that had fish tanks so that when my brother was done at the table he could watch the fish.

                                                              Is this a poor reflection on my parents? Were they being entitled in how they treated my brother? Was he being a jackass?

                                                              As a "well behaved" child who adored food and restaurants - I know that he embarrassed me, but I've come to see that with age as being more about me and not about him. And had I been given the choice of not being embarrassed by my brother or never going to restaurants - I would have chosen embarrassment.

                                                              Going back to the SF night - ultimately I resonate with it because I genuinely believe that kids like my brother need a restaurant space. And for those who have such openly negative responses to kids behaving not as they would wish - they can avoid them.

                                                              1. re: cresyd

                                                                <And for those who have such openly negative responses to kids behaving not as they would wish - they can avoid them.>

                                                                How?

                                                                1. re: Jay F

                                                                  Excellent question.

                                                                  1. re: Jay F

                                                                    it's only one night a week and Tuesday is typically a slow one. and god knows SF has plenty of other places to go if that's an issue, yet it gives parents a place to run a 'dress rehearsal' for other occasions, and if the kid isn't yet up to the context, the other diners are in the same situation.

                                                                    1. re: Jay F

                                                                      I was referring to the restaurant Chenery Park in San Francisco that has a kids night.

                                                                      1. re: cresyd

                                                                        Oh. Sorry. Thanks for the clarification.

                                                      2. I know when I'm dining out and there are well behaved children, I've made it a point to walk over and tell the kids and parents how wonderfully behaved the kids are.
                                                        Parents are thrilled with pride and the kids feel good hearing that news too.

                                                        4 Replies
                                                        1. re: Beach Chick

                                                          I do the same, Beach Chick.

                                                          Parents and children are entitled to positive acknowledgment from strangers or people they know.
                                                          I love the parents who're taking the time and hard work it requires to raise children who're well behaved and respectful.
                                                          The children reflect their efforts.

                                                          1. re: Beach Chick

                                                            I do it sometimes, but depends on the context. if I'm with my aunt I might pay the compliment to the next table as they're leaving, but as a middle-aged loner guy who hasn't shaved today, it could be perceived as creepy stalker behavior.

                                                            but then I also don't hang out at playgrounds without a kid in tow, and those little devils scream their silly heads off which really interrupts translating archaic 14th c. French poetry. point being, I'd welcome the compliment, but it has to be delivered in a proper manner.

                                                            1. re: Beach Chick

                                                              Well-behaved children should be the norm, not the exception.

                                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                well yeah if we were Candide it would always be 'the best of all possible worlds'

                                                                I'd rather see the good acknowledged than the ill-behaved punished, or worse, ignored. does it change anything? very little I'd guess. but it makes my day more pleasant looking to praise than grousing about those little, uhh 'darlings'.

                                                            2. It is an interesting article and worth noting because I've never heard of a restaurant doing such a thing. It might be a good idea for some restaurants, and certainly for the PR this one received.

                                                              From my pov, this thread has turned into a heated discussion on parenting, rather than the focus of the OP.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: Terrie H.

                                                                Excellent observation.