Dining Out With Kids – Sensible or Scary?

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Dining Out With Kids – Sensible or Scary?

February 11, 2011

Foodie: A person that spends a keen amount of attention and energy on knowing the ingredients of food, the proper preparation of food, and finds great enjoyment in top-notch ingredients and exemplary preparation. (from UrbanDictionary.com)

Parent: A person who doesn’t get to eat out at nice restaurant very often because of their child(ren). (from my own head, ha ha!)

Yep, I’m both of those things. I LOVE FOOD. I enjoy cooking food, I enjoy watching television shows about food and cooking…but most of all, I enjoy EATING food. My idea of a good date is going for dinner at a new restaurant (or an old fave) and talking for hours over plate after plate of food.

My kids are well-behaved, considering they’re 3 1/2 years and 7 months old. A really is well-behaved and M can get away with a little whining because of his age. Still, we don’t tend to eat out at places that aren’t touted as being “kid friendly” even though we think we could get away with it sometimes — and this is for two reasons.

1) Restaurants that don’t offer high chairs do not welcome your child and you may experience less-than-stellar service as a result of bringing your kids into this environment. Businesses like this do not wish to cater to the “parents dining out” crowd because we don’t drink as much alcohol as the child-less group, we aren’t as tidy as the child-less group, and we are much more noisy and disturbing than the child-less group. This is no jab against us or against people who go out that don’t have kids (or moms and dads who go out without the children in tow), it’s a business decision. That’s not to say I haven’t rolled up in the lobby of a semi-nice restaurant with my small kids, a car seat, a huge diaper bag, a million coats…to find that they don’t have high chairs…I have and I was less-than-impressed at the time, more for being inconvenienced than anything else. You won’t be turned away, but you might not be catered to either. We usually choose to avoid these places because service is important to us.

2) Restaurants that don’t want kids around won’t provide crayons and won’t have a colorful kid’s menu. Both of these things will not stop your child from obtaining sustenance, of course, but they will distract any child over the age of two from choosing tantrum over fun. Well, at least for a little while. (“Bring the kid’s food out as soon as possible please!” – sound familiar?) Traveling with more than one small child is unpredictable enough. We try to steer clear of restaurants that don’t provide some kind of “special kid-amusement tool” that make our lives just a little bit easier! 🙂

Now, do not be quick to judge. Taking these “precautions” does not ensure a well-behaved child nor does it mean that your kids should never be exposed to more adult-centric environments. Don’t think that I believe your child’s behavior is based entirely on distractions or a lack thereof!

I absolutely believe that parents influence and, to some extent, have control over their children’s behavior.

Still, some tips on how you can influence your kid’s behavior in public:

– Do take them out! Children who are accustomed to behaving well in public will continue to do so, as they practice their manners regularly.

– Don’t psyche them out! Setting unrealistic expectations on your child will set YOU up for failure. Set achievable goals for behavior (using inside voice, staying seated on the chair) and praise them when they reach them!

– Do involve them! Our daughter gets a big kick out of being able to choose her meal and tell the server what she would like to eat and drink. Complete with “please” and “thank you” of course. Involvement will add to the overall “special” aspect of eating out and allows you to make it a learning experience (social behavior is learned you know) as well. Trying restaurants that serve cuisines from other parts of the world are great opportunities for learning too!

– Don’t give up! Let’s be honest, there will be a bad experience. Or two. Or ten. Kids are unpredictable at best and while going to kid-friendly places will help the stigma when your three year old FREAKS OUT AT THE SIGHT OF A VEGETABLE, FOR NO REASON…time heals all wounds. If at first you don’t succeed, try again!

You can be a foodie and a parent, just know your kids and judge accordingly whether it’s the right night for white cloth napkins or packets of ketchup. 😉

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