After you have kids it may be a little intimidating to head out to a restaurant like you used to. It’s a little terrifying that your little angel will scream and throw a tantrum right in the middle of the place and there you will be either the crazy yelling parent or the trying to calm it down but it’s not working parent. Both alternatives sound awful so the easy choice is just not to go out. But if you don’t take them with you then they won’t learn those social setting skills.
I love to go out for dinner! It makes me feel like a person and not just a wife or mom. I like seeing other people and enjoying good food. Going out for date night is great but can’t always happen and I also love hanging out as a family too. It is important to me that my kids be able to go out to dinner at a restaurant and know the expectations of how to behave when we are out. Now getting a little person to understand that doesn’t happen immediately but as with all things taught to children a little repetition gets the job done every time.
Here is my tried and tested list to get you through an enjoyable family dinner out.
1. Set the stage – Explain that you will be going out to dinner and explain what a restaurant is. Make it exciting talk about all the great parts of going out to dinner. Then explain the expected behaviors..we can’t yell, we will sit in a highchair, we will wait for the food to come, etc. Kids always do better when they know what to expect and what you expect from them, even at young ages.
2. Come Prepared – This step is essential. You need to choose wisely some small items that are favorites or special only to use at these outings. They have to be things you know your children LOVE or will love. Most restaurants have coloring so we don’t bring that usually but do bring stickers, favorite little dolls or figures, small books(ones we don’t read unless out for something special), something new from the dollar section at target.
3. Bring Snacks – I know this sounds weird but little ones are hungry the minute they sit down. So either order a little something like fruit or veggies to come out right away or pack something light to munch on while you wait for the food to come.
4. Practice what you preach – Kids learn everything they know from you and the people around them. So talk politely to the waiter, speak clearly, make eye contact, give them your full attention while they take your order. Your kids will follow suit if you show them how it’s done. While at dinner have good conversation, use your best manners, eat neatly, anything you would expect your child to learn you have to do.
5. Bring Backup – Even if you have tried everything sometimes those little people get very emotional and can’t keep it together. Try a trip to the restroom to talk about feelings and see if you can settle them down. If that fails you have the choice to have your backup take the food to go or you can try to wait it out. The other last chance option if you’re not willing to leave is to tell them if they can calm down that they can play on your SECRET WEAPON FOR THOSE MOMENTS YOU REALLY NEED IT (phone). Have some kid games on there. There are some great learning ones. Whatever you do make this a last resort and don’t let it become a habit. Don’t hand over the phone until your little one is calmed down so that you are not rewarding bad behavior but instead rewarding being able to gain control of their emotions.
Hopefully, this list will inspire you to be brave and head out to dinner. Try to keep a level head if it doesn’t go as planned. Remember that for kids practice and repetition is key to them learning new skills. So if it goes bad once do like I tell my little ones and “try, try again”. Just remember that most of the people in the restaurant have been in your shoes and remember exactly how your feeling. And for those oh so judgy people with no kids well at least you gave them something to talk about for the evening.
Cheers to a great family dinner out! Let me know what works for you and how your dinner adventure goes!