Nora Cline, maven of manners, says parents should teach children how to behave in restaurants.
Mention the topic of children's restaurant behavior to servers and their reactions are the same. Servers agree that it's mostly the parents who are oblivious to what their children are doing.
Many parents are too busy to notice or just turn a blind eye to the poor behavior of their children while restaurant guests and staff suffer the consequences. Children see what their parents do and often act accordingly. Let face it, kids will be kids and acting out is normal, but disrupting other guests in a fine-dining atmosphere is never acceptable.
Busy families have little time to prepare meals these days and depend more and more on restaurants to provide quality family time but parents are less inclined to correct their child's behavior at these times because they don't want to be the bad guys. However, if blame is to be dished up we do need to look to the parents. Children see their parents talking on cell phones and shoveling down their food in order to get to the next soccer game on time. Some families eat their food with their hands so often that the knife and fork become foreign items.
The more children are exposed to eating at a restaurant other than a fast food establishment the more they will learn about expected behavior. There are some things parents can do to help their children behave in restaurants. Choose an appropriate restaurant for the age of the child. Before going to a nicer restaurant be clear about what you expect from your elementary-age children while dining and role-play with them the desired behaviors so they know what to do. Inform them of the consequences of inappropriate behavior (determine what they will be beforehand) and be consistent with discipline. Consistency is imperative they'll know what to expect. Offer topics to discuss. You can ask your child to think about them ahead of time so lively conversation can take place during the meal. Let younger children bring a favorite book or small toy to occupy them while waiting for a table, but once at the table please don't spread out games and toys. Depending on your child's patience level, try to order right away and reinforce good manners by using this time as a teaching moment. Remind them to look at the server and say "please" and "thank you" when ordering. If on the day of the outing your child is not feeling well, particularly tired or acting out unnecessarily, cancel your plans if you can. Expecting them to behave appropriately in an uncomfortable setting is surely not going to put them in any better of a mood. If you are already at your table, have ordered your meal and your child is approaching a tantrum, politely ask the server to pack up your food and try again another day. And remember, as a parent your words and actions "tell" your child what is appropriate behavior and what isn't children are great mimics of their parents so behave how you want your children to behave.
Nora Cline is the owner of Modern Manners www.modernmanners.biz in Powell.