I want to say, my kid isn’t perfect. But I have put in a lot of effort to get a child who is well behaved in a restaurant. She tests me and really puts my educational background to use. I taught preschool gen ed and special education in a brick and motor setting. That means (in an actual school). I taught virtually as well for a few years. However, being in the classroom with students helped me develop more knowledge and put things I learned from my Brith Through Five Education degree into practice. Classroom management in a preschool setting taught me how to set up situations where Izzy will be happily occupied. My students lost interest very quickly and I needed to be prepared and keep them engaged. I also learned a lot about how to help my students come out of tantrums and even sometimes prevent them.
We get compliments constantly from people in restaurants about her behavior. If there is an issue I remove her from the table. We don’t disrupt others meals. Now after years of consistent work when out to eat Izzy rarely needs to be removed from the table. I’d say 1-2.5 was the hardest and it got easier from there. There were lots of ups and downs along the way as her brain grew and she learned about more and more emotions. I’m not saying ages 1-2.5 were terrible. I’m just saying it wasn’t as consistently awesome as it is now.
Okay so I went on a mini rant about a week ago via my Instagram stories. I went out 2 nights in a row for dinner (Friday & Saturday). Izzy was at my mother’s house, so Joe and I decided to go out and have a meal where we can just be waited on and chat…without distractions from our little Izzy. Let’s be honest, Joe and I do not give each other our full attention when she is around, because she requires some of it. Any way, we went out… without Izzy and I was so shocked at the lack of respect from parents.
To be clear, what I witnessed were parents who just wanted to have their drinks and food. They didn’t care how much their kid(s) yelled, screamed or cried. They didn’t take a second to attend to their child. We made eye contact and they did not look at me and say, “I’m so sorry.” These parents were just plain rude and had a compete disregard for anyone else there.
For those of you with the, “I paid to eat here too” mindset… think about what you are teaching your child. It’s okay to be loud and obnoxious because you are a paying customer too? No! Don’t you want your kid to learn to respect others?
Now saying this, I know some of you are trying. I know some of you need some support and suggestions. I’m not upset with the parents that look in distress as their child melts down. I’m not upset with the parents with scramble in the diaper bag for a new toy or snacks as their child yells, screams or cries. You are trying to enjoy your life with kids. You are trying to go out to eat and teach your child how to behave. That is okay, it’s the parents that just sit there and do nothing. It drives me CRAZY!
Izzy was’t always pushing perfect in a restaurant. I have walked out of a resultant countless times until Izzy got her emotions together. It takes time. Keep going out, but teach your child how to be respectful. If you need to get up 5 times during the meal, so be it. It gets better, but as always with behavior, it requires work and time. Also, kids are always growing and their brains are understanding more and they are always gaining new emotions so just know, as they grow you may have to alter things and may hit rough patches here and there. I stopped nursing Izzy at 11.5 months because my milk dried up. Before then I could bring toys and snacks to keep Izzy happy and worst case, plop her on the boob in her carrier so she was getting a comforting suck and snuggle, I was her human paci. No one knew what she was doing and I just hung at the table and ate my food while she sucked away.
So around 11.5 months I had to start pulling out more tricks and techniques so we could go out to eat and not only be respectful to others, but also have a good time.
Okay parents, so those of you that are struggling and suffering parents, but want help, here are some tips.
Tips & Techniques
1. Bring at least 4 activities in the diaper bag. Here are some ideas: paper or coloring books with crayons, crayola color wonder paper/coloring books and markers, play doh and play doh toys, age appropriate figurines (Izzy has tiny my little pony figures and shopkins, she even likes to play with them with the play doh), magnetic blocks and last case scenario electronics such as an iPad. We only use the iPad in a restaurant if we can tell Izzy seems over tired or extremely testing that day. But I strongly urge you to not make this a regular thing. It should be an “in case of emergency press the red” button type of thing.
Always think about what your kid likes and keep the toys in the diaper bag, special for the diaper bag only. If your child loves cars, get some cool new car toys. Maybe pull out a piece of paper and create a track for the cars to drive on. If you child it old enough, let them create the track. You can even have them pretend the play dough is mud and look at the car tracks and the car drives through it. I give Izzy play ideas when she has run out of her own to keep the toys fun and entertaining.
Another tip, when I noticed Izzy was getting less interested in an activity I would hold up 2 new options and give her a choice. This is one way to prevent a boredom tantrum and give your child empowerment since they are in control of choosing the next activity.
2. Switch out the activities (in the diaper bag) that you notice your child has lost interested in or isn’t requesting anymore. Then try adding it again later down the road, it might be “new” and exciting again.
3. Ask the restaurant for a kids cup. We always bring Izzy a cup, but sometimes it’s exciting for her to use one from the restaurant. Exciting and new, means a happy kid. This also made for a great learning experience. I had to teach her that although the cup had a cover and straw it wasn’t no spill like her straw cups. She had to learn to bring the cup down in her lap as she drank and not tip it from table height.
4. If all else fails and your child is just yelling or melting down. Try distracting them and ignore the behavior. Try doing magical, silly or wild play with the toys they have or just yourself. Example: Hold a toy in your hand, pretend to sneeze into your hand. When you open your hand say, “OMG I just sneezed out that ___(insert toy).” That would be an example of silly and magical play which should help distract them long enough to get their attention and potentially get them back to sanity. Give yourself a couple tries.. still not working? Pick them up and walk out of the restaurant or go to the bathroom with them. Younger kids you can point out things on the walls, shapes, etc. Once they are settled, give a short conversation about using words etc. Even when Izzy was a year old, I’d take her away from the table for a “talk”. Typically I wasn’t gone for long. But the time I walked away she was better and we could go right back to the table. I would tell her that it’s okay to have feelings and be sad, frustrated, mad etc. I would then tell her, but it’s not okay to scream, yell and throw things. I told her she needed to use her words or show mommy what she needed by pointing etc. The older Izzy got, the more in depth our conversations got about how to handle her feelings and the importance of sharing her feelings with words. You can read more about tantrums & techniques on another post I wrote, I’ll link it here. I linked one specifically on communicating with your child here.
5. Bring special treats & favorite snacks. Special treats are for good behavior. You don’t want to pull out a lollipop or gummies mid tantrum. Why? Well because then you are reinforcing that if they yell and carry on, they will get a special treat. But if you are 20 minutes in and your kid is doing great, or you notice they are finally over the toys and they have finished their food. Reward them and buy yourself time with a special treat. As for the snacks, they are sometimes needed as an appetizer while they wait on their meal to come out. I bring Izzy a snack container and when she was a baby I would clip it to her chair so it couldn’t fall on the floor.
I hope you all found this helpful! Please feel free to comment & ask questions.
Sorry for any typos in this post.