Is There A Perfect Parent?

Perfect Parent? Ha Not Me!

Perfect Parent? Ha Not Me!

Let me just dispel all the myths right now… “There are No Perfect parents!” From the first moment as a new parent when we hold our new born baby in our arms until they grow up and move out of the house our life will be filled with First Time Experiences. As a first time parent we are all new to the game. So, what does anyone do when they are new they make mistakes and learn from them and try, again, again and over again throughout their child’s life. Of course by the time the second child comes along (if there is a second) we have a little more knowledge and experience under our belt and can make different choices. Even then sometimes the methods that worked with one child may not work with the second.

The hardest moment in parenting to deal with is when a child is really upset or having a temper tantrum. Kids can push us beyond our limits and when you have an angry parent and an angry child sometimes not all the best decisions are made as my kids love to remind me. One time when my daughter Anya was little and totally out of control I was at a loss on how to help her calm down. Then I remembered a show I had seen where they put a hysterical person into a cold shower clothes and all to calm them down. The cold water shocked the person and chilled them out of their hysterics. I had tried everything else to no avail so thought it might work. Lets just say what works on TV doesn’t always work in reality. As soon as the cold water hit her body she totally lost it and was so mad she came out of the shower kicking and screaming then threw all her clothes and toys out of her drawers and all around her room.

What I didn’t understand at the time was what triggered her anger. She would lose control when she felt disrespected. She had already been feeling disrespected by whatever happened in the first place to upset her and the cold shower was definitely not respectful to her. After she calmed down I apologized and we talked about what we could both do differently next time.

It took some trial and error but I eventually learned what she really needed was to be heard and understood. If I could catch her before she lost control, sit with her and hear her side of the story she would feel heard and calm down. When she did lose control we found Cool Down Time worked better than cold showers. I would give her some paper and crayons or pencils in her room and ask her to draw me a picture of how she felt. She did draw some very angry pictures but it gave her a more positive way to vent her feelings and art became her escape and passion.

Anya also taught me a very valuable lesson. When disciplining a child remember, they are just like you. If you wouldn’t want to be treated a certain way yourself do not treat a child that way and if you do over react a bit like putting your child into a cold shower it is always ok to say you’re sorry after all we are only human. Sometimes it is better for you both to walk away for Cool Down Time rather than carry on. As a mom on more than one occasion I gave myself a cool down time until I calmed down enough to be able to help my child deal with their emotions.

Being a parent I guarantee you will make mistakes or if your children are older you have already made mistakes. What is important to remember is we all, even our children are doing the best we can with what we know in this moment. So be gentle with yourself and your child. When our knowledge changes through experience or parenting books or courses we will learn a different way to handle the same situation for the next time and as parents we know there will always be another opportunity to try again.

Am I Really A “Helicopter Parent”?

The Helicopter Parent... Could You Be One???

The Helicopter Parent… Could You Be One Too???

I had never even heard the term “Helicopter Parent” before until my daughter in grade 12 at the time accused me of being one after I came home to pick up and deliver my son’s school project to him that he had forgotten. Slightly embarrassed, I had to ask her what it was to which she smugly said, “Mom, a Helicopter Parent is a parent who takes care of everything for their child! They hover over their children like helicopters making sure everything is always just fine. How is James ever going to learn to remember to take his homework if you keep bringing it to him?” She had a good point. When I read up on it a bit more I didn’t think I had all the traits of a Helicopter Parent but there were a few. Sure maybe I requested certain teachers each year for my children or I helped them sometimes a little too much with their homework when they asked or maybe brought their forgotten lunch and homework down to them once in a while, …ok, all the time.

Was I really being a Helicopter Parent? I didn’t do Everything for them; I wasn’t following them around hovering and watching over their every move so they never got hurt or experienced disappointment? I didn’t control everything in their life only a few things. I started to think about it. Maybe I was a bit of a Helicopter Parent. After all how was I really helping my child to learn for themselves if I was doing all these things for them? How was I empowering them to make their own wise decisions in life or to learn from their mistakes? Maybe if I stopped delivering my son’s homework to him he would smarten up and pack it the night before. If he didn’t get my idea of a perfect teacher maybe he would get the experience he needed with a different teacher.

In reading more about it I read about College professors complaining about parents coming in to tell them they are giving too much homework to their child and their child was overwhelmed. There were managers telling stories about parents coming in to ask for raises for their children, complaining their child was being worked too hard or treated unfairly and they wanted the manager to make changes to improve their child’s work experience. I know being a parent we all just want the best for our children in life and if we could, we would fix everything for them but when is enough, enough!

Sometimes it is tough to know the difference between guiding our child and taking over for them. When we take over we send the message to our child that we don’t think they can do it themselves. Not only do they not learn how to make decisions for themselves but they lose their self confidence and coping skills relying on us or others to fix things for them. If a parent fixes everything the child may never learn how to deal with their own mistakes or disappointments in life.

I realized as hard as it was to watch my babies make mistakes sometimes I had to let them fall on their own so they would know how to pick themselves up again and keep going when I wasn’t around. By rescuing them all the time I was not letting them experience their life lessons so they would keep repeating their mistakes knowing Mom would take care of it instead of getting the lesson and moving on. The next time James called me from the school to bring down his homework I told him he would just have to run home at recess and get it as I was out. He never forgot it again. It wasn’t as much fun going back for it himself as it was to inconvenience mom to bring it down to him.

I learned something very important through my daughter’s simple comment. We can guide and teach our children the best we can but ultimately they will have to figure things out for themselves. If we keep preventing situations from happening in their life they will never learn their life lessons and will always be fearful of taking risks and failing in life. I wanted to empower my children and teach them to have enough confidence in themselves to take risks. To do so I had to take a step back and watch, sometimes guide but ultimately let them experience the natural consequences of their behaviour and do it themselves while they were at home so when they grew up and left they would have the knowledge to take on lifes challenges on their own!

For more information on Helicopter Parenting check out this recently published article “How to avoid being a Helicopter Parent” by Jennifer Chung in the Toronto Star.

HOMEWORK BLUES!

When It Comes To Doing Homework Does Your Child Feel Overwhelmed?

When It Comes To Doing Homework Does Your Child Feel Overwhelmed?

Does your child get overwhelmed when facing a pile of homework? Do they sometimes melt down and take forever to get it finished? Do you sometimes wonder if you could do it for them just to avoid the stress of them doing it? If you answered yes to any of these questions then please read on…

 

The first couple of years in intermediate classes can be tough for kids.  The work gets more challenging, teachers assign more homework and projects expecting more detail, things are harder to understand and grades really start to matter. It can be overwhelming for kids to go from having a little bit of homework in grade 3 to a lot in grade 4 depending on who their teacher is.

I remember when my kids were in grade four and five. They would get so overwhelmed with homework that sometimes I wished I could just do it for them so I could stop fighting with them and  just get it out of the way. Of course that wasn’t the answer, the answer was to help them establish a routine so the homework would get done and not feel like such a chore.

Homework Routine:

Make sure your child brings everything home:

Right when you pick them up from school, before they get to play on the playground have a quick read through their School Planner to see what homework your child is supposed to bring home that day. Then have your child check his/her backpack to make sure it is all in there.

This routine has always paid off because 9 times out of 10 my kids have had to run back into the school to get the books or homework sheet they had forgotten. Five minutes on the playground saved me countless trips back to the school after we got home to retrieve the missing pieces of homework and believe me when we forgot to check, we did have to go back.

Give your child a break:

Kids are tired when they first get home from school. They have been working hard all day so having them sit down again and do homework as soon as they get home might not produce the best results. Every child is different some children will need to have a run around break outside or some downtime maybe watching a quiet show or computer time for half an hour before they get into their homework. Other children will want to get started right away and get it done so they can do what they want later. Let your child help plan their evening so they can be the most productive with their time.

Make time for a Healthy Snack:

Making time in your child’s break for a healthy snack is so important. A healthy afterschool snack will rejuvenate your child and give them the energy needed to get started on their homework.  Sit together and have tea or hot chocolate and some healthy brain food snacks like fresh fruit, granola bars, mixed nuts or my kids favourite a grilled cheese sandwich. The time together will give you the opportunity to discuss your child’s day, any homework they have and together you can come up with a plan to get it finished.

Getting down to business The Homework Zone:

It helps to set your child up for success. Have a quiet area for them to study in and preferably at this age somewhere you are close by if they have any questions. The kitchen table was and the most popular spot in our home. I could make dinner and my kids could ask questions if they didn’t understand something. Make sure they have all the papers necessary to do the work in front of them before they start.

Review the instructions with your child:

Before starting their homework review the instructions with them so they are clear on what has to be done. Kids will work much faster knowing exactly what they are supposed to be doing than if they have to continually go back to the instructions and figure it out. This is especially important when tackling math homework. If you review the examples of the questions at the beginning of the chapter in their textbook before they start their math homework everything will be fresh in your child’s mind as they work through the problems. Teach them to focus on one subject at a time with a 5 minute mini break in between subjects so that they can re-energize themselves for the next subject.

Having trouble getting your child to study their spelling words? Try putting a little dry “Jello” powder mix on a plate or tray, spread it out and let them practice writing their words with their finger. Worked for my kids every time.

Get everything ready for the next day:

Once your child is finished their homework have them place it immediately into their backpack ready to go back to school the next day. Nothing will get forgotten at home and they will have it ready to hand into their teacher.

Remember Good study skills are an excellent practice for your child to learn now and will only benefit them in the long run. When they get to High School and have to study for exams they will thank you. The more study skills you can teach them now the better prepared they will be later on in life.

When Should I Get My Child a Cell Phone?

Cell Phones - When Is Enough, Enough!

Cell Phones – When Is Enough, Enough!

When is the right time to get my child a cell phone? I am a big advocate of having an emergency cell phone for my child. However, I am puzzled when I see teenagers and younger children who no longer seem to communicate other than with their cell phones. I have seen groups of teenagers walking or hanging out together and no one is talking, they all have their heads bent over their phones. What has social communication come to if everyone ignores one another when they get together and just play with their phones? Why even get together when they could just sit at home and text each other? Coming from an age where we didn’t even have cordless phones never mind cell phones I just don’t get it! (Not that I am dating myself here and from my parents point of view they probably wished they could have given me a cell phone sometimes)

I totally understand the parents reasoning for getting their child a cell phone. It is important for us to know if our child was ever in need of help they could call someone and get it. With all the cell phones around these days it can be very difficult to even find a pay phone so sending them with quarters would be a waste of time.

When my kids were 9 or 10 and were starting to walk to school on their own with their friends I felt they needed some means of communicating with me, especially if there was a problem on the way home or if they wanted to go over to a friends house after school. I searched around for a cell phone plan that would be economically reasonable and would not encourage them to be on the phone all the time.

I discovered that 7eleven has a speak out, pay as you go phone plan and in it you can buy a phone for $50 then buy $25 worth of minutes and they last for 365 days. So, for roughly $25 a year my kids had an emergency phone that they could use to communicate when needed. The phones were nothing like the tablet phones out now so it was more challenging to text. Texting also cost .30 cents each so they were discouraged from texting or making a lot of phone calls. Our deal was if they went through the minutes too fast they had to contribute to the next purchase of minutes for the phone. What the 7eleven phone did provide was an emergency phone when needed and it allowed me to get in touch with them if there was an urgent message.

People miss out on a lot in life when they walk around glued to their cell phone. Face to face Communication with others becomes a challenge. There is a great YouTube video on a Poem called “Look Up” by Gary Turk that sends an important message to everyone on how cell phones are affecting our lives. I would highly recommend checking it out especially if you or your child are already addicted to a cell phone. Is it not better to teach our children to communicate face to face rather than text to text? I believe it is and the face to face social skills they learn today will better equip them for the real world when looking for their first job or going to a college interview.

Truth or Lie – What Do I Do When My Child Lies To Me?

For A Child Telling The Truth Can Be Hard ...How Can We Make It Easier?

For A Child Telling The Truth Can Be Hard…How Can We Make It Easier?

Has your ever child lied to you? Honesty is important in all relationships. How can we encourage our children to tell the truth even in situations where they might get into trouble by being honest?

Being honest is tough for children. Think about it from their perspective, if you just did something you know will get you into trouble and now this big angry adult is asking you to tell the truth about it, what do you do? Lie and say someone else did it or tell the truth and face the consequences from the angry adult? Hmmmmm, in the mind of a young child I think the natural instinct would be to protect themselves with a fib and keep out of trouble. Where does that leave the parents? Angry or disappointed their child won’t tell them the truth and unable to trust what the child tells them next time something happens. Not the best basis for a parent-child relationship especially as their little girl or boy eventually grows up to be a teenager.

Everyone will try to fib their way out of a situation or embarrassing moment at one point in their lives. Why would it be any different for a child? Whether it is over accidentally breaking something, playing sick to get out of school, getting into something they shouldn’t have (Mommy’s makeup or Daddy’s tools), or who started the fight that led to the lamp shattering on the floor. It is scary for a child to admit their part in what really happened because they fear the consequences from mom and dad.

When my kids were little I used to read them the story “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” by Aesop (an ancient Greek story teller) where a boy herding sheep keeps crying for help about a wolf attack on the sheep until finally no one believes him when there is a real attack on the sheep. I found videos with similar stories to let them watch (now there are even videos online). Afterwards we would discuss the importance of telling the truth and how it was more important to mommy and daddy that they tell the truth than what actually happened.

When a situation would come up be it something broken or a mess mysteriously appearing out of nowhere I would call the kids in and we would talk about what happened. I always made it clear to them that if they told me the truth right away the consequences would be less severe than if I had to find it out on my own. If I caught them in the lie everything tripled. Time out or cool-down time was longer, privileges were taken away and they would have to do an extra long service for me to make up for betraying my trust on top of paying for whatever was broken. If they could look me in the eye and tell me upfront what happened the cool-down time would be waived or shorter, no privileges would be taken away and no service would be required. They may still have to contribute to replace what was broken depending on the circumstances but because they were brave enough to tell me the truth the consequences would be much less severe.

My kids very quickly learned that it was easier and less effort to be honest with me than to spend their time making up for lying to me. Knowing they wouldn’t get into as much trouble if they told the truth has built a trust between us over the years. As my children became teenagers it has kept the communication open between us so when more difficult challenges came up like skipping school or getting into trouble with a friend they knew I would hear them out before judging and be more understanding because they were honest with me.

Discipline and Consequences – Sibling Squabbles

With No Toys There Will Be Nothing to Throw!

Consequence – With No Toys There Will Be Nothing to Throw!

So, now we have established the difference between punishment and discipline let’s talk about discipline and consequences. Discipline is when we correct our child’s behaviour. It sometimes involves yelling (no one is perfect), timeouts or cool down time as I like to call them, taking privileges away or grounding our child from going outside or using electronics. Some methods of discipline work and some don’t. A Consequence in the dictionary is something that logically follows an action. Consequences with children can be a blend of discipline as well as letting the natural consequences of a child’s behaviour affect them providing they are not doing something that would seriously hurt themselves or others physically. For example if a child throws their toys in anger the consequence could be to take all their toys, bag them in a large garbage bag and put them away for a few days. No toys, nothing to throw!

Anger is a very difficult emotion to control especially for a child. When my daughter Anya was little she had a very hard time controlling her anger. One time in her temper she broke one of her brother’s toys, hit him, then ripped out all the linen in our linen closet throwing towels and sheets everywhere. She was put in her room for cool down time, given a big pillow and told it was ok to hit pillows but not people. She cried for about 10 minutes and punched the pillow angrily then I went in to talk to her.

Sometimes a hug is the best medicine so I sat down beside her and held her until she stopped crying. We talked about what had happened, what she did, what she could do differently next time and what she could do to help make everything better. Her brother was partly at fault too as the instigator of the fight but Anya was the one that over reacted. It was not ok to hit someone or to throw the linen around and break a toy.

The consequence of her actions was, she had to pick up and fold all of the towels and sheets she had thrown around (we put a sliding lock on the linen door to prevent future incidents). The toy she broke cost $10 so she had to pay to replace it out of her savings. Anya and her brother had done a disservice to each other in choosing to fight so, they apologized and had to do each other a service of folding the others laundry to make it right. (The service could be anything from helping pick up each other’s toys, or doing a chore for one another.) Then because it had taken half an hour of my time to sort everything out they both had to do me the service of helping to complete the chore I had been working on and fold some of my laundry.

As with any discipline or consequence in order to work there has to be follow through so neither child was allowed to do anything else (TV or play) before the service to each other and me was complete. Consequences may take more time but they are worth it. Doing services for each other is a great tool. It can be any service from cleaning toilets to scrubbing tile grout with an old toothbrush, laundry is a good one for young children. The child who overreacted feels better in the end because even though they hurt someone they did something to make it up to the person. The child who was hurt feels better because although they were hurt, their sibling did a chore for them to make up for it.  Both children will hopefully think twice before having another fight and temper tantrum again because neither of them want to do their siblings chores as well as their own and clean up the mess they made. I stress the word hopefully because we all know kids will be kids. Just think how many chores you can get done with all those services. 🙂

Punishment VS Discipline…

Maybe Spanking is Not The Only Way!

Maybe Spanking is Not The Only Way!

How many of us were spanked or hit as a child when we did something wrong? For those who were do you still remember how it felt? Do you think it helped you to behave better, scared you into submission or made you want to rebel even more? How many have spanked or hit their child when they did something wrong? How do you think our children feel?

As a child I was sometimes spanked when I misbehaved. Mostly by hand but sometimes with a wooden spoon, ruler or threatened with a leather belt and I hated it. Hitting is disrespectful, cruel, and humiliating. I am sure we all know someone in our lives who was severely treated by their parents, caregiver or family member as a child. Why do parents tell children “No Hitting or punching” other children, then think it’s ok to hit the child themselves. What a conflicting message! It’s like saying, “You can’t hit other children or me when you are mad but it’s ok for me to hit you when I am mad.” Not a message that feels good for the child or the parent. The child is miserable and afraid of the parent and the parent feels guilty and bad about themselves because they hurt their child.

As an adult, I could look at it from another perspective. When my parents were little Society thought it was ok to hit children. It was the norm. Kids were given the strap by the principal in schools when they misbehaved, hit on the head with a book or had their knuckles rapped with a ruler by the teachers. My dad’s parents used to punish him for misbehavior by spanking him with a wooden spoon or leather strap. It was all he knew, his parents didn’t know any other means of correcting their child’s behavior so they did the best they could and used the same methods they received as a child from their parents.

Lucky for me, when I was about 12 years old my parents took some Life and Parenting courses and our lives changed for the better. They stopped hitting me when I did something bad and used discussion and consequences to teach right from wrong. They would talk to me about what I did, how disappointed they were in my actions and how I had lost their trust. We would discuss how I could earn their trust back and what I could do to correct the mistake. Almost like reverse psychology.

For example if I had stayed out past curfew my parents would tell me how disappointed in me they were and how were worried something had happened to me. I would have to earn their trust back by being on time in the future and my consequence would be I couldn’t go out for the next few days so I had some time to reflect on my choices.

If my brother and I were fighting we would be separated to our rooms so we could cool down, then we would come out and discuss with mom and dad what was happening for each of us that started the fight and what we could have done differently. The consequence would be whatever we were fighting over be it a toy or TV show would be removed and neither of us would get it. If we happened to break anything during our fight we had to pay to replace it.

Consequence discipline was a lot more work for my parents and me. In the beginning I admit I sometimes missed the old quick spank and get it over with method. It was a lot less effort and I didn’t feel so bad about letting my parents down because they had let me down too. Consequences worked though and in the end everyone felt better about ourselves because we worked out our issues with respect for each other instead of pain and hurt feelings.

Next week I will share more on “Consequences That Work for You and Your Child”.

How To Give Kids Choices Without Giving Away Your Power!

Who Has Control Now??

Who Has Control Now??

Have you ever wondered who is in control you or your child? Children love having control. They have so many areas in their life where they have no control, when they find an opportunity to take it they will go for it every time. Their favorite person(s) to control is their parent(s)! They master it from a very young age. Even as babies they innocently use different cries to get our attention. Then as they grow into toddlers they use tears, temper tantrums and relentless pleading or whining to get what they want. It is like a tug of war and if we give in once they have won the battle and learned our breaking point which they will remember and use for a very long time. Giving a child choices in life gives them power and a bit of control without having them take over. As parents though it is good for us to learn how to offer our child choices to create win/ win situations instead of arguments and tears.

For instance, if you know you have to work the next day and your child needs to be in daycare by a certain time it might be good to offer the right choice to them. If you ask, “Do you want to go to Daycare tomorrow and play with your friends?” it gives them the power to control the situation and could be setting you up for a big argument. After all what do you do if your child says, “NO!!!!”? You could maybe stay home from work or spend half an hour convincing your child why they have to go to daycare. A better choice to offer could be, “Mommy has to work tomorrow and you get to go to Daycare, do you want to leave at 7:30 am so you can play with your friends longer or 8:00am so you can sleep in a bit more? This is win/win it doesn’t question the fact they have to go to daycare, it allows them to control what time they go or maybe even suggest a time in between so they get a bit extra play time and some extra sleep-in time.

When my kids were little I always found bedtime a challenge. There were so many areas that could start conflict, bath time, snack, teeth brushing, and story time so coming up with some good choices helped the night go a bit smoother and more peaceful.

If bed time was at 8:30pm I would always start at least a half an hour or an hour before when possible depending if it was bath night.

  •  On Bath Nights – “Do you want to take your bath before or after your bedtime snack?”
  • Snack time – Offer a choice between two different healthy snacks. (if my kids got what they wanted it would probably have been Ice Cream)
  • Teeth Brushing – “Time to brush your teeth, do you want to use mint or berry flavored toothpaste?” When my son was two he hated brushing his teeth and would refuse to open his mouth so he also got the choice of brushing the easy way (standing nicely with his mouth open) or the hard way (flipped over on the floor, pinned and rib tickled to get his mouth open) Sounds a little harsh but the job had to get done one way or the other. Funny enough being a boy he loved the hard way getting flipped and tickled was his favorite and we always ended up in a giggle fest afterwards.
  • Pajama time – “Do you want to wear the red or the blue pajamas tonight?” (this one works with a couple of outfits for getting dressed in the morning too)
  • Story time – Would always come last after they were ready and settled in bed. How long they took to get ready for bed would determine the length of story. If we only had 5 minutes before bedtime the story would have to be very short. If they were speedy that night and had 20 minutes left they could pick a longer book. If we didn’t have a favorite book we were reading that night I found it easier to narrow the choice for them and lay out 2-4 books to choose from for their story.

Choices work great in every situation from crossing the street – “You can hold my right hand or my left hand” to leaving a favorite activity – “We can leave now or in 5 minutes?” The key is to come up with choices that meet the end goal and one where both the parent and the child feel good about themselves afterwards.

Restaurant Nightmares! Will We Ever Eat Out Again?

Ever been in a restaurant and watched a parent lose complete control of their child?  The child is running all over the restaurant, jumping in and out of other booths, crawling under the tables chatting and poking other diners generally being annoying. The parents of the child usually look utterly frustrated and embarrassed trying desperately to get their child to behave or trying to blend into the wall paper and pretend the little terror doesn’t belong to them. Ever been that parent?

Sit Nice Tommy, Dinner is almost here! Pleease...

Sit Nice Tommy, Dinner is almost here! Pleease…

I know an occasion when I have and I could have crawled under the table myself in embarrassment. Not that I was ignoring my child just that as a stay at home mom and deprived of adult conversation I was enjoying the moment with friends and kids being kids she was off. I can’t imagine how frustrating it must have been for the restaurant staff and how dangerous for my child. What if Marie had run into a server carrying a tray full of hot food and drinks? It could have been a disaster.

After my experience I knew I needed to come up with some strategies to keep my kids busy at the table while waiting for their food. It is tough for little kids to sit quietly, by the time we get to the restaurant they are already hungry so to wait another 30-40 minutes for food to arrive is unbearable for them. What can we do to help them?

Dining Out Parenting Strategies…

  • Always carry a toy bag with you into the restaurant packed with age appropriate toys and books. Let’s face it the coloring sheet and crayons restaurants give out aren’t always enough.  I had a small back pack stuffed with Mega Blocks, toy cars, small books, a Barbie, a coloring book and crayons. We took it everywhere then when we were stuck in a line or waiting for food the kids always had something to do.
  • Keep a pen, small deck of cards and a pair of folding scissors in your purse as emergency backup just in case you forget the toy back pack. Many a time I have asked the waitress for a stack of napkins and spent the wait time drawing pictures and cutting out snowflakes with my children. The folding scissors could come in handy for all kinds of other tasks like cutting freezies, ribbon on birthday presents and loose threads. As the kids got older they would play card games to pass the time.
  • Have a 30 minute rule for restaurants. If we could not be seated, ordered and eating within 30 minutes at a restaurant we never went back.
  •  Don’t seat siblings together they are bound to find something to fight about. Our rule has always been “Keep em Seperated!”
  •  If your child is starving before you leave home bring some small snacks to the restaurant to keep them occupied. Dried cereal, fishy crackers, small cut up fruit or veggie’s in a container are perfect. A hungry child can be very cranky.
  • After ordering, take the kids to the bathroom to wash their hands and do any other necessary business if needed. It could kill 5-10 minutes of wait time especially if you check things out on the way there and back… maybe an interesting picture or plant.
  •  If the kids are really fidgety have one parent take them outside for a short walk, they can release come energy and the parent waiting can wait in peace and quiet then text or call them back in when the meal arrives. (this is a good one to rotate so each parent gets a turn enjoying the quiet before the meal)
  • Look for restaurants in your area with a ‘Play Zone” for kids. McDonalds maybe the biggest but it’s not the only one. Some family restaurants have a small toy corner where parents can amuse their children while waiting for their food. Google “Kid Friendly Restaurants” in your city for choices. My favorite one in Vancouver is ‘Sophie’s Cosmic Café’ the food is great, the walls are packed with old toys for the kids to look at and they have a small toy corner sectioned off for kids to entertain themselves. Definitely worth checking out.
  • If you have a favorite restaurant in your neighbourhood get a takeout menu and ask the staff if you could call your orders in ahead of time so the food would be almost ready when you arrive with your family at the restaurant. If it isn’t a super busy night and they know you restaurants can usually be accommodating.
  • Pack up, pay and leave. As our kids got older my husband and I had a rule… They would get three warnings if they didn’t behave we would pack up, pay and leave the restaurant before finishing. They would then each be responsible for reimbursing us the cost of their meal because of the inconvenience and embarassment of their chosen behaviours. Although we would have enforced this rule we never had to, by the second warning they usually decided to settle down instead of pay.
  • If the server was good and had lots of patience always leave a big tip! Especially when dining with young children. I figure they not only put up with us but had to clean up after my kids dropped food all over the floor and they deserved a good tip.
  • Last but not least if all else fails and being in a restaurant is totally unbearable “Don’t Eat Out Do Take Out!” It is always easier, no one has to cook and the kids can play at home until the food arrives. We have done many more nights of take out than dining out and everyone is happy!

I wish you all the best on your future dining out experiences and hope these tips will help your meal be a peaceful one. If you have a tip that has worked for you I would love to hear about it. Every idea helps and the more the better.

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Disclaimer

The information on this site is based on the personal experience of the author. There are no guarantees of a perfect method to raise a child, it is all trial and error. Please feel free to try some of the suggestions on this site and let me know how you make out. If you would like to use any words or pictures from this blog please contact me for written permission. © 2013

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