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.

Christmas Shopping with your kids?

What do I do Now?????

What do I do Now?????

Shopping with children can be a challenge at the best of times. Never mind at Christmas when stores are packed and children are excited and want everything in sight. I am sure every parent has a “Shopping Nightmare” story.

Mine was when my son James was just turning three years old….

It was his 3rd birthday and I took him to the toy department to pick out his favourite toy, a Tonka Truck.  He had chosen a small metal digger and we were walking down the isle to leave when he spotted “The Monster Digger”, six times the size and price as the one he had clutched in his hands.  He immediately dropped the small one in his lap and started begging for the bigger one. Cursing myself for venturing down this isle I tried reasoning with him. I agreed with him that yes the bigger one was very cool but it was way out of our price range right now,  it was also made out of plastic and would probably not last as long as the small metal one he had in his lap.

I ask you, “What does a 3 year old know or care about price?”  Absolutely Nothing! He just wants what he sees and wants it NOW!  James picked up the digger in his lap, threw it down on the ground and started kicking, crying and pleading for the Monster Digger.  It was his birthday after all and I would have felt horrible if I didn’t buy him something. So, I spent 15 minutes reasoning with him. I showed him how much better the smaller one was being strong metal and not plastic. I explained again why we could only get the smaller one while I slowly walked away from the source of his tantrum. I picked up the small digger off the floor and bought it for him. That was my biggest mistake.

I couldn’t take James into a Toy store for almost a year after that incident without having to drop my purchases and leave with a screaming child. A stubborn boy he was and he did not give up easily. However, I never caved in again and he eventually got it. When he fussed mommy left the store.

What did I learn from that experience? Never buy a child in a Temper Tantrum ANYTHING he or she wants in that moment! Pick them up, drop everything and hightail it out of the store as fast as I can. If it is something I really want to get for them like a birthday gift I can go back the next day to get it but if I buy Anything in the tantrum moment the child will always remember “Temper Tantrum = Getting what I want”.

Christmas shopping survival tips…

  • Try shopping in the morning after breakfast when the child is not overtired and hungry.
  • Always explain your expectations ahead of time and maybe have a small reward at the end of the trip as something for the child to look forward to. For example, I would say “Ok James we have two stores to go to, we need to pick up groceries and mail a letter at the post office; it should take about ½ an hour and I expect you to be on your best behaviour. If I hear any “I wants” I will buy nothing for you. If you help me get my shopping done then maybe we can go for a treat afterwards. If there is any crying or tantrums we will leave the store immediately, go home and we won’t be able to go for our treat.” When I was clear with my expectations before shopping James knew exactly what was going to happen and how I expected him to behave. He also had something to look forward to after the shopping trip. The key was to follow through. If James started putting up a fuss on our shopping trip I would drop my purchases, pick him up and leave the store.
  • When going to a toy store tell the child exactly what you are there to pick up so they know if the trip includes some toy shopping for them or not. Before I left for the toy store I would tell James, “We need to go to the toy store today to buy a birthday gift for your friend Tommy, you can help me pick it out if you like but we are not buying for ourselves today so there will be no I wants. If you think you can manage that you can come with me if not then I will go shopping when your daddy gets home?  Then I would follow through with whatever he felt he could handle.
  • Be Flexible. Sometimes it is better to skip shopping that day rather than taking a fussy child into the store. I have left many parking lots and gone home without my groceries because my child was already fussing in the car.
  • Always Carry Extra Snacks when going shopping, then if your child gets hungry you have something healthy they like to eat with you instead of having to buy them something off the shelf. If a child is hungry they will get cranky very quickly.
  • When you can, Shop Without the Children. It is always much faster, more peaceful and relaxing. I was always amazed how much I could get done in just 45 minutes with out my children with me.

Check It Out!

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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