Dining Out with Kids

2007/07/26

Dining Out with Kids

One of the rules my father had us when we were growing up was that we “were to be seen and not heard”. Meaning that it was ok for us to be around as long as we kept quiet and didn’t bother the adults. This rule was in effect when they had company over. My dad taught me his version of how kids should act around adults. We went to church and had to behave appropriately while we were there. We rarely went to restaurants for dinner but when we did, we were well behaved. But times have changed.

With the restaurant industry predicted to “reach a record $537 billion in 2007—a solid 5.0 percent increase over 2006 sales” it’s obvious that we are dining out more and more these days. People have busy lives, parents are working, kids have their extra after school activities, play dates, homework, school projects, leaving little time to make a home cooked meal. “The industry is heading into 2007 as an economic powerhouse and an essential part of Americans’ lifestyle, with Americans spending 47.9 percent of their food budget in restaurants.” (source)

As more and more families are dining out at restaurants, I’d like to offer some friendly advice/commentary to make every one’s experience a little more pleasurable. In my experience dining out at restaurants I have come across a few different types of children. They are:

– The Roamer – The Roamer ranges in age from “just learned to walk” to about 3 yrs old. Roamer likes to walk up to roughly 8 ft from his table. Just enough to come hang out at my table. I don’t mind the Roamer too often as long as they don’t want to touch me with their often dirty hands. Most of the time a smile will send them running back to their table to shy away from the looks. But then the game begins where the Roamer will creep back, make eye contact and then run away again.

I’d prefer at least a simple gesture from the guardians of the Roamer to coral the child. Many times I have witnessed the guardians who don’t say anything and let the Roamer do his thing. The Roamer can be cute but can also get annoying at times…especially if they have the sniffles like Coughy.

– Coughy – Coughy actually ranges in age from infant to adult. Coughy is an annoying child for me. I don’t like sitting near a child that has the sniffles or a bad cough. No matter what the parents say “oh it’s just allergies”, “oh he’s not contagious”, not acceptable. Germs = bad. Take your junk to-go please.

– The Pitcher – “Oh he’s going to be a baseball player” I hear as chips, fries, dino-nuggets, go hurling across the table bouncing off the floor and end up resting near my foot. No, no he/she is not going to be a baseball player. The worst is the spitball Pitcher. Once food enters the mouth, I would prefer that it stays there. Throwing food at the table is only acceptable when the child is too small to hurl the projectile past your party. Once it enters another patron’s circle of trust, action needs to be taken.

– Pig Pen – I like Pig Pen especially since I don’t have to clean him/her. That girl chomping away on her corn dog all the while with her hair in her mouth…that just cracks me up. Pig Pen leaves such a mess on the table and floor, I just hope the ‘rents tip well for the extra clean up.

– Poltergeist – This scary child lives exclusively in the booth next to you. Her head spins around while the adults are not paying attention and next thing you know, BAM, there’s a 3 yr old’s face two inches from the back of your head. Scary. I normally handle Poltergeist as I do with the Roamer, a smile and hope for parental guidance on the other side of the wall. The worst is when Poltergeist makes physical contact…or has a bit of Coughy tendencies. Eyes front!

– The Screamer – This innocent child is usually the youngest of the bunch. In its infancy, the screamer is actually rather cute. Newborns that don’t have the lung capacity to scream loudly is adorable…but once they get that second wind…its time to take it outside. Wrap that meal to-go and enjoy it at home.

– Stinky – Oh man, nothing worse than that kid that’s just a little too old to still be in diapers dropping a deuce in the middle of the restaurant and the parents being oblivious cause they are used to it. This needs to be a hazard zone, bring in the Hazmat team and sanitize the building. Oh it’s that bad and you know it.

– Hey Mom – hey mom…hey mom…hey mom…hey mom…mommy…mommy…hey mom…hey mom…hey mom…hey mom…mommy…mommy…mommy…ANSWER HIM!!! I know you can’t hear him anymore as your ears have tuned this phrase out but the rest of us heard him the first 13 times.

The point of all this nonsense is that I feel kids these days (yes, I just said “kids these days”) have been given, or maybe have slowly taken, some sort of equality as adults. They seem to think that they can say NO to their parents now. That it’s ok to express their unhappiness really loud in public places. There seems to be way too much freedom and acceptance or tolerance with kids now. I don’t get this.

It’s purely my opinion but I think that the above characteristics are annoying for people with and without kids. A couple of these are not really a big of a deal for me (Coughy is just not right) but could be an issue for many. Obviously with the Baltazar’s conversation the comments showed that there are some people who have strong opinions about the subject of kids in restaurants.

I’m not saying that your kid is annoying. I like kids. Kids are great. I just think that SOME parents and SOME kids should display a little more common courtesy to those around them. You know who you are and you are NOT hansei. Most parents I’ve witnessed dining out at restaurants actually do a great job with their children, it’s just those few that ruin it for the rest.

Eat or die,

-BOR

Setting a Counterexample

Additional Articles:
http://www.ncpamd.com/Dining_Out.htm
http://parentcenter.babycenter.com/refcap/preschooler/ptravel/63913.html
http://www.babyzone.com/momtomom/stories.asp?mcid=71

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Chillable July 26, 2007 at 3:37 pm

LOL, this cracks me up, especially as a newbie parent to a 5-month old! Man, it was so easy in the beginning—those newborns will sleep like angels in their carseats for hours on end. Now? Not so much. She’s not happy if she’s not sitting in our lap grabbing at french fries. I don’t know what the future holds but I’m pretty sure it involves lots of chinese takeout and pizza deliveries.
For now, we institute the 10-second cry rule: cry/fuss for more than 10-seconds, and whoever is more finished with their meal takes the little one outside. Yeah, we end up eating alone sometimes, but it’s better than driving everyone (ourselves included) insane!

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dkgoodman July 26, 2007 at 3:59 pm

Great post!

I don’t know if it’s Dr. Spock, the hippie movement, having both parents work, or what, but parents definitely seem more permissive “these days”. Not all of them, of course, but more than used to be.

The funny thing is, I think children not only NEED limits, but they LIKE limits. Sure, a kid will test whatever rule you give them. They’re like little scientists and lawyers, probing the limits of what they can do, and where the loopholes are. That’s how they learn. They want to know what they get punished for and what they don’t get punished for, so they can stay within those limits comfortably, and know what it’s going to cost them when they don’t.

I think if parents are clear about what the limits are, and CONSISTENTLY ENFORCE them, kids will generally be better behaved. And it’s better for the kids. You don’t see kids trying to walk through walls much, do you? That’s because every time a kid tries to walk through a wall, the wall consistently and without anger stops the kid from doing it. A smart kid will stop trying to walk through walls.

How many times have you seen a kid whine at their parent, and the parent gives them what they want? They have just rewarded the kid for bad behavior. If whining never worked, the kid would stop doing it. But we see parents giving in to kids all the time.

Maybe it’s time to require training and a license to have kids. 🙂

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Jen July 26, 2007 at 4:33 pm

Yeup, those poltergeist kids are creepy. While you are at it, see if you can get them durn kids off my lawn!

Seriously… if my kids acted like that in public there would be he** to pay. We have had our moments, but there has to be a consequence for poor behavior.

I don’t think the way schools handle kids helps anymore than the parents. They are so afraid of repercussions that there are rarely consequences for their actions. Not that I think they should bring the rod back, but I think the current premise that good behavior should be rewarded and bad behavior should be ignored is doing these kids a huge disservice.

Meanwhile it seems like so many parents are under the impression that their kids are their friends so they can’t possibly “be mean” to them. Er, sorry – but would you really be friends with that smelly, disrespectful little brat if you had a choice?

(end rant)

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Jennifer July 26, 2007 at 4:51 pm

This post is amusing but it’s unnecessarily incendiary. Also, it’s unhelpful. You should have written something like “top 10 tips for a successful dinner out with kids.”

As has been mentioned, parenting doesn’t come with a manual; there’s no class to take at COCC. Parents learn from trial and error, as they go along. You most often see young children misbehaving at restaurants because 1> young children haven’t learned the rules yet and 2> sitting still requires a slower metabolism than they have and 3> the parents are STILL LEARNING.

My children are 5 and 3. When my firstborn was tiny, we kept trying to go out — but found it crazy difficult. So we’ve spent a few years cooking for ourselves. My guess is that the parents you see are still optimistic, still hoping that they can continue their lives as they were pre-kids.

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Vanessa July 26, 2007 at 5:21 pm

haha I love it!

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Jen July 27, 2007 at 12:49 am

Parents learn from trial and error, as they go along.

Jennifer, in general I agree with this statement. But there are a lot of parents that don’t and/or won’t learn (to be parents).

They are more worried about their child’s opinion and whether they “like” them. Many equate “stuff” with love. But what they don’t and/or won’t understand is, in the long run their child will probably like (and respect) them more if they provide some guidance and rules.

At any rate, they are often the ones with the potential to ruin dining, shopping, and vacation experiences for the rest of us… and our kids!

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Immy January 8, 2008 at 12:12 am

This is a great post.

Jen, I agree with you. A Lot of parents do want to be friends with their kids. Sorry, that is not our job. Our job is to be the parent. The guardian, and disciplinarian.

I have been blessed with children who knew that when I gave warning, not to push the boundary again. I guess leaving at the best time once was enough for them.

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Anonymous April 14, 2008 at 1:15 am

As a mother of twins we ate alot of take-out so as not to bother all the diners who think children only belong at pizza parlors and Red Robins or fast food places. the stares and glares made me miserable and it was easier to get it to go. As they got older we went for lunches and my sons were well-behaved and learned restaurant manners. We have never stared or glared at a young family trying to have an evening out. They are only young for a short while and I say enjoy every minute of it.

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