Remember those peaceful dinners when you and your significant other would spend the entire dinner talking, laughing, and savoring each and every bite of your much anticipated meal? You might recall seeing other children acting up and wondering why their parents even attempted to venture outside of their homes for dinner. Not only did the families as a whole have a difficult time enjoying their meal, but you are equally distracted by all the commotion. Now that you are a parent, you might look back and chuckle at the fact that, as an outsider looking in, you couldn't have helped but hold a strong opinion of the situation. With scenarios like this one playing through your mind, have you vowed to handle these situations with grace? A child's temperament can make or break the best dinner plans. You know your child best. If getting your child to practice good table manners at your own dining table poses a great challenge for you, then the thought of being someone's dinner guest or dining out at a restaurant might cause you to temporarily stop breathing. Try to collect your thoughts and reevaluate your plan of action to ensure a pleasurable experience.|
Brainstorm past dining experiences - What behaviors were exhibited by your child? Does he act differently in different dining settings? How did you handle the situation? How did fellow diners react, if at all? Did you and your significant other discuss the experience? How did that go? What conclusions did you make regarding future dining experiences?
Consider your dining options - Now that you have revisited past experiences, you can begin to wrap your head around what works and what does not. To discover a win-win dining solution, begin by working from the outside in. This means to look at the atmosphere and how conducive the restaurant is for children in general and then consider your child's specific needs. Fancy water goblets, stark white linens, quiet conversations, and flatware that lines three sides of your plate is most likely not going to be a kid-friendly place. Consider a place where the overall noise level is louder, color/activity books and crayons are as popular as the menu itself, and kids' drinks come in plastic lidded cups. If you do have a poor dining experience, don't be quick to scratch out a restaurant completely. Be open-minded to the fact that your child might just have had a bad day, which then led to the yelling, screaming, and throwing of food. Give the restaurant, and most importantly your child, another chance.
Be prepared - Here are a few useful tips that might help your whole family enjoy a pleasant meal together.
- Plan for the worst and hope for the best. Discuss your expectations with your child prior to entering the establishment. Pick one or two table manners you want your child to focus on during dinner to help set the stage. Also discuss with your partner how you plan to handle any issues and be sure you are in agreement. Then stick to the action plan, be consistent with your expectations, and keep your cool.
- Keep a bag of tricks handy - magnetic games like checkers and tic-tac-toe, coloring books, doodle boards, half the pieces to a game of memory, a barrel of monkeys, action figures, small mirror to make funny faces into or count his teeth, etc. Only pull these items out when you are dining or in another desperate situation when you need to quietly entertain your child. Get only one or two items out at a time. The novelty of these items will help keep his attention for a longer duration.
- Be prepared to order your meal when you give your drink order.
- Have on hand a child size fork and spoon. Many restaurants provide utensils that are as big as their serving sizes which makes it difficult for toddlers to feed themselves with grace.
- Be prepared to engage your child in a fun conversation. Intellectual stimulation will help keep his little body from flailing around the table.
- Praise your child for a dining experience well done. Explain to him what important table manners were exhibited well.