Reader Question: How Do I Get My Kids To Behave At Restaurants?

In 2017 at Commander’s Palace

The most commonly asked question I get from parents is “how do I make my kids behave at a restaurant?” There isn’t a magic pill. This takes consistency and lots of grace. When I first started taking my kids out to eat. I made up my mind to be prepared mentally and emotionally to leave at any point where my kids disrupted another diner. Of course, I always make sure to not put my kids in situations that are selfish, such as having them out too late. Last year at ages 3 and 5 we were able to enjoy a very nice, long meal at Commander’s Palace with my mom. My daughter understood that eating there was very special and a treat. This is not to toot my own horn. This is simply what has worked for us and for others. I promise you, it has not been easy from the beginning. When they aren’t accustomed to something like eating at a restaurant, they won’t inherently know how to behave. It has taken consistency in my expectations and sticking to my guns if something happened. Thankfully, it hasn’t in years. Enjoying a meal out is not a right that we are given, so having respect and courtesy for others is important. Here are a few tips that have worked over the years:

(1) Let them know your expectations upfront. I would always let my kids know what the plan was and what was expected of them. We didn’t eat in front of the tv every night and then magically expect them to know how to act at a table. I would go over basic table etiquette with them so they would become more comfortable using it, such as using a spoon or fork instead of their hands.
(2) Be consistent. Just like in a restaurant, we don’t allow yelling or crying at the table. If they’re frustrated, they may tell us why. We also have them place their napkins on their laps. By practicing at home, it is a more natural transition for them to use these techniques in public.
(3) Be realistic. Don’t expect your 18-month old baby to be okay sitting still and quiet for three hours at a fancy restaurant. For your first time out, ask for a to-go box at the start, if that makes you more comfortable. If your child is old enough to talk, point out all of the fun colors and build up this experience for them. Once you consistently see the results you want, you can incorporate something new, like dining in the evening.
BONUS TIP: Be prepared. This is especially necessary if you’re going out to eat during a busy time. Take a board book, colors or silent toy to keep your child occupied. Also, it’s okay for those who are little (think under four-years old) to have a snack brought from home if things are too busy, such as puffs. If you bring something for them to eat, have everything you need. Don’t ask for the restaurant to provide anything.

End of Year Field Trips

Our daughter is finishing up Kindergarten, which I can barely believe. She’s had an amazing year with a wonderful teacher. Each year at her school, they go on a trip to the Northeast Texas Children’s Museum in Commerce, Texas. If you’re ever in this area, I highly recommend this place! We were only there for about 2 1/2 hours, and Katherine could have (and has before) stayed there all day. It’s a 501(c)3, and admission is $6 for kids and $5 for adults.

Katherine riding on the train

They have plenty of options, all of which require plenty of imagination from the kids. There’s a stage with costumes, a train with a station, a bank, a pizza parlor, a grocery store, a pirate ship and many, many more areas. Katherine’s favorite may have been the bubble room!

        Inside of the bubble!

I remember as a child how important these field trips were to me and how many memories I made there. I’m so thankful to have been able to go to see Katherine and her friends at hers.

Garrett and I took off the week of May 14th through the 18th to celebrate our anniversary (which is May 14th). We also decided that for two of the days, we’re go our separate ways (absence makes the heart grow fonder and whatnot). He headed off to Oklahoma, while I stayed more local for a couple of small “daycations,” one of which we took right after her field trip!

Maybe a future banker like her parents?

I can’t wait to share our other trips with you soon!

Happy (Early) Mother’s Day

I decided to go ahead and publish this post on Friday instead of Sunday just in case you’ve forgotten what Sunday is – Mother’s Day!

I haven’t experienced anything more life changing than becoming a mother. Every emotion I was capable of, I think I experienced. And it’s wonderful. Truly, it is. If I’m being 100% honest, though, I also mourned the “old” me. The “me” who didn’t have the weight of a thousand worlds suddenly thrust upon her. I remember the first time the realization hit me that I was completely and fully responsible for a small, innocent human. I went out to my granny’s house and sat with her for the longest time. I remember her looking at me for a while before speaking. She only said, “Being a mom has aged you.”

Now, she wasn’t referring to the dark circles that has appeared the same time my baby girl did. There’s an innocence that is lost when we become parents. That moment shifted our relationship into an even deeper place. It was also the moment that made me realize that we don’t achieve those deep relationships without the valleys. The all-nighters, incessant crying and constant neediness has formed a bond between my daughter and myself that you simply cannot manufacture. You have to hit those lows to come out on the other, wonderful side.

I’m grateful to all of the moms in my life.

To my mother-in-law, who raised me husband, I’m so thankful you look at me like a daughter and truly love my kids.

To my grandma who would stay up late with me eating peanut butter toast watching Disney movies while everyone else slept. Thank you for cultivating my connection with past generations of our family.

To my granny who taught me more during her life by simply being the loving person she was. Plus, she had the kindest laugh.

And to my mom, the one who would make me a glass of water in the middle of the night because it “tasted better” than when I made it and who has always shown true, unconditional love.

 

Making Every Day Special

My granny had a talent for making every day special. Even though I was 12 when she and my aunt built a new home to move into, I associate most of my childhood memories with her in her old home, which she and my pappy moved into when they were married.

It was a simple white frame home with well-loved wood floors. There were also three points of exit, which probably caused gray hairs for my granny when she was watching me. The home didn’t have central heat or AC, so windows were regularly open, and the smell of honeysuckle permeated the air. She was an avid pie maker, so it was a regular occurance to see a cocount meringue pie in the kitchen.

My granny always told me that she cooked simple meals. But they never felt simple. Even a sandwich lunch in the heat of summer was special there. She pulled out all of the stops, and, as a mom, I wonder where she found her energy. For sandwiches there were always multiple varieties of meats and cheese in the Brookshire’s deli bags. Variety never stopped there, as there were options for every topping I could think of. She’s usually have a cantelope or other ripe summer fruit that she had cut up earlier, and tomatoes were both a topping and a side, sprinkled with a bit of salt. While her favorite chips were Lays potato chips, those were never the only ones she had. Even in the absence of one of her homemade pies (which never lasted long), Little Debbie treats were there following the meal. She still made it an experience.

I was thinking about these meals recently. I think too often we add unneccesary pressure on ourselves. While I do not (and will not) ever think it’s acceptable to just grow lazy and do the bare minimum, I also don’t think it’s prudent to add extra work just to add the extra work. She never felt pressured to make seven-course meals. She knew how to keep things appropriate.

My granny made sandwiches special. She enjoyed doing more than throwing a piece of meat and cheese on a slice of bread. That’s where I find much of my motivation. The meal never cost much, but, even as a 31 year old, I remember those meals vividly.

To me, this sums up etiquette so well. It doesn’t have to cost much. It just has a way of making the ordinary special. Don’t let fear hold you back from making each day special. You don’t need to work yourself silly. Invite friends over for sandwiches. I can guarantee those memories will last.

My daughter, my mom and I are the next generations of my granny’s legacy.

 

Nostalgic Food From My Childhood

My mom is a great cook who was raised by a great cook. Many summer days and nights I remember her cooking all of the meals outside and on the grill. Steaks with baked potatoes and a salad full of garden-fresh vegetables was a standard summer meal. She also fried okra and chicken fairly often. Especially the okra. To this day, I think fried okra may be my all-time favorite food.

We had family over regularly for fish fries. She’s known for her barbecue and homemade breads.

My mom is notorious for big breakfasts, even though growing up I wasn’t much of a breakfast eater. We usually had eggs, bacon, toast or biscuits and some sort of fruit. Now that she’s a “granny,” though, and not just a “mom,” my kids have Mickey Mouse-shaped pancakes each time they stay with her.

One meal in particular, though, is nostalgic for me. I honestly haven’t made it as an adult because it won’t be as good, I’m sure. I may cave soon, though, because just thinking of it gets me excited!

It was the meal where I knew my mom had had a longer day (she was a high school math and computer science teacher), but it was amazing. Fried spam, ranch-style beans and Kraft macaroni and cheese.

Seriously. Out of everything my mom made, this meal has continued to stand out to me. The spam had a crust from where she had fried it, and it was the perfect salty bite. The Kraft mac and cheese kind of congealed as it cooled, making large bites easier. The ranch-style beans were different from the pintos my granny regularly cooked, making them a bit special, even though they were from the can. The best part? It was a splurge. This meal didn’t happen often, and it came together quickly. Clean up was a breeze, which was an added benefit for me.

Maybe I will have to try this meal just once for my kids to carry on the tradition.