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.

An Easy Summer Side – Caprese Salad

Gardening is not one of my talents. Try as I might, most of my plants just go ahead and give up way before it’s time so as to not prolong the inevitable. The only exception I seem to have (at least until it’s scorching hot) is with my herb garden.

This year we planted basil, thyme, mint, rosemary (well, it’s the lone survivor from past years) and multiple tomato plants. As you can tell, it’s a small garden, but it’s full of items we use regularly.

One of my favorite dishes to serve as a side or an easy appetizer is caprese salad. My kids love it, so we make it often while my basil plants are still kickin’.One of my favorite things about this dish is that it’s so easy to make a little or a lot.

The Recipe:

Simply cut up ripe tomatoes and layer with torn mozzarella (not the slices or shredded…go for the real deal). I like to chiffionade the fresh basil leave to make it easier to eat. Drizzle quality olive oil and basalmic vinegar like Ariston Traditional Modena Balsamic Premium Vinegar Aged 250ml Product of Italy Sweet Taste on top. Sometimes I’ll add a smidgen of salt directly on top of the tomato slice. Fresh mozzarella isn’t overly salty, so you’ll need to see your preference on this.

A variation of this could be to skewer on toothpicks a cherry tomato and mozzarella ball with a basil leaf in between. You’ll still drizzle with olive oil and basalmic vinegar or you could combine the two for a vinegarette dip.

Do you have a favorite summer recipe?

 

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A Fun Party Idea – Tea Party with Dolls!

I had a reader write in to ask what “just because” party she could do for her daughter. Her daughter is in the 2nd grade. They’re newer to their area, but they have already made several friends. I couldn’t think of a better party than a doll tea party!

While it’s still spring, you could take advantage of the warmer (but not hot) days by having the party outside. Have all of the girls bring a doll or stuffed animal with them. You could even lay out a blanket like a picnic for the dolls. If you have plastic play plates, set those out. If not, paper is perfect! It definitely doesn’t have to cost a lot.

For food, think easy-to-eat foods.

If your daughter loves PB&Js, go with that! Make the food your own. An easy-to-make craft is to have each of the girls make their own paper plate party hat!

You can find lots of tea-centered games and craft on Pinterest, too! If a little girl in your life loves tea and the classic 18″ dolls, this American Girl – Beforever Rebecca – Rebecca’s Teatime Traditions is amazing!

American Girl tea set

American Girl-brand items are always more expensive than their counterparts (Our Generation, My Life, etc.), and *surprise, surprise,* I don’t always like the American Girl items better. However, I do love the above tea set. My daughter has the 18 Inch Doll Tea Party & Dessert Food Set, Two Complete Doll Sets for Your Favorite 18 Inch Doll | Includes 64 Pieces of Pretend Doll Food & Accessories, which has plenty of items to share. It’s definitely a bigger bang for your buck, and, as often as we have friends over, it was the better choice for us!

18″ Doll Tea Party Set

Hospitality is very important to me, so I’m thankful that she is so willing and eager to entertain! If this isn’t something you’re comfortable with, I highly suggest the book Just Open the Door: How One Invitation Can Change a Generation. I first heard about this book from Money Saving Mom.

I feel like Garrett and I became overly busy at one point in our lives, and we’re getting back on track for making time for what’s important to us. Afterall, when we say yes to something, we’re saying no to something else.

I hope you feel inspired to have a party or get-together of your own! I’d love to hear about it if you do. 🙂

 

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Reading Is Good For the Soul

One of my favorite things to do in my small town is to visit the local library on Thursdays with my kids. Most days the library closes at 6:00pm. On Thursdays, though, they delay opening for two hours in order to stay open until 8:00pm. The fact that the library is just two blocks from our home doesn’t hurt either.

My absolute favorite time to visit is at dusk. Oftentimes, particulary in spring and fall, the weather will be a bit misty, blurring the lines of the hectic world and washing everything clean. The lightposts glow pink as the light halos around the bulb. Walking towards the building becomes more and more peaceful with each step. It’s my sanctuary.

“Reading allows us to experience different cultures and places…”

It’s always been important to me that our kids grow up loving to read. It isn’t easy, though. It’s a time commitment when time is a rare commodity. It is, however, so incredibly worth it. The first time my daughter read a book on her own, I experienced a pride and happiness I had never known. My son, age 4, is getting close, too, and I’m on the edge of my seat waiting for the day.

With reading, we get to experience different cultures and different places for a low, low price. I am a big promoter on etiquette not costing a lot. Knowledge shouldn’t either. There are many books I re-read because I get homesick for the different places. I’m currently reading Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: A Savannah Story again, and I love it just as much, if not more, than the first time through. If you’re local to Sulphur Springs, the library had another copy available yesterday!

I hope this post encourages you to find a little time each week to devote to reading. I promise it’s time you’ll find well spent.

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What Etiquette Is About

This quote needs very little follow up, but I always tell my students during cotillion that etiquette is not about acting superior to anyone else. Your manners will help you go further because of how you make people feel. Be kind to everyone. People remember how you make them feel. Everyone has value.