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.

Dressing For Dinner

Wow! My husband and I went to dinner with a group of close friends tonight, and it was the most amazing experience! For those of you who aren’t local to me, we live in a small town, and fine dining experience are few and far between. Due to this, we don’t have many chances to get dressed up for dinner. Tonight, though, felt like a magical occasion, and I loved it.

The Oaks Bed & Breakfast is a recently refurbished home turned into a bed and breakfast. As if this wasn’t neat enough, every Thursday (starting today) they’re having Date Night. (Side note: It’s reservations only.) The meal is set, other than the main protein, which adds a unique element to it as well.

Tonight we had cold cucumber soup, ceviche on a bed of avocado, choice of salmon or stuffed flanked steak accompanied by mushroom risotto and pesto zoodles, melon and mozzarella salad and, finally, chocolate and caramel cheesecake. Every bit was outstanding. It took a while to get through all of the courses, which is exactly what I wanted. I LOVE when dinner is an experience. We also took this time to dress up a bit more than we normally do, and I didn’t realize how much I had missed that.

Additionally, we had great, quality time with friends sans kiddos. 🙂 To top off a perfect evening, we got to sit in the coveted private dining area, which reminded me of the private table in Commander’s Palace.

If you’re within driving distance of Sulphur Springs, Texas, I highly recommend getting reservations for this weekly treat!

Dining Etiquette Q&A – The Charger Plate

Most of the time, my etiquette email, etiquettebyemily@gmail.com, is fairly light on the inbox side. However, a few times throughout the week, I’ll have a reader’s question waiting to be answered. Today is such an occasion!

The charger plate – How do you use it? When do you remove it? Do you eat off of it?

Ok, first things first. You never eat directly off of the charger plate. When you remove it is quite dependent on what course you begin with. The charger may remain in place until the entrée course PLATE is finished.

Traditionally, the charger dictated the width of a place setting. Since plates were oftentimes dishesfrom the kitchen and then brought out, the charger helped the host know where to set the flatware, glassware, etc.

Personal story: The year from Christmas Eve I decided to tackle the Feast of the Seven Fishes. However, after our Candlelight Service, which went nearly an hour and a half, we didn’t have much time to stuff our pieholes (classy, huh?) before heading off to Midnight Mass. Instead of attempting to wash the salad/dessert plates or soup bowls between courses, I decided to serve everything off of the entrée plate – the main plate, that is.

In some restaurants, they will occasionally remove the charger completely before you begin the meal. That’s perfectly acceptable. The only rule with chargers is they MUST be removed by the time the dessert plate hits the table.

Here is my favorite etiquette expert’s take on formal table settings. I’ve used this guide regularly, and it always comes in handy! http://emilypost.com/advice/formal-place-setting/ Note: For the most formal of meals, salad is served after the main course, so the salad fork is closer to the plate than the dinner fork. Also, in this illustration it is mentioned that the napkin can go under the forks is space is very tight. In her earlier books, this was a major no-no for Mrs. Post. It just shows how etiquette changes over time!

Thank you for reading!!