Elbows off the Table - 5 Ways to Get Your Kids to Behave When Eating Out

Elbows off the Table - 5 Ways to Get Your Kids to Behave When Eating Out


Dining out as a family is something we all enjoy; after all, little compares to great company and great food. But the whole eating out experience becomes a whole lot more challenging when you have young children.

No-one wants to be that family in the restaurant - the one with the child throwing food and having a tantrum, while her parents rant and rave. Dining out is supposed to be a luxury, a relaxing experience. But by teaching your children a little bit of eating out etiquette, it doesn’t have to be a losing battle:

1. Choose the right place (and time!)

Picking the right restaurant is the first step in getting your kids to behave when dining out.

You’ll have a much easier time if you pick somewhere suitable for your child’s age. Most family-friendly restaurants will have outdoor play areas where your child can let off a little steam after eating. This in itself can work as an incentive to get them to behave.

If they run around before, they might be restless and eager to get back out there so misbehave when eating.

Similarly, you need to pick the right time to eat out as a family. It is wise to eat out as early as possible – between about 5pm – as there will be fewer patrons present. As well as giving you a stress-free, enjoyable experience, you can also make sure your children are home in time for bed.

2. Teach restaurant etiquette

One of the reasons children misbehave in restaurants is because they don’t understand what behaviour is expected of them. Before you leave, explain to your child that you’re going out for dinner, what food they can have, and that they’re very grown up going.

You should also explain to your child about using their ‘inside voice’, and not to shout and disturb other families. Remind them to sit nicely in their chair, not to run around, and to be polite to the staff.

These gentle reminders every time you eat out will ensure that your child learns the correct behaviour quickly.

3. Bring something to occupy them

While giving your children noisy games consoles or dolls at the dinner table (especially when dining out) is a big no go, you should still make sure there is something to occupy your child.

To your child, the wait for their dinner can seem like an eternity and when boredom sets in bad behaviour creeps in. Find out if the restaurant provides paper and pencils, or take your own. If you’re sat outside, play I Spy with your little one to keep their mind off the wait.

This will help keep them at the table, and keep them quiet. 

4. Let your child choose their meal

Some parents are set against the children’s menu, while others see it as a Godsend. Whatever camp you’re in, let your child pick his own dinner.

Read through the menu with them, explaining what each item is and ask them what they would like. Encourage them to try new things, or at least offer them some of yours. Letting them pick their own dinner will make them feel much more grown up, and grownups are much more likely to behave at the dinner table.

5. Treat them like an adult

The final tip follows on from this point. Dining out is a grown up experience, so you need to give your child a chance to behave like one. Engage them in adult conversation at the table, and make sure they’re enjoying their experience too. If your child feels more grown up, they are much less likely to misbehave.

Simply withholding desert isn’t the best way to teach your children how to behave when eating out. By following the advice outlined in this article, you and your child are sure to have a much more enjoyable dining experience.

Core Assets Fostering is a leading children’s services organisation in the UK, helping children and their carers to have a happy and stable home. If you are interested in becoming a foster carer, visit their website for more information.

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