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Dining Out With Children: Should It Ever Be Okay?

By Lisa Pecos

When it comes to dining with children, too many parents fall into the trap of thinking that the rest of the world should happily accommodate their children without complaint. Because we love our children so much, it is easy to forget that other people may not be as charmed by them. This is especially true in grownup restaurants, where diners expect to be able to have a quiet, relaxed meal without someone else’s loud kids running around and disrupting one’s meal.

No one likes to think of themselves as one of those parents who show disregard for others in public places, but given all the things we have to worry about as parents, it is surprisingly easy to fall into this trap without realizing it. If you want to make sure you do not become one of those parents, here are some things to keep in mind about dining with children.

Follow the unwritten rules

Although some restaurants do explicitly forbid children at least during peak hours, many restaurants have no such prohibition. However, it is important to realize that a lack of prohibition does not necessarily mean that eating with children in a certain restaurant is always okay. You could argue that it is a free country and that you can take your kids anywhere, but while that is true, we also have to respect other people, which means following certain unwritten rules.

One of the most important unwritten rules about dining with children is that date-friendly establishments are off-limits. When considering a restaurant, think about whether there may be couples there seeking a quiet, romantic meal. If so, understand that having noisy young children at the next table can kill the mood quickly. Meanwhile, it is also a good idea to avoid restaurants that advertise themselves as fine dining establishments, as they generally seek to create a sophisticated and grownup atmosphere.

Another unwritten rule is that no one outside of your family should be expected to make sure your kids behave. That responsibility falls entirely on your shoulders, which means that you are in charge of ensuring that your child stays seated, keeps his or her voice down, and does not make a mess. This may seem obvious, but ask anyone who has ever been a waiter at a family restaurant and they’ll tell you that a shocking number parents neglect this basic rule.

Dining out with children

When seeking a place to dine out with the whole family, places that advertise themselves as “family restaurants” are the best choices. These places are accustomed to dealing with children and should be able to offer things like high chairs as well as coloring mats and crayons to keep kids occupied. In fact, that is another good sign-if you enter a restaurant and see crayons on the tables, then it is a child-friendly establishment. Also, you can check restaurant web sites to see if they have kids’ menus.

But even in child-friendly restaurants, parents still need to do certain things to make sure it goes well. For example, it cannot hurt to dine during off-peak hours such as the mid-afternoon or early evening, and it is a good idea to ask for a table that is far away from other diners. Then, parents should try to keep their kids seated and well-behaved. And in the event that a tantrum occurs, it is best to end the situation immediately, before it worsens. Rather than allowing the child to rage and disturb all the other patrons, have an adult take the child outside until he or she calms down.

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