Don't Be THAT Family - 7 Restaurant Manners Your Kids Should Know

Before you eat out with kids, make sure they know how to behave

Practicing good restaurant manners with kids can be fun!. Andersen Ross/Getty Images

While it's important for kids to know basic table manners at home, they should also know how to behave when they are at a restaurant. Recently, there's been much talk in the news about restaurants that have instituted bans on kids. Some restaurants have denied access to kids entirely while others have restricted entry to kids (no kids past a certain time in the evening, say, or no kids who are under a certain age).

Others have simply asked parents to remove children who are disrupting other diners.

Whether you agree or disagree that banning kids is unfair, the fact is that kids can sometimes be very unpleasant company, whether it's in a restaurant, airplane, or even in line at the supermarket. As a parent, I can tell you that kids aren't always perfect and quiet, especially when they are supposed to be. And if I'm paying to eat out at a restaurant, I don't want to have to suffer through a meal while sitting near a child who's having a screaming fit, running around, or throwing food.

So here's a plea to parents: The next time your child is loud, misbehaving, or doing something else to disrupt the peace, take him outside to calm him down and reset his behavior. And teach your child these important restaurant manners. It'll not only benefit your family, but lend more support to the argument that all kids should not be banned because some children misbehave.

7 Restaurant Manners Kids Should Know

Teach your child these good restaurant manners so that they can be shining examples of how kids should behave in restaurants, and not get the side-eye from other diners who see you as THAT family--the ones they wish would leave!

  1. How to not speak too loudly
    Teach them the difference between an "indoor voice" and an "outdoor voice." Does your child want to tell you something in a really loud and excited voice? He should know that the people seated near him may not want to hear what he has to say as much as you do. Practice using an "indoor voice" with him before you go to the restaurant and teach him to wait patiently for his turn if someone else is speaking.
  1. How to be respectful to the staff
    Remind your child to say "please" and "thank you" to the waitstaff. Have your child thank the staff at the restaurant, whether it's the waiter who takes your order and brings your meal or a busboy who clears the dishes. And go over some good manners, such as how to greet people properly.
  2. How to be polite at the table and use good table manners
    Go over other basic table manners with kids, such as waiting to eat until everyone is served and not speaking with your mouth full.
  3. How to stay in her own seat
    Explain that kids must stay in their seats because waitstaff and diners are constantly moving around, and the people who are quietly eating around them may be bothered by kids running around. Help kids stay in their seats with toys or activities. Bring an activity bag to occupy kids when they get bored. (This can be useful for any outing, not just a meal at a restaurant.) This "survival kit for parents" should include crayons, paper, sticker books, and puzzles--anything that will keep your child occupied.
  1. How to have a quiet and calm conversation over dinner
    As your child gets older, you'll really appreciate his ability to sit and have an interesting conversation with you and other adults. Plant the seeds now by talking to your child at mealtime at home and at a restaurant about topics that interest him, such as his friends, favorite activities, or what he loved about his day at school.
  2. How to quietly watch a movie or show
    If your child is still fidgety getting restless after other efforts to entertain her have failed, it's perfectly fine to resort to an electronic device like a tablet or smartphone so that she can watch a movie or favorite show. Just make sure you have headphones for a so that your child can watch videos or play games without disturbing people at nearby tables.
  3. How to speak in a nice voice
    Set a firm rule of no whine with dinner. It's an unfortunate fact that most young kids resort to whining at one point or another, especially if they're tired or out of sorts. Encourage your child to stop whining by figuring out what's triggering it and showing her how to speak in a more pleasant tone of voice.

Some Other Tips to Keep in Mind as You Teach Good Restaurant Behavior

  • Help them build a sense of pride. Kids naturally want to please their parents. Be sure to give them lots of praise for good restaurant behavior and let them know how much you have noticed and appreciate what they're doing. As they get praise from you--and probably from fellow diners and waitstaff--they'll likely feel a sense of pride in themselves.
  • Practice at home. Before you go out to eat, practice those restaurant table manners at home. Pretend you are eating out at a nice restaurant, even dressing up for dinner and inviting friends over. Have kids pretend that you are a waiter and practice ordering and saying "thank you" and "please."
  • Don't rely on restaurants to entertain kids. While kid-friendly restaurants may give you crayons and paper and even provide toys, most restaurants are there to serve food, not provide entertainment for kids. Bring what you need to keep kids distracted and occupied in case the food arrives late or your child is feeling fidgety.

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