We have all been there. Many of us parents are still searching for that magic formula for a peaceful night dining out.
So how do you get tantrum-throwing tykes and picky preteens to behave at a restaurant? Child experts and wily mothers have a few ideas:
No electronics: phones or tablets. We know, we know, it is easy to keep them quiet with some tableside Netflix. But games and videos at the table often encourage negative social behavior. They are not engaged with the restaurant experience, so they never know the right way to act.
For younger kids, experiment with new foods at home, not at a restaurant. Go with the tasty standbys when dining out.
You can always offer your kids some of your food if they tire of their meal. That is a good time for education and distraction.
Let toddlers and tykes take a nap before going out. They will be less likely to be cranky at the restaurant.
Reward system: "If you're good, you can have dessert." Old-school but still surprisingly effective.
When kids are old enough, empower them for the whole restaurant process: from picking the restaurant to choosing a table to discussing the menu and ordering for themselves. When they are more invested they are usually better behaved.
If they do misbehave, make them apologize to surrounding diners and servers. It might be tough the first time, but the embarrassment they feel might mean they will not do it a second time.
Nothing wrong with a quick walk outside to get some fresh air and maybe calm some anxiety or crying. It often refreshes the situation.