Yes, I bring my children to restaurants.

by Kristy on July 19, 2012 · 9 comments

As a parent and a foodie, I seem to be stuck in a very difficult position. I love to eat out at restaurants but I’ve got three rambunctious children who are difficult enough to control at home let alone in public and let alone in the confined space of a restaurant.

I think if you want to eat out you should and you should do it often with the children in tow. There are a few strategies to make it work. Here’s what seems to get us through relatively unscathed.

Eat early.

Most normal diners who don’t have to bring three snotty cherubs to dinner with them like to eat dinner at around 7:00 – 7:30 yet many restaurants open much earlier, some as early as 5pm. Getting there when the restaurant opens means there are less people to annoy. When the place gets louder and more packed later on it can be too much stimulation for some children and can exacerbate bad behaviour. Also eating when the restaurant is less busy means the wait staff can be more attentive to your table and the kitchen is more likely to get food out to you more quickly.

Choose your restaurant wisely.

I think that there are probably some establishments that are just not suitable for children such as fine dining restaurants. Save these for date nights or when your children are teenagers. Whilst I’m all for expanding the palettes of my family, choosing a cuisine that you know they will love is an easy way to get behaviour compliance. Most restaurants will have a website where you can view their menu. A quick check to see if there is at least one dish that you know your children will eat will prevent being stuck with shovelling bread rolls down their throats whilst trying to cut a steak with your fork with your other hand. Trust me, I have been there!

For our family, we tend to choose pizza, Thai, Chinese, German, Japanese or modern Australian restaurants. For my son Luka who is the fussiest eater know to man, his requirement is that the restaurant serves either chips, pizza or soft shell crab believe it or not. We also like the casual nature of these sorts of restaurants. We tend not to go anywhere that is too stiff or formal.

Have a small snack before you leave.

I have always been in two minds about this. On one hand if a child is hungry they are more likely to eat what is on their plate. On the other hand and what I find to be more the case is that children have no patience when it comes to waiting for food to arrive. At home when I tell them to come to the table for dinner it is served up immediately whereas there is often a 20-30 minute wait from the time you sit down to the time the first entree is brought to the table when dining at a restaurant. I think that not being ravenously hungry whilst waiting for the food to come out really helps with patience.

Colouring books, playdough, iPads, Nintendo DS?

I’m torn on this one too. So many parents that I talk to tell me that distractions keep their children occupied at dinner time when they are out. I think if it works for you then power to you. I personally feel as though sometimes these things cause more trouble then they are worth. My three end up fighting over games and I really dislike the way it separates the children from conversations and interacting with the group. Perhaps it really depends on what kind of night out you’re after. Are you in a group where you’d like lots of adult conversation and fewer distractions from the children? Are your kids happy to play quietly on a game or quietly colour in? If so it might work.

Be prepared to act swiftly when trouble arises.

If a child is showing signs of becoming tired or misbehaving it’s really prudent to nip it in the bud. Take them outside and reinforce what your expectations are and make sure there is a consequence for bad behaviour. There is no worse feeling than 30 or so pairs of eyes from other diners piercing you like knives when your child is being noisy or misbehaving. People appreciate pro-activity from parents. When all else fails, the threat of no ice cream for dessert usually works!

Dining out with family and friends at Yok Thai Tapas & Wine, Neutral Bay - making it work!!

Dining out with family and friends at Yok Thai Tapas & Wine, Neutral Bay – making it work!!

Eating out is a pleasure that I love to indulge in often and as a parent now  I don’t want to give that up. I believe the more often you eat out with your kids the better they will get. It’s my intention to try as many wonderful restaurants that I can. After all, who better to share a meal with than the people you love the most?

  • Kristina

    We have eaten out at least a few times a month from when our son was a newborn, he is now 3 and a half and now with our second child. We still have meltdowns from time to time. But he has been taught to use manners, ask the waiters for his meals, drinks & if they offer an activity for him, he must answer their question. When presented with food, drink, activity; he responds with a thank you and when we leave a good bye and have a nice whatever time of day. We do bring something from home for him to do, in case he is in a mood or the wait is long. I don’t understand why parents wouldn’t try to encourage food outings, even with the meltdowns!

    • thelifeshemade

      I think the more normal you make eating out for kids the better they will become, especially if it’s something your really enjoy doing you should just keep eating out.

  • Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella

    Good advice for parents! I’m sure the parents don’t wan their kids making a scene and just want to enjoy eating out so they’re good tips :)

  • Lucy @ Lucyeats

    Thanks for visiting my blog=)

    What a great way to introduce them to great food (and also how to behave at restaurants). It’s really nice to know you have a plan of attack in case anything goes wrong -there’s nothing that annoys me more than parents who let their kids disrupt other diners!

    (Also, I love your blog title)

    • thelifeshemade

      Thanks Lucy! I’m really conscious of other diners when my kids are about. I think it’s taken me having 3 kids and growing up a bit myself in the 6 years that I have been a parent but I realise that my precious progeny aren’t always so delightful and appreciated by others. I think especially when people are paying a lot of money for a pleasant evening (as are we) there needs to be respect that goes both ways.

  • ritaazar2

    These are very good advices. I don’t have children yet but I would love to be able to bring them to the restaurant with me when the time come. We should not be restricted to eat home because we have children.

  • Stacey-Lee @ Get on with IT already!

    Valuable advice! Eating out is a rarity in this household, mostly due to budget but a teeny bit because the thought of taking my 3 out to dinner can be absolutely terrifying. I can’t get the younger two (7 & 4) to sit still at the home dinner table let alone one in a restaurant! Practice does seem like the only way to teach them the proper behaviour in these circumstances but when it is a stressful outing, I don’t enjoy the food anyways. Good on you for taking them out and enjoying restaurants, on the odd occasion that we have done so, going early and having activities to amuse them has somewhat eased the stress of it all.

  • noneya

    Take your fucking brats to McDonald’s. Eating in a restaurant is for adults and we don’t want to listen to your brats screaming and whining. Chicken nuggets taste the same whether they’re $4 or $40.

    • thelifeshemade

      Wow you’re a lovely person!

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