Restaurant behavior

Well-behaved kids discount -- good idea or too reward oriented?

How do you feel about rewarding kids for good behavior instead of just expecting good behavior? The danger of rewarding behavior that should be normal is that you're creating a negotiation where there shouldn't be one. If you reward good table manners with ice cream (as the restaurant owner did in the story) what does that mean when you don't serve ice cream next time? The child now sees this as a contract: behavior x brings outcome y, where y is ice cream. If there's no ice cream, behavior x may disappear fast!

The mom in the linked story, Laura King, has great tips:
 * Take your kids out to eat at least a couple times a month.
* Give your kids a snack before you head out.
* Be sure they’re rested and healthy.
* Be ready to engage with your kids.
* Notice the people, art, music, food in the room and talk about it.
* Encourage your kids to talk with you just like you would talk with another adult.
* Enjoy the time you’ve carved out to be with them.

Underlying all of these ideas is one important one: "practice good table manners at home." In other words, model the behavior you expect. What does that mean to you? There are a range of "good" manners for the table. What matters is that manners show respect for the people you're eating with, and the people who prepared and served your meal.

Most parents  teach "indoor voice, "take turns talking" and "don't chew with your mouth open."
How about "don't bother others while they're eating"? Or "sit in your chair until your meal is finished, and ask to be excused before getting up"? -- not every parent cares for the second rule, but most parents like that first one: it's crucial to a peaceful meal. Pick rules that make sense to you, and model them for your children. When you notice they're not using the skills they've learned, gently remind them, even a single word may be enough -- "fork" if they're using their fingers on the spaghetti, or "napkin" if they need to wipe. Don't be critical or angry, and especially don't humiliate your child into behaving, especially at the table. Family meal time should be a positive, bonding time you all look forward to. And that won't work if you or your children see it as ritualized torment. Explain and encourage table skills, and help your children to learn and display them. And then choose restaurants where your style is welcome.

When you're considering what restaurants will best fit -- and reinforce-- your child's developing good manners, pick places where  you and your children will feel comfortable to start with. Plan ahead; don't just drag them into the nearest restaurant at the last minute, when you're all tired and hungry. I think you already know how that will turn out.

There will be times when you need to eat out at the last minute of course, but if you've been prepping your family with good manners,  relaxed mealtimes, and trust, even a hurried hamburger can be pleasant and restorative for all of you.

Engaged parents, happy babies

Engaged parents, happy babies