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5 Tips for Teaching Your Toddler Restaurant Manners

5 Tips for Teaching Your Toddler Restaurant Manners

You could spend the next 18+ years eating at home and getting take-out, but at some point you'll long to sit down to a good meal that you didn't have to make or serve yourself. That's when it's time to take on the challenge of teaching your tots restaurant manners, says Circle of Moms member Kelly D.

Here, Kelly and other members share five tips for dining with your family in a real restaurant without being held hostage by a whining kid — or having to flee mid-meal.

1. Practice Makes Perfect

Start by practicing appropriate behaviors at home, including eating dinner at the table instead of in a high chair, and work your way up to regular meals at restaurants, say Leyla F. and Kelly.

Leyla is a strong believer in practicing at restaurants.Her 3-year-old has learned to be well behaved when dining out "because he has been going to restaurants once a week on average." Kelly, too, says practicing pays off. Her daughter, now 3, can now also sit through an entire meal at a restaurant.


2. Actively Teach Good Manners

Teaching and enforcing good manners is key to getting good behavior out of your little ones in restaurants, says Angie P. "Teach them to sit at the table with you, to try at least one bite of each part of their meal. And don't let them kick up a tantrum when they don't like something. Teach them that even if they don't want to eat it, they can still sit with you and talk and to ask politely for more of something they do like."

A member named LaCi recommends modeling appropriate restaurant etiquetteas well as offering "helpful reminders — not necessarily criticism, just reminders — when they're doing something less classy than you'd like."

3. Explain Your Expectations in Advance

Telling your toddler before you arrive at the restaurant how you expect him to behave is key to making it through a pleasant meal, says Wendy M. "They need to know that they are expected to be relatively quiet and remain in their seat. If they've been prepped beforehand, a reprimand for acting out won't be a surprise."


4. Choose Family-Friendly Restaurants

Many members advise avoiding formal and expensive eateries. Instead, they say, seek out more informal sit-down places that cater to families. You can tell a restaurant is family-friendly by its menu and seating options: look for kid-friendly items like "burgers, corn dogs etc..," spacious banquettes, or even outdoor seating.

A few members, including Lanie E., recommend places that are loud, so that staff and patrons won't notice or mind "another little one adding his noise to the mix."

5. Provide Breaks and Distractions

It's hard for small kids to sit through a long wait for food on top of a long meal, so parents need to be pragmatic. As Joy B. explains, "They have to learn how to behave in public and part of that learning is finding out ways to make it work."

She recommends a walk outside, especially while you're waiting for service, to give your child the break she needs to make it through the meal. "If we're in a restaurant and the food is taking forever to get to the table and my son starts getting loud or misbehaving, I take him for a walk to the bathroom or outside to occupy him. Then we go back in and eat."

Krista E. comes equipped with distractions. She not only brings toys or books for her 14-month-old, but also "a small snack to tide him over while we're waiting for our food." She is also careful, she says, not to "dawdle excessively over our own meals."

What tactics do you use to dine at restaurants with your toddler?

Image Source: Sonya Green via Flickr/Creative Commons

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.

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