Helping your child behave in a restaurant
Growing up in Ireland in the 1960’s, trips to a restaurant were few
and far between. For me, it was on Christmas shopping day,
Pantomime day and a couple of times during our summer holiday.
Manners were vital and my mother would watch to make sure that we were using the correct utensils, not eating
with our mouths open and so on. During the boom years, many
families in Ireland enjoyed a more comfortable lifestyle and good financial positions. As a result, Sunday lunch was more often in a restaurants or pubs allowing
parents to relax and eat the meal without the chore of cooking it or cleaning up afterwards!
Good times indeed but along with this change came the reality of more and more children in
restaurants or pubs with their parents. So what is the problem
you ask? Well none really – as long as the children behave
properly. Often parent’s fail to respect the comfort of the
other diners allowing their children to run around, climb under tables, climb on chairs, shout and scream and
so on, which can be very annoying to others on the premises who are trying to relax and enjoy their meal, not
to mention, keep their own children under control. The is
nothing worse that watching your well behaved child watch
another child running around and you know well that they are thinking to themselves “that looks like fun, I
think I’ll join in the fun and run around too”! The reality is
that parents have to keep children under control for many reasons:
Comfort of the other diners
Helping parents who’s children are behaving well (children don’t ‘copy’ the poor
Safety – there are trays of hot beverages, soups etc being moved around which could
cause a nasty scald if your child knocked into one of these
So what can you do to help to keep your child calm and well behaved in a
Practice at home.
The first tip is to try to set a table and get your child used to sitting at a table (even if it
is in a high chair) and understanding the ritual of sitting, eating and having conversation. You can’t expect a child who never sits at a table at home to suddenly be
inspired as to how to behave in a restaurant.
Teach them how to behave
Tell you child what you want them to do when you get to the restaurant. For example, “I know you are a very good boy/girl, so please sit quietly at
the table when we are in the restaurant.” You could even have a
little incentive such as a nice desert, an extra bedtime story and so on. By telling the child how you want them to behave you are making it clear to
them the behaviour that you want. If, on the contrary, you tell
them what you don’t want, you may just put ideas in their head!
For example, parent says “when we get to the restaurant, don’t start climbing on the seats or running
around”…….child thinks – “wow, that sounds like fun….”!
Have some backup!
While we as adults can sit quite happily in a restaurant, enjoying the food, ambiance and
conversation, it can be quite boring for a child after a short amount of time. Have some backup with you to help to keep your child amused if they do get
bored. For example, a younger child may enjoy colouring or
drawing pictures so you could bring paper and crayons. Perhaps
your child loves to play with some small cars or figures, if so, bring some for them to play with to keep
them amused. Older children may bring a Nintendo or suchlike,
the basic principle is the same. Bring something that will keep
them amused and is suitable for playing with in a restaurant.
For example, a football may keep your child amused but it would be at all suitable for a
Toddlers and Tantrums
If a toddler gets very frustrated and begins a tantrum, first try to calm them by encouraging
them to play with whatever you brought along with you – “oh look, you drew a car, can you draw a green
one?”. Alternatively, use the technique of distracting the child
to help them to switch their attention to something else and calm down. For example, if there is a painting on the wall, draw their attention to
that “look at the picture, what is in that picture? Is it a ….” Etc.
If your child continues throwing the tantrum, it may be wise to gently take them outside or to a
quiet area and soothe them. Reassure them that they are okay and
try to calm them. Once calm, you can see try to get your child
to return to the table until you have finished.
One final tip, most children don’t eat a starter so if you are ordering one, ask the server to
bring your child’s main course when they bring your starter.