"Sit up. Sit up. Sit up! Quiet please, others are trying to enjoy their night out too. Quiet! Turn around on the bench. Stop hitting your sister under the table. Leave the condiments alone. What are you doing now?"
If you are tired of nagging your kids when out at a restaurant for a family meal, try the following experiment.
Step #1 – TTFT (Take Time For Training)
Play restaurant or have a tea party at home as a fun instructional way to learn about eating out manners. Ham it up and have fun with being all "proper". The best time to teach is not "correcting in the moment". Instead, work ahead to set expectations and model the behaviour you’d like to see.
Step # 2 – Plan Ahead
Plan three trips to kid-friendly restaurants. The sole purpose of this event is to teach and train. Do not carry an expectation of staying for the meal. In fact it is best if you go expecting to leave each time. Be ready to ask for the cheque and put full plates of hot food in take-out bags.
Step #3 – Logical Consequences
Explain to the kids that you like to go and use your restaurant manners just like they did during your imagination meal and ask if they would like to do that as well. Be clear that if people don’t use their eating out manners it means you’ll have to leave. Ask again if they would still like to go.
By doing this you are applying a non-punitive method of discipline called a logical consequence. A logical consequence has the following attributes:
R – Respectful
R – Related to the mistaken behaviour
R – Relevant to the situation
R – Revealed in advance
Step #4 – Encourage Expected Behaviour
Go out to eat! Appreciate any little thing that is done on-task. Plan ways to engage a conversation or doodle on place mats together. Stay social and busy in positive ways.
Step #5 Choice
If misbehaviour begins, offer no warning, threats, reminding, or nagging. Simply provide a choice; "Can you calm yourself or do we need to go?"
If they continue, it’s time to leave.
Step #6 – Follow Through, But Stay Cheery
In a firm and friendly way, leave the restaurant as you had stated you would.
No need to get mad, lecture, or be disappointed. All these actions take away from the lesson you are trying to teach and reduce the chances that the child will see how they have single-handedly spoiled their own fun. An irate parent deflects the attention to them and the child can "blame" the situation on their parents being "unreasonable".
Step # 7 – Mistakes are Okay
Assure you child that it’s okay and that you can try it again next week.
Step # 8 – Don’t Give Up
Eat out again and repeat until your child decides that it is a better choice to use his manners rather than misbehave.
Good luck and happy eating.