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Whining And Dining

Mar 4, 2008
Have you ever gone to a restaurant to relax after a hard day's work only to have a child at the next table screaming, crying, or throwing temper tantrums throughout your entire meal?

It's not easy, if not impossible, to enjoy yourself, let alone carry on a nice conversation with whomever you're dining with while listening to a screaming child. Although we can sympathize with the parents, who are usually red-faced and greatly embarrassed by their child's behavior, frankly, it's distracting and annoying.

I will confess I've been that embarrassed parent. I am ashamed to say our family's presence has annoyed our share of fellow diners. When my kids were younger, there were more than a few times when they threw fits in the middle of a dining-out experience. Almost enough to boycott dining out until they were in their teens. Or, at least limit eating out to fast food restaurants where whining children are the norm, rather than the exception.

If you're daring enough to admit you've been there, if your child has screamed, cried or temper tantrumed and annoyed his or her way through dinner, read on. Here are some tips for making your dining out experience more peaceful for everyone.

1. Choose the restaurant wisely. There is truly no need to eliminate sit down restaurants from your life for the next ten years (fine dining, maybe). If a restaurant provides high chairs, it means that children are welcome (or at least tolerated!) If you're concerned about distracting other diners, ask for a table in the corner or in an area that's noisier to begin with, such as near the kitchen.

2. Timing is Everything. Avoid scheduling your lunch or dinner during rush hour, when the restaurant will be more crowded. The least busy time to dine out is typically between two and five PM. Timing your child's mood is also a must. Taking a child out to eat when he's tired almost guarantees a dinnertime meltdown. Right after naptime is usually best.

3. Be Prepared. I am convinced that dining out with children is one of the main reasons companies design huge purses. Throw a few extra things in your bag before leaving for the restaurant. Things like snacks and other food options in case your child decides she doesn't like anything on the menu. Small toys or books that can occupy her while she waits for her food. Many restaurants provide these things for times such as this. Ask your hostess or waitress. She'll probably be glad you did.

4. Don't Lose your Cool. As embarrassed as you may be if your child throws a fit in the middle of a busy restaurant, and no matter how many angry looks you get from fellow diners, take it in stride. Yelling at your child or getting frustrated only makes everyone feel worse. Walk out with your child for a few moments to see if he'll calm down. If not, you may need to leave the restaurant altogether. Apologize to your waitress, ask for carryout containers and hightail it out of there.

One last thought: don't give up hope! Just because you had an unpleasant dining experience this time doesn't mean it won't be smooth sailing next week. Try, try again. Pray for God to give you patience with your child. And pray for other diners to extend you a little grace as you master the dining out experience with your child.
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