Mind the Gap: Who sets the table?

Children are everywhere. This is how we all started out.

I recently read “Bringing up Bebe” by American author Pamela Druckerman about her experiences of living and raising her children in Paris. She is exposed to the French model of raising a child: from sleep to food to naughty allowances to manners – specifically how young children are well-behaved while enjoying fine dining.

Under the ideals of French parenting, no child should ever have poor table manners. This extends to eating out and eating politely and eating in fancy restaurants in a way that all patrons may enjoy their meal. There is something to this that our North American babyhood experience seems to lack.

English: Getting down to it Very poor table ma...

Hey! no elbows on the table! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I read an article regarding the new phenomenon of “child-free” zones: dining places where patrons can have a meal without the noise and distraction of children. I have kids and am not immune to their screaming. I also think it’s bad mannered to have kids screaming at the table, throwing food, or running around just because you may tolerate it and/or don’t know what to do.

Once, for an anniversary celebration, my husband and I went out for dinner. We had no choice but to bring our daughter, who was almost 6 months old. She was a wailer and couldn’t be soothed. One of us ate, while the other paced the alley behind the restaurant, shushing and rocking to minimize the noise that patrons inside, behind a closed-door, might hear. Then we switched positions and finished our meal this way. Happy anniversary. No one thanked us for our consideration, but we got no dirty looks or evil glares on our way out. And we’ve been welcomed back to that restaurant.

I understand the issue that having toddlers tearing around a cafe or playing tag between waiters is annoying, disruptive, and dangerous. I can understand why people would want an “adult-only” environment. I don’t think, however, that this is the real issue. I think the issue is how we initially teach our children their manners and a sense of respect that this lack of etiquette has resulted in this growing problem.

It’s been said that a family that eats together creates cohesion, as well as creating an environment where each person enjoys their food more, eats slower, and eats less overall. We are a society of “stuff-and-go;” how often do we even eat standing up, or in the car? In reality, one seated meal a day, with everyone present, is lucky in our house. But I can still teach my kids some basic expectations of courtesy and manners when we do eat together; they are not wild animals thatย needย to multi-task with toys and can only eat noodles with their fingers.

Creating child-free zones does put a band-aid on a problem. Adults who have chosen not to have children, or those trying to take a break from their own households, may not welcome the chaos that can go along with another family’s brood. But the issue is why these children don’t have the understanding or expectation of what eating entails, especially when paying for a meal and being surrounded by strangers.

I am loath to have my own children dash around a restaurant because they are “bored.” Most places we visit provide some kind of coloring or small toys for distraction before we eat; as they get older we replace this with conversation. I have not specifically set out to create tiny perfect avatars of impeccably mannered diners. I was raised to behave appropriately when eating out (my own parents are from Europe) and expected the same of my children. I also started my children eating out young; meals sometimes were only as long as it took to order food and the kids to eat it, but so be it. They had the experience and didn’t have time to indulge in any destruction.

If we want to limit where we allow children the discretion could lie with an understanding of tolerable behavior. No one wants to admit their child behaves in a way that others find offensive. But we need to look at how we are helping these little people think it’s okay to throw food or run around a restaurant uninhibited. It starts in our own homes with our own meals. Maybe it’s time to all sit down together, and ask who sets the example.

*Do you feel like children are impeding on your space when you go out? (restaurant, museum, movie theatre)

*Are parents being too permissive with children’s manners?

*If you have children, how often do you eat a sit-down meal together?
____

These are my thoughts in response to the Word Press Weekly Writing Challenge: Mind the Gap. This week’s topic was: children. Should children be allowed in adult-oriented places?

____

Welcome to all new readers and visitors finding me through Freshly Pressed! I’m glad you are here: like, disagree, comment, and make yourself heard. Whatever you say I’m sure to reply back to. Let’s have a conversation, and let me know what you are blogging about.

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97 thoughts on “Mind the Gap: Who sets the table?

  1. I expect my kids to behave and be considerate of others when we go out. I call it “heavy “manners” – my Jamaican Grandfather’s term. I think the issue here is that too many parents don’t set the bar particularly high for their kids and this is why many people want kid-free zones. I have kids and I am appalled by the behaviour that some parents choose to ignore in public places; it’s inconsiderate, rude and totally selfish to let your kids disturb others in a public place (within reason of course). Crying babies don’t belong in movie theatres. Noisy toddlers don’t belong in fine dining establishments. I also recall a few meals out when ours were babies; some they slept straight through and others were spent pacing outside. A few nights out ended in meals thrown into take-home boxes to be eaten later on my couch in the comfort of my PJs – not a bad way to end the night! BTW – your kids are a delight!

    • I also agree that parents don’t set the bar high enough for what they expect their kids to do. I once saw a family with two boys devour muffins at a cafe and then leave – with muffin bits all over the floor, chairs, table and surrounding areas. I couldn’t believe that the parents did not notice this, but more so that they had figured that someone else would clean it up and that it was okay.
      Like all kids, mine can be ruthless at home, but when it comes down to it I really do appreciate that they are mostly cognizant of their public personas and do have some semblance of manners and proper etiquette.
      I think your own kids set a very fine example. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. I can appreciate those who do not want children running around and screaming, and having the potential to interrupt dinner. At the same time I always felt that our children were part of our family and thus deserved to go and do the same things that we as parents felt were important enough to do. My parents were born before the Great Depression and had firm ideas of what was permissible behaviour while dining out and were not afraid to reinforce that perception on us kids. When we started a family and started going places the kids were easy, neither one was a screamer. And through both positive and negative reinforcement we were able to maintain the same standards as my parents regarding behaviour. I did not believe that corporal punishment was appropriate and thus did not feel the same need to do as my parents had done. I took the approach that modelling the behaviour we expected with reminders of appropriate behaviour would be adequate and it was.They were quiet, polite and entertained themselves quietly colouring if that was available. There was no running around, no tag, no loud commotion to interrupt others. I was frankly astonished that when we went out that the looks of consternation and dismay at the presence of our children would change over the course of the meal and complete strangers would stop and thank us and compliment us on the actions of our children. Once an older couple looked askance at us at first and then quietly left. When I went to pay I found that they had left a note at the till thanking us for reminding them that not all parents were irresponsible and that not all young children were horrible. They had also paid our bill. I also was perplexed as to the behaviour of other children compared to our own, many parents did not expect much and got less.

    • It sounds like you have a fair and appropriate approach to teaching your children how to behave in public, as well as what you expect out of them. Children are a part of society, and are our families, and should be included, with reasonable behavior.
      Adults who are drunk or rude are also thrown out of public spaces.

  3. kids & food two of my favourite topics. my children have seen a lot of the world & have enjoyed chowing down in fancy london restaurants, along side a busy road in vietnam & next to a cow in an indian chai shop. i expect them to behave well where ever we are & also importantly for me to find something to fill their tummies. it seems pretty basic be polite, considerate, laugh & enjoy yourself but be respectful of your surroundings. of course i have spent meals trading of with my husband outside a restaurant while a fidgety toddler runs back & forth. we do have elbows on tables & green beans taste better eaten with fingers but we don’t stand on chairs & scream or play video games at dinner. it doesn’t really bother me if restaurant patrons want kid free zones but i am annoyed by the assumption that kids can not (with a little help) handle themselves in any surroundings. i am irked by the idea of dumbing down any situation for kids from whats eaten to dinner conversation. after three martinis any adult is just as likely to embarrass my kids as they are to embarrass me. yes i do see kids behaving badly in restaurants but that is i feel about the parents not the kids. over the years i have more often found restaurant staff & fellow dinners charmed & amused by my children than annoyed.
    .

    • I think you understand my point that it’s a parent’s responsibility to provide a child with the guidance, direction and example necessary to be able to function in most places. Sure, kids will be kids and need to run and jump and eat green beans with their fingers. I’m all for exploring and being our age.
      You’ve given your kids a great experience and example by being able to eat in so many different places with such a diverse culture surrounding them. Plus, you’ve provided them with some basic and simple guidelines as to how to behave that is respectful of not only others, but of themselves as well.
      When I see kids throwing food in public I think it’s time for parents to go back to basics.

  4. My kids were born in Europe and we moved back to the States when they were four and two. It was strange coming back and seeing the way so many parents let their kids rule the family. As an elementary teacher, I’ve seen many, many families where perfectly well-behaved students in class became tyrants around their parents–especially their mothers. No one expects children to be robots or little adults, but good manners in public should be expected–and good manners have to be taught. I sometimes think most parents these days are so overwhelmed with making ends meet, or feel guilty for not spending enough time with their kids, that they overcompensate by buying them a bunch of stuff or letting them do what they want. All kids really want is time with their parents, and more time with mom and dad means learning the most important lessons of all.

    • I think the difference in tolerable and learned behavior for children in Europe vs. North America can be huge. I think the European culture in general understands that children are people that can and do function well in most circumstances, provided they are given the guidance and understand what is expected of them.
      I love how you point out that kids just want to spend time with their parents, and having that opportunity may be rare for some. We are a busy and rushed culture — and stressed for a myriad of reasons. Perhaps parental guilt is the trade-off for allowing a child’s ‘bad’ behavior to go unchecked.

  5. This is an excellent post, and thoughtful comments too.

    There are ways to adapt to circumstances and I applaud parents for trying. It’s good to be prepared to ask for boxes, pay early, purchase a bottle of wine, and have dinner at home after the children are asleep!

    Yet children with plenty of practice going out to dinner with parents tend to learn table manners because they have more practice, and parents have more teaching opportunities.

    Adults who are horrified at the mere presence of children in restaurants do not seem very young at heart.

    • Hi MikeW,
      Thanks for your thoughts. I agree that parents need to have the opportunities to teach their children manners, so that children may learn.
      If we are horrified by what we once were, we have maybe not grown enough in our perspective to understand where we came from.

    • That is exactly how I feel! If kids never get to go out and eat at a restaurant, they wonยดt know how to behave when they are 15-25 years either. And fast enough a whole generation grows up with no etiquette or respect for one an other.

      • You need the experience of being out to experience how to behave.
        But it can still start at home, and kids can learn a lot just by being encouraged and reminded.

  6. Personally, I wouldn’t mind “child-free” zones as far as not disturbing other patrons, but you’re right, it only puts a band-aid on the essential problem. However, I think it is not fair to other people who have to listen to the kids of parents who will not change their attitude toward controlling their children. It is the parents’ responsibility for the kids, and yes it’s not their fault, but that doesn’t mean we just sit idly by and let them disturb us. I’m a little conflicted on this, because banning children takes it a little too far for the people who do have well-behaved children, and yet solves the problem for those who have rowdy, disobedient children because the parents have never taught them anything about how to behave in public.

    • Hi Samantha,
      I wonder if we can just ban bad parenting and let the little kids eat their meals in peace?

      I like kids (I have two of my own) but where there is not an appreciation for public etiquette it makes me frustrated.

  7. I’ve come to really dislike children over the years, and it’s entirely due to lax parenting. My parents took us out to restaurants and on long distance train rides as kids, and we were always quiet and behanved well. Antyhing else just wasn’t allowed. I agree there are too many parents who don’t care or are completely clueless. Because of this, I am one of the adults longing for “child free” zones.

    • Hi Susan,
      I wonder if our generation has become too forgiving. We helicopter parent on one-hand, yet think manners are not necessary (apparently).
      I do think parents are too lax in some ways. When was throwing food in a restaurant EVER okay?

  8. I don’t mind seeing well-mannered children in restaurants and such, but there seems to be fewer and fewer of them these days.

    I think today’s parents are too permissive – perhaps from exhaustion from working, driving kids to play dates and day care, and then doing it all over again the next day. But parenting is a job and one of the parts of that job is teaching children manners. Parents need to step up and do their job, perhaps at the expense of other things they would rather be doing. Those kids won’t be there forever, but if they’re sent out into the world unprepared, they’ll be perpetuating another generation of out of control, over-wrought kids.

    My kids are grown now, but when they were home we had sit down family dinners ever night. If the kids were late because of school activities or work, one of us would sit and eat with them when they got home. If families can only manage to do one thing with their kids, it should be sitting down with them to the family dinner, which is indeed a microcosm of society. If kids can handle a well-mannered meal, they will be prepared for everything.

    • Hi Huffygirl,
      Nice to hear from you. You don’t sound very Huffy in this post.
      I very heartily agree with what you have said: if kids can handle a well-mannered meal they will be prepared for everything.
      Now just how to teach the rest of society this?

      • I think I’m going to work on my own kids and leave society alone for a bit. Wanna take on the challenge?
        I got that you were huffygirl like the bike – both from the bike and your photo. I was just teasing. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  9. Umm, manners do seem to be condemned as a thing of the past by some. To me its important, maybe because my parents instilled that in me from a child. It was something I was expected to demonstrate at all times! It is part of courtesy and respect, not just etiquette. To me it is part and parcel of a good upbringing. Too many children don’t have any ground rules, are never checked or nurtured. Without spending time to properly raise a child, a parent is only going to make a rod for their own back in the future!

    • Nicely said, Savy Seno.
      We will get back to us what we have given and shown.
      I quickly caught on to this when I realized my then-5 year-old was talking to me like she was 15. Respect needs to be earned, and if given the opportunity I think kids naturally respond well to being taught manners and courtesy.
      We just need to ensure it is taught. A life without ground rules is like a blender with no lid. Messy.

      • Yes! Absolutely.

        I also think that you’re on the right track with the post as a whole . . . it’s not just a question of badly behaved kids in public. It’s badly behaved kids at home.

        Parents who are too lenient send a message to the kids that life is a free-for-all and that they (the kids) get to call all the shots.

        Definitely a messy situation.

      • What’s with those parents thinking messy is okay?
        Are their own lives messy? (Life is messy, but still…)
        Basic etiquette and common sense manners go a long way. Don’t we all feel better if we can function in society?

      • Hey, thanks! Oh, I hope the situation has improved,? it is difficult for parents, no child comes with a manual. Yeah, it can become messy. Yet, with persistence it can be rectified.

      • Yep, very true! Yes, never under estimate those; not everything goes to plan, and kids are just small adults with their own brains and opinions. No point losing it as they now when they have won!

  10. As a European,
    I find manners of a great importance, because people are constantly judging you.
    When I was in my first year at secondary school (8th grade in the US, I think),
    I did a kind of etiquette thing at school ending with lunch with the headmaster. Ever since I have been picky about table manners but I think banning kids from restaurants is stupid, after all, if they’re not exposed to fine dining, how will they ever learn how to behave during it?

    • Hello amiabnormal,
      I also think we need to let kids have exposure to situations so that they learn how to function in them.
      I wonder if there is more judgment in European society than in North America and thus more of an expectation of, and emphasis on, good manners?
      Maybe European society is just generally classier and sophisticated and thus produce more refined children that you can, actually, take out for a meal.

      • Yeah,
        It’s an interesting problem.
        there are two solutions,

        A) we can bring up our children differently.
        B) we can stop judging people.

        I think both is best.

        My blog is about a British teenager, if you don’t mind, I’d like your insight into making him a more realistic character. It is called Harrison Denmark

        Thanks,

      • Aminormal,

        Some different societal focus and non-judgment may be just what our children need.
        I will go over to your blog to have a look and offer up what feedback I can.

  11. Pingback: No Kids Allowed « Spirit Lights The Way

  12. In the end I think the responsibly lies with the parents who take their children out: have they taught their children how to behave at restaurants, how to eat at the table, how to respect others sharing the same space as them. Like every other skill (walking, reading, playing), it is a behaviour that needs to be learned. Maybe the question should not be “Should children be allowed into adult spaces?”. Maybe it should be: “are parents teaching their children appropriate behaviour?”

    • Hi Colline,
      I think the idea of questioning what parents are teaching their children is more to the point. Children learn by example, by being told, and by repetition.
      As parents it is our responsibility to create an ideal until children understand that ideal is the norm.
      I doubt most parents would find a disruptive child anything ideal.

  13. I worked retail part-time for 2.5 years (and wrote a book about it); many of our customers were European, and upscale (on assignment in NY or CT thanks to their banker husbands) — and their kids were a joy. Even tiny ones were quiet and well-behaved and, if not, firmly told they should be and NOW. The American kids were spoiled rotten and had almost no supervision or discipline. It was dangerous, noisy, distracting and rude.

    Many people now think they own a space because they are spending money there. They are actually sharing public space.

    • Hi Broadside,
      My point exactly! These perfectly mannered little European People! Such a joy!

      Perhaps it’s that idea that paying for something entitles one to act like they are at home. Time and place for everything…

      What’s the name of the book?

  14. Wonderful post! Congrats on being FP’d!

    Now, as a vegan, animal rights activist and property of 5 awesome rescue cats, I dislike it when people refer to children (or adults) as “animals”. As someone who has grown up around various sorts of animals, I have to say, animals don’t behave, well, like animals! So from where I sit, (in my tiny corner of cyber world), calling children “animals” is an insult to animals. ๐Ÿ™‚

    just sayin’

    Now, with that off my chest, as someone who is child-less, I try not to judge too harshly those who have children. If I am dining at Friendly’s, (I don’t anymore, but I used to in my non-vegan days) I would see children acting up, running around and think to myself, “Hey, it’s Friendly’s.” Conversely, if I am dining in a fine restaurant paying upwards of $35 for an entree, I do not expect to see children in a restaurant of that caliber and if they are present, I do not expect to see them behaving poorly — if they do, I would expect the parents to control the situation.

    ๐Ÿ™‚

    • GiRRL_Earth!
      Thank you for your comments. I’m also Vegan and have a rescue cat. I changed my text to calling the unruly behavior of children to “animals” with a reference in my mind to Where the wild things are. Animals come in all types, as do children, and each is respected and respectful in their way.

      I also agree that having dinner in a fancier restaurant where you are paying so much per entree means you are also paying for a dining experience. Unnecessarily loud or inappropriate behavior from children (or other adults) is not a part of this experience.

      • Hi there,

        Sorry if it sounded like I was chastising you about the child-to-animal reference. I actually wasn’t thinking of you when I wrote that line. I was thinking of the countless people I overhear as I move through my day in the city of Boston, who reference rude people as “animals”. I hate that expression only because I’d prefer the company of animals than most of the people I ride the train with every day. Ha-ha!

        I agree, animals, like children, come with their own individual disposition.

        p.s. I am digging your blog and am now a follower — I especially love snark. ๐Ÿ™‚

        All the best,
        GiRRL_Earth ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. in answer to your Q. yes. always yes. if i’m at a fucking mcdonalds and your kid is running around screaming, that’s fine. it’s mcdonalds. but when i’m out for a nice dinner and i have to listen to your kid screaming, crying, whining, playing with cutlery, throwing shit on the ground. no. absolutely fucking not. either teach your kid how to behave or choose a different restaurant.

    • sorry i really didn’t mean to swear that much, it just happened.

      also on another note, i went to a musical over the summer and there was a toddler sitting behind me. trust me, i am all for people bringing their kids to the theatre, i think it’s fantastic. but i paid $60 for my ticket and instead of enjoying the show i had to listen to the toddler behind me play with his booster seat, talk to his mom, cry, fidget and kick the back of my seat for the entire duration of the show. and his mother did nothing to stop him. you’re in a theatre, come on now!

      • This is annoying (not the swearing, the musical with the back-seat toddler).
        I once went to a piano recital. The pianist was playing very complicated works but still seemed distracted. At one point he stopped and asked that the children in the front row be moved because they were swinging their feet and it was distracting to him.

        I get that the mom wanted to bring the toddler for the exposure, but I doubt that this was the best choice of experience, for either of them. On top of what you had to go through..!

    • LittleCityBot,
      I think when we want fine dining we not only pay for the smaller portions and pricier food, but also ambiance. I don’t think noise, crying, throwing and the like create ambiance.
      McDonalds always seems so dirty to me, if only because there are no guidelines and no rules and that seems to fly just fine there. I tend to create a wide swath around that fast-dining and stay away.
      My personal opinion, of course.

  16. I have the same problem! Not with my daughter but my step son. OMG no manners and I feel like im picking on him cause its not inforced but anyone else . Ive given up on him and focused on my two year old. No making faces at the table, yes and no thank yous, the elbows on the table kill me. Im an adult, if I do it thats fine ive been trained but these kids now a days or so relaxed about everything it kills me.
    & I always have toys for my daughter. crayons or what it may be to pass the time any where but ive banned games in the car. Theres no need to tv and games where ever we go!
    You got me on a rant girl lol. I feel you though!

    • mommylaughs,

      I guess you weren’t laughing when you wrote that post? ๐Ÿ˜‰
      I think consistency is what we need to give our children, so continuing to strive for etiquette and manners may be key for your step-son. I also felt as though I wasn’t getting through to my kids, but then they were fine and impressive examples in public and I knew it was all worth it.
      Good luck with it. Not always easy…

  17. Hi!

    Great article and comments to. Congratulations on getting FPยดd!

    This article makes me reflect on myself and think about some things, like my own 2-year-old. We donยดt eat out often, neither did we when I was little so I lack knowledge too…
    But I did notice recently that she gets more difficult to handle if i am too busy or too stressed to handle her properly. She is a great girl otherwise and definitely not one of those little monsters, but this article made me realize that I must find my way again and get back to the route on which I started.

    Thank you!

    • Hello That Girl,
      It is tricky when we feel stressed or overwhelmed ourselves to deal with another (sometimes irrational) being. By being mindful of this when we can help to create a more positive environment, where everyone can behave appropriately.
      Those two-year-old stages will also pass. Good luck to you!

  18. I have always tried to teach my children manners when eating out and I think since we ate out a lot that in itself taught them polite eating manners. It also was a great time for us to be together and enjoy each others day and company. Thanks for sharing.

  19. There are family friendly restaurants where children can be their energetic selves (it’s not always bad behaviour). That is, it should be fun for them too. Child free zones are for times when the adultls ‘vant’ to quote Garbo ‘to be left alone’, then they find a baby sitter. Freshly Pressed! Nice.

  20. I appreciate your comments and your concern for others. Certainly it would be best to teach children how to behave in public. When that is not possible, ie before the kids have learned the lesson, it is common courtesy to deal with the situation such as leaving or tag teaming as you did for your anniversary dinner. As parents of a special need child who cannot wait long, who can be loud and physical, we are very limited in where and when we can go out with her to restaurants, so WE DON’T go to places that require more behavioral control than she can offer.

    • Revkennydickson,
      I appreciate that you are in a more restrictive situation than perhaps the general population.
      And I can understand why you limit your outings to places where your daughter can function more easily; it probably also reduces all of your stress levels.
      That being said, I like that you have the awareness of others and for others that some parents miss. You don’t just sit through the dinner with the kids screaming and causing a fuss. Like you suggested, you leave early or tag team to get through it with the most minimal disruption to others. I think this is when common courtesy and common sense of the parents needs to come in.

  21. Great… Simply great.. I loved it.
    I spent much of my youth in France and will affirm the dinning experience is very different… Especially where it comes to parents expectations of their little ones.
    Of course if they let them have wine in the states they may mellow some =)

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  23. Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

    At our house, all of our meals are sit-down (at the kitchen table) meals, and my husband and I have always made a point of sharing at least one meal together as a family each day. But even so, we find it difficult to keep the focus on mannerly eating when we’ve not seen each other since the night before and we’re anxious to reconnect, or we’re feeling like we need to rush through our meal because I miscalculated and got dinner ready too late and now we need to get the napless toddler to bed before he loses it completely. (Incidentally, we do not take the children out to eat on no-nap days unless it’s for lunch.)

    We’ve recently recommitted to teaching—and modeling—manners and respectful table behavior, which for us includes better planning of meals and food prep and avoiding scheduling activities that will conflict with dinnertime. My kids do fairly well when they know what’s expected of them, although naturally the toddler needs to be reminded…a lot.

    I think a lot of adults I encounter seem not to have been taught (or at least don’t practice) good table manners themselves. It’s difficult to pass on a skill or behavior without modeling it ourselves, which can be a pain sometimes. I find myself telling my daughter it’s not appropriate to read at the table, and then realizing that, oops, I’ve been reading at the table every day at lunchtime. Now, there are exceptions: my three-year-old son doesn’t like to wear pants to the dinner table (or at all), but I don’t recall modeling that one.

    Oh, and I don’t feel like children are impeding on my space in museums, restaurants, or movie theaters. In fact, when my husband and I went to see Return of the King in the theater (pre-parenthood), one of the small children sitting in front of us actually enhanced the experience by twice accidentally inserting really funny commentary at appropriate times. The only time I have trouble with children in museums is when they’re in school groups; they seem more mob-like and like they have a sense of ownership of the public space when they’re in a large group of age-mates.

    • Thanks for the congrats!

      A no-pant policy at dinner sounds fun. I understand what you mean that at different ages children still need a lot of reminders. I think that’s the point though. If we give up and don’t remind we are telling kids that it’s okay to misbehave some of the time, under the *same* circumstances. It’s hard to keep being positive and focused and making meals on time! Sometimes this doesn’t always work out. But I think if we can give children those boundaries, or modify within reason, then children will learn that there are times when things are different, and times when we are appropriate with our manners.

      In the book Bringing up Bebe the instances of making little mistakes or being naughty was definitely tolerated, with the understanding that the child would jump right back in to the boundaries of etiquette as needed.

  24. We did our best to train our kids in table manners at home, and it paid off in the majority of times we went public with them.

    Having consideration for others is all part of being a happy society.

    Those who don’t give a damn about others comfort at a restaurant should be spoken discretely to by management.

    This avoids any arguments between customers, and restricts any grief to the “bad” customers (who may be embarrassed and leave).

    http://cartoonmick.wordpress.com/humorous-illustration/#jp-carousel-293

    Cheers

    Mick

    • Hi Mick,

      Thanks for your comments. I think you point out something that seems pretty obvious, but that we don’t appear to understand so well: consideration for others is part of being a happy society.
      If we can help children behave better in public, then we can also take them more places and do more together. I think eventually that starts to pay off for the kids as well.
      For inappropriate behaviour it would be nice if management could address this more. I think everyone just wants to avoid confrontation and lets kids (and parents) get away with bad manners and leaves as soon as possible.

  25. Sadly, this doesn’t just happen in restaurants. In the library I work at, some people have been known to drop their children off with little or no adult supervision for an unspecified period of time. Most of them behave, but there have been incidents of noisiness and horseplay, which make us all worried. (It doesn’t help that we’re right across from a school either.)

    • A Library is not a daycare, I totally agree.
      People’s idea of how their children behave, or other people’s tolerance of children, has been skewed.

      When we have to ban children from Libraries we know things have gotten really bad.

      Thanks for your comments.

  26. Beautiful blog, wouldn’t you say? And freshly pressed… so motivates me to some day blog a lot more, especially when I get to read blogs that belong on the front pages of the news as opposed to the choices media comes up with.

    I love children. The are our future and what a great reminder and sharing on teaching manners along with quality family time… home and abroad or just down the street at your favorite cafe. Manners truly “greases the wheel” and helps grant importance to others. The return is more friends and leadership.
    That’s my take. I love your writing. Thank you for this blog.

    • Hi Kathy,
      Thanks so much for your thoughts and kind words. So nice to hear.

      It’s true that we need to grease the wheel with manners and let that be our guide in society. If we act appropriately we will earn the respect of our peers and others. More honest friendships and leadership can blossom under these circumstances as well.

      Keep blogging yourself. We get better by doing.
      Take care!

  27. I think the problem has more to do with parents not teaching their children to behave in general, not just at the table. Most parents seem to want to be their kids’ friend & not their parent.

    • Good point! I agree that as a society we need to be parents more than friends to our children. It’s okay to be the bad guy, and once we can be the bad guy we can earn the respect of our kids and keep the relationship in balance.

  28. Interesting post! We are expecting our first this April and this is one of my goals – to be able to teach our child/children good manners in restaurants, at home, and in any environment we might find ourselves in. I also want to try to get them not to be picky eaters and explore different foods and to be able to be entertained by a smaller amount of toys (and nice/pretty ones at that! ๐Ÿ™‚ ) I don’t expect to be 100% successful, but I want to try. And I get so irritated when our relatives who have kids just laugh and roll their eyes like we have no chance. We might as well go into it with a positive attitude!

    What would you recommend in a situation where you are with your friends/relatives who have kids who are running around in a restaurant, and your normally well behaved kids want to play too? I’m getting ahead of myself, but since your post is here now, might as well ask now.Thanks!

    • Congratulations, first, on expecting!
      I think you may enjoy the book I mentioned, Bringing up Bebe. (For a parent of a child who didn’t sleep I only *wish* I had read this book before I had kids!)

      I think consistency and being a parent are key. You are not their friend or buddy. You show them what you expect and adhere to that gently but firmly. (Always easier said than done, but so worth it, right?)

      As to your question, I’m no expert, only a parent. I explain to my kids that I expect them to behave appropriately. Just because everyone else is being loud and running around doesn’t mean I consider that appropriate. I would tell them that they can run around with the other kids when we go outside, but that we don’t run around in a restaurant because it’s inappropriate. (Maybe then one of the other parents will overhear you and take the hint. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I have spent a lot of time explaining to my kids that each house has its own rules and we follow the rules of our house. They are starting to understand that and especially get the message when other kids are reprimanded for their behaviour and my kids have not joined in and have avoided the humiliation.

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  30. Reblogged this on Living Wonderously and commented:
    This motivates me to look deeper at situations where misbehaving children become an annoyance. It also inspires me to give a shout out of praise to my kids for the good job they did in raising my grandkids to be well behaved in public.

  31. I absolutely agree that children should learn how to behave. If they are never exposed to “adult spaces,” how will they learn how to use, cope with and act in these spaces? I keep my kids under control in restaurants or else we leave. That’s it. My husband and I have totally eaten separately before as you have. We have also gotten our fair share of “to go” boxes after ordering a sit-down meal.

    So it goes. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Hi Off Duty,
      It’s nice to hear that your children have an understanding of what is expected of them (probably most of the time). I know that my kids do enjoy eating out and so the compromise of staying is that they must behave.
      It’s also true that unless they are exposed to this they can never really learn or experience what may challenge them.
      Take care!

  32. We don’t have kids yet but I know we will give it our best effort to teach manners from the start. We’re doing it with our puppy! I always do appreciate when parents try to restrain (for lack of a better word) their kid(s) and I try to be patient. Really it is only annoying if the kid is coming over and interrupting our meal. Otherwise I try to laugh and give the parents a break.

  33. I don’t have kids, but I still try to be understanding when I see a little one having a meltdown or zooming around in public with a frazzled parent on their heals. However, I’m amazed at how many people are out there who just don’t seem to pay any attention to their children’s actions at all. I used to work in a children’s clothing store in the mall and some of the behavior was deplorable! Obviously being overly strict and squashing their creativity is just as bad as letting it run unchecked, but we should still be instilling in them ideas about respect and courtesy from an early age. I agree, it seems like creating a separate space only makes it easier to shrug off that particular lesson.

    It sounds like you were very conscious to find the right balance as a parent, and I’m sure your kids will reap the benefits of knowing how to handle situations as they get older ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Hi Andrea,
      I think teaching kids manners early on helps, but so does an understanding of general common respect and behaviour. I also agree that some parents just seem to shrug off the responsibility of their kids when they enter a public space. It’s not “every child and adult” for themselves. We share the space and children must also learn to appreciate that.

      I *hope* as my kids get older they will appreciate that they understand how to handle a situation and themselves. My daughter is quick to point out bad behavior in other children, so something must be sticking.

  34. I too was raised by European parents who insisted on good table manners from the time I was able to grasp a spoon in my tiny little fist. Being raised as a mostly-only child (one much older sibling who moved away when I was six) I spent most of my childhood in the company of grownups and I’m sure that had a lot to do with my overall good manners as a kid, both at and away from the table.

    I remember as a kid my mom complaining about “American kids’ awful table manners.” Of course she meant OTHER American kids, not me.

    One thing is certain: there was no multi-tasking back then. When it was mealtime, you ate. Not only was the phone not answered during meals (this was before answering machines), but it almost never rang, because it was considered bad manners to call someone during “the dinner hour.”

    A huge treat was getting to eat on TV trays, in front of the black and white TV in the living room. But even then, I had to eat neatly, or I’d be banished to the kitchen, where there was no TV. (Back then most households had only one TV.) Yes, even in the middle of my favorite show. Tough love!

    While this may sound draconian by today’s standards (or lack thereof), I did get to go to a lot of nice restaurants as a kid to which I might otherwise not have been invited.

    RPRT Photo

    • RPRT Photo,
      Your family sounds like the one I grew up in. No multi-tasking, phone calls during dinner, no TV!, but a fair amount of eating out in fancier places. Sitting at the table meant you were eating, and nothing else. That changed a bit when we got older, busier, and there just wasn’t the time to do less.
      I never realized the values I had until I noticed how many strangers complimented my parents on how well-behaved we were.
      And we (as kids) were both amazed and appalled at “other” kids and their ruthless manners.
      Now that I have my own kids I want them to appreciate what they have, respect others, and basically not bother others. It’s a lot of reminding and practicing but I’ve never felt uncomfortable being out with them in pubic.

  35. Pingback: Take you kids ,out for dinner ,once a month | Family Restaurant

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