1) people who want to enjoy a nice quiet adult meal out
2) parents who want to enjoy a meal out with their children
So the question is how do you balance the two sides? Is it down to the first group of people to only dine in child free zones or up to parents to make sure they only go to child orientated restaurants?
As a parent I want my children growing up knowing how to behave appropriately in all sorts of situations. This means both at home and when out and about. I am trying to instill in them the basic rules of behaviour when eating:
- sitting in their chairs properly
- using cutlery
- not being rowdy
- keeping the food on the plate and not throwing it around!
From a very early age I have taken my children to various places to eat ranging from McDonalds to pub chains to curry houses. These all have varying degrees of child friendliness associated with them but I expect my children to maintain an acceptable level of behaviour. Being on my own now it can be harder to make sure that both children are not getting bored or misbehaving but it is possible. I find it very gratifying when the behaviour of my children is complemented by diners at other tables (not that they are perfect!!).
Having something to occupy the children whilst waiting between courses is essential. Restaurants such as Pizza Express provide activity packs for children but it can be as well to carry something in your bag/pocket to keep them out of mischief. Even lending them your phone to play games or letting older ones take a handheld games console (make sure the volume is muted or using headphones!).
Planning ahead and choosing to dine out at a time that fits in with your children's normal routine is always a good idea. If you arrive at a restaurant with tired or "starving" children then you are fighting an uphill battle from the start. Someone in the BBC article suggested making sure that your children have been physically active before dining out so they don't want to run around inside the restaurant.
Be prepared to remove your children if they're behaviour becomes unacceptable. I have taken mine out of a restaurant before dessert when they have pushed me too far. Don't get yourself and your family a bad reputation by letting your kids run riot!
Last week I had lunch with 27 children from my son's nursery at a local Chinese restaurant. I was so impressed by how well they all behaved and quiet they were:
So as long as children are well behaved there shouldn't be any problems with them dining out with their parents. If people want to make sure that they are eating in a completely child free zone then by dining later they should be able to do this especially in top class restaurants.