10 rules for dining out with kids.

The evening starts with the three year old holding the waitress at knife point. We covered for him and told her that he was just handing it to her because he knew that he wasn’t supposed to have it. Maybe that was the case…

Ah the joy of dining out with children. It will test your patience and if you’re not careful it will break your spirit but fear not, for I have compiled my 10 rules of surviving a meal out with your kids. Here they are, in no particular order.

10.) Never go in without a plan. If you don’t have the pre-dinner, “restaurant behavior” talk with your kids right before you enter the restaurant than you’d better be prepared for a remarkable display of civil disobedience. Children can smell that your parental discipline powers are disabled by being in the polite company of a public setting. Put on your scariest admonishment face before entering the building. Fire, brimstone, throwing away Legos… you get the point.

9.) Cell phones and tablets. Digital devices are for parental posers. Yes I’ve done it and yes it makes the dining experience easier but come on… Why spend the money on a nice dinner at a restaurant if you are going to shove your children’s faces into two and a half episodes of rescue bots. If easy is what you’re after then save a buck and stay home with Netflix and some hot dog mac n cheese. If you are going to eat out, find the courage to do so without an electronic clutch.

8.) Scare your children with lies about monsters. One of our favorite restaurants to eat at is a very nice steak house in our town called the cowfish. The logo, which they have on the wall, is the skeletal body of a fish with a bull skull. It’s a great logo. We’ve convinced the toddler that it’s a monster who’s job is to eat children who misbehave at the restaurant. Judge us if you want but it worked.

7.) Immediately order appetizers. Don’t waste time letting the server introduce themselves or tell you about specials. You’re job is to get some food to the table as fast as possible so that your children understand that they are at a restaurant and not an amusement park. Also, hungry kids are no fun for anyone. If you need to be rude just take care of your server with a healthy tip.

6.) Always hold the dessert hostage! I have never eaten a single meal with my children at home or away where the subject of dessert hasn’t been brought up within the first two minutes of eating. It’s the only thing on their mind. Most of your conversation while dining out should be some form of “do or don’t do this” or you wont get dessert.

5.) Ignore the childless. There will be other people in the restaurant who don’t have children. When they see your kids blowing bubbles into their Shirley Temples, accidently sucking it back up into their nasal cavity and then snot rocketing cherry syrup onto their chicken strips; they will give you funny looks. So what, those people don’t matter and you deserve a chance at a nice dinner with the family. Let them judge from their ivory towers, you’ve got a burger to enjoy.

4.) Tip your server. A good, child friendly server will absolutely be the difference between barely surviving and actually enjoying your dinner out. Tip regardless because it’s just the right thing to do but when you get that stellar, rock star of a server; the one who led with the crayons and brought the extra napkins without having to be asked… Tip whatever you can possibly afford. That server just saved your dinner, your marriage and little Timmy’s chances of getting into a good college.

3.) Talk to your kids. Dinner is an opportunity for the family to communicate. Also it will distract your kids from hurling dinner rolls at each other. If the usual, “How was your day?” line of questioning doesn’t work, get creative. Who do you think would win in a fight, an army of lions or Ironman? Where would you go in a spaceship and why? Actually, always have creative conversations, they’re way more fun.

2.) Make your kids talk to the server. Our job as parents is to teach our kids to be useful adults. Part of that is participating in civil society and that means expressing yourself to others and having good manners. Don’t let your kids miss a please and definitely don’t let your kids forget a thank you.

1.) Just do it. Dining out with kids is a royal pain in the rear end, so what, that’s parenting. It’s also an awesome way to celebrate being a family. Fight through the temptation to order in and never leave the house. Put yourself in uncomfortable situations so that your kids can learn and grow and who knows, maybe even build some memories on the way.