Grandma's view: Restaurant manners to teach your kids

By Bettie Bradley on May 31, 2012
You’re going to a restaurant with your kids. Is this going to end well? Will diners at neighbouring tables (maybe it will be me) send non-verbal messages of disapproval?

Most kids are taught to say please and thank you, but there are behaviour subtleties that get overlooked. When these little extras are well learned and become automatic, they can mold a child’s behaviour so that you can actually enjoy being with them – even in public! The people at the next table will be grateful, too. And the real bonus is that when a child’s good behaviour is acknowledged, they happily bask in the approval. Rude, loud kids invariably are unhappy kids.

While earning their behavioural “PhD” (Perfectly Home Drilled), older kids may be fascinated in hearing a little history about etiquette. Did you know, for instance, that the genesis of shaking hands was to prove that men were not palming a dagger? Did you know that precise rules of civilized behaviour were first developed in France when King Louis XIV wrote and posted a placard with rules for all to follow? Even George Washington posted his take on ‘Rules of Civility’.

My children taught their kids, from the age of four, to hold a door open for older people. They taught them that there is a ‘restaurant’ voice. They taught them that you don’t interrupt, because everyone at the table has a right to be heard. In short, the lesson was that the kids were not the centre of the universe.

The nice result, for me, is that when I take my grandchildren out for lunch, their good manners are so often commented on by servers. I realize, however, that if their good behaviour gets such a congratulatory response, it must mean that bad behaviour is the norm.

There are restaurant behaviours that, over time, become automatic (and make a visit to a restaurant with kids less of a crap shoot):
  • Don’t pick up a utensil that you drop on the floor. Instead, ask the waiter to please bring a replacement.
  • Pass rolls, relishes or other dishes to others before you help yourself.
  • Don’t reach across the table. Ask to have the item passed.
  • Don’t spit out a food you don’t like. Swallow it and then take a drink of water.
  • Don’t complain or make disgusting noises if you don’t like your food.
  • Don’t blow on food to cool it.
  • Place flatware together on the plate, at a four o’clock angle, when finished.
  • Don’t talk with your mouth full.
  • Don’t try to be the centre of attention. Learn to listen to others.

That said, I believe in having an insurance policy. I still bring along a colouring book, a puzzle or my iPad, just in case.

Ultimately, we want our kids to learn that all good behaviour is based on being kind and sensitive to the needs of people around them. Even very young kids can understand how great it makes them feel when they make someone else feel good.

Come to think of it, that’s a lesson we adults need to brush up on from time to time, too.

Orginally published in ParentsCanada, May/June 2012

By Bettie Bradley| May 31, 2012

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