Recently an upscale dining restaurant in Pennsylvania banned all children under 6 from eating there.  This announcement was met with both outrage and applause.  Of course, many parents are outraged, yet others are happy to have a safe haven from all of the noise and disruption of small children in dining establishments.

My husband and I dine out with our three children, who, although not perfect, do behave relatively well.  They stay at the table and stay seated most of the time.  Our one year old is still a bit of a messy eater, but we try to compensate with the tip we leave to make up for it.  There have been a few times when my husband or I have had to take one of the kids outside or to the car so as not to disrupt others.  We have been complimented more than a few times on our children’s behavior in restaurants.  We simply won’t put up with disruptive behavior.

While many parents also have children that have been taught how to behave in restaurants and enjoy civil meals as a family at restaurants, the same cannot be said for many others, unfortunately.  I have seen children running through the restaurant and very nearly causing a waiter to drop a heavy tray full of hot food, a dangerous situation for both child and waiter.  I have also seen children whining and crying while their parents pseudo-ignored them and continued to dine on their meal as if they heard nothing.

If you are going to take your kids out to eat, try some of these tips for a smoother trip:

-Bring along entertainment.  Have a stash of crayons and paper or coloring book.  If the restaurant is not used to children, they may not have crayons and paper available; bring your own.  For older children, bring along a few books that you can read to them or they can read to themselves.  Do you have portable video games?  Bring those.  It can be a long wait for your children, especially if they are hungry.  Keep them entertained.

-Try to order as quickly as possible.  When your waiter comes to take your drink order, order the food, or at least the kids’ food, at that time.  Doing this will dramatically reduce the time you must wait to eat.

-Pay attention to the kids.  Many adults go out to eat and want to talk to the adults while ignoring the children.  However, the kids are part of the dining party; keep them involved in the conversation as much as possible, or at the very least, give them attention before delving into adult conversation.

-Be prepared to leave if the children misbehave.  It is not fun to leave the restaurant early, but sometimes that is what you have to do.  It is one of the risks of taking young children out to eat.

-Choose a restaurant that welcomes children.  This tip is most obvious, but most important.  Why would you want to go to a restaurant like McDain’s in Pennsylvania if your children aren’t welcomed?  Choose a restaurant that welcomes all patrons, regardless of age.

Hopefully, if all parents work to teach their children what it means to eat out and dine with others, restaurants such as the one in Pennsylvania will not find the need to ban all children from their restaurants.