UnderCover Waitress: Children, Restaurants, and Good Manners

Friday, January 7, 2011

Children, Restaurants, and Good Manners

The following article about restaurant etiquette for children first appeared on Suite101 on September 13, 2009. 

The bottom line is that children are members of society. Children are neither pets nor things to have; they are people and must be treated as such. I remember a couple who requested moving when a family with children was seated at table near them. They said, "Children should not be brought to restaurants." What baloney; I truly wish that couple would simply stay home. I hope they never have children. 

That being said, parenting is a responsibility and when families go out together the adults must be vigilant to keep the children safe and teach them appropriate behavior. 

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Children are members of society and should be brought places and taught appropriate behavior. Adults with children are responsible for exposing them to the world and for teaching children how to act. Children who are taught restaurant etiquette will be welcome restaurant customers.

Sitting at the Table
Restaurant walkways are busy places. Servers hurry by with hands and arms laden with dishes, or holding up heavy trays on their way to tables. Servers have their hands full of dirty plates and use their feet to kick open the dish room doors. Plates are hot, knives are sharp, and glasses do occasionally break. The bar is full of slippery ice, glass and sweet, sticky liquor.

In this setting numerous adults who are hungry for conversation irresponsibly let the children in their care run around the seemingly "open" space of entryways and server walkways. The possibilities for injuries to both the child and restaurant workers boggle the mind.
    Young children cannot be expected to sit for as long as adults. One adult in the party may bring little ones outside to stretch their legs. It is appropriate to bring entertainment for children at a restaurant. Paper and crayons, books, or a favorite toy will help keep children in their seats and safe.
Restaurant Ordering Etiquette
Children learn best by example, and polite adults tend to raise polite children. In addition to displaying appropriate behaviors themselves, adults can actively teach children good manners.
    Teach children to listen politely. Teach them to listen to the waitress recite the specials, and gently correct children who interrupt. Allow children to ask the waitress questions, but without interrupting. Allow children to order for themselves, and require that they say, "May I please have..." Require that children thank the server when food is placed in front of them. If a child is rude, immediately and gently correct the child and offer a brief apology to the waitress.
Table Manners
The same table manners that apply to adults apply to children.
    Napkins belong on the lap. Use the napkin when needed; do not wipe mouth on sleeve or hand.
  • Children should use utensils when physically capable.
  • Chew with mouth closed, and speak after swallowing. When eating bread and butter, break bread into bite-size pieces and spread butter on the small piece before eating. Do not slather a large piece of bread with butter and then bite into it.
  • Cut all food into reasonably bite-sized pieces; do not attempt to shove large amounts of food into the mouth at once. If children need help, cut their food for them.
  • Do not drink with a mouth full of food (unless being burned by something too hot). Swallow, then take a drink.
  • Do not rush, eat at a relaxed pace when dining with others.
  • Participate in table conversation (the amount a child can do this depends upon age).
When teaching the above manners, always keep in mind the child's age and what is reasonable to expect. For example, a three year old will most likely lose the napkin on his lap, but a nine year old can be reminded to keep track of his napkin. Age appropriateness matters while teaching anything, including good manners.

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