Being a parent should not validate segregation from the rest of society by any means. There are although, certain guidelines that each parent should follow, or at least be aware of when venturing out in public with their children. There are no fines to pay if these rules are broken, only dirty looks from your peers as you slink out of the restaurant with your screaming child in tow. Here are a couple that I, as a parent, try to follow so as not to have daggers shot at me from surrounding childless monsters who wish harm upon me and my child. They are also some of my pet peeves thrown in, based on a belief of common courtesy that we should all share while occupying the same space on this planet.
There are many things to consider when entering a restaurant with your children. Way too many to list here but to narrow it down for the sake of sanity (if I list them all I might go postal) here are some restaurant P’s and Q’s to mind:
Tipping: If you enter any kind of eating establishment, no matter what the quality of the venue is, if your child leaves enough food on the floor to feed a family of 4 in Ethiopia then leave the nice waiter a generous tip. The time it will take them to clean up your mess is time they are taking away from their other duties and other customers, thus resulting in possible lower tips from their other tables. Secondly, it’s just rude. You came there to eat, not trash the place.
If you’re a cheap ass, then try to clean up the mess yourself. The staff will appreciate you acknowledging that your child is a heathen and has no table manners. They will more than likely just tell you they will clean it up only to expedite your exit so they can move on with their lives.
Noise Violations: I understand that controlling the volume level of your children in a crowded, busy atmosphere is about as easy as telling Lindsey Lohan to put down her 5th Gin & Tonic. I get it. Whether it’s throwing a fit for attention or out of exhaustion, in order to enjoy a pleasant evening out there are some things you can do to avoid this scenario or squash it when it happens.
Bring something for them to do! This concept is not unknown in the parenting world. There are these nifty little things called crayons and coloring books that for some strange reason kids seem to dig. Toy cars, (no blinky lights and sound effects please) books, Play-Doh, anything quiet and constructive will do.
If your child is mimicking the rest of society and is addicted to media bring a portable DVD player with headphones. Let them veg out in the booth a watch a little Finding Nemo. If you are with your spouse or a friend this kills 2 birds with 1 stone, now you get to carry on an adult conversation.
If they still won’t calm down it’s always a good idea to order their food as soon as the waiter stops by and says hello. This way they are busy munching French fries and corn dogs and forget about whatever it was they were upset about.
If all else fails, please remove them quietly from the table and take them outside (not the restroom) to calm down. Threaten them with taking away their blankie or not inviting friends over from the comfort and safety of your car. Please don’t do it where the rest of us can hear and are 2 seconds away from calling CPS on your ass. This will also save your child from public embarrassment and future therapy bills. It’s a real win-win scenario.
It is uncanny how children know that a public place is THE place to throw a fit, call you a horrible parent and then throw down on the floor to proceed kicking and screaming. Some kind of innate knowledge is given to them by mother-nature in order to test our skills as a parent, and ultimately our sanity. It is survival of the fittest happening right before your eyes. If you succeed, you raise an emotionally healthy child who will hopefully pass on those genes to the next generation. If you should fail at your mission, then future FBI profilers will study your child and report that the reasons why he chopped up his next door neighbor could be explained by childhood trauma and low self-esteem. I’m just sayin….
Now back to the real world.Here you are standing in the cereal aisle with your 4 yr old as his face is turning alarming shades of red because you will not allow him to be “Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs”. It has happened to all of us and if it hasn’t happened to you yet, it will. If you claim it hasn’t or won’t, you are in denial and I’m revoking your parenting license. That reminds me, they should really start making those mandatory in order to even get pregnant. Sigh…meanwhile, back at the ranch….
So your child is screaming for sugary treats that you, being the most health conscious parent that you can be, are refusing to purchase and he is determined to let the whole store know that you suck. Not only do you suck, but you suck hard core. This is similar to the restaurant noise violation example, but in this case you have a cart full of groceries that if left might get distributed back to the shelves. A good parent would sacrifice the grocery trip and teach that kid a lesson!
“Scream at me for cereal and not only will you NOT get it, we are leaving and you don’t get cereal at all.”
Hrmmmm….if that’s not reasonable for you then try what I do.
Put the cereal in the basket, and when he’s not looking toss it out. 9 times out of 10 they forget about it once they have it and are already moving onto the next conquest. It is really only cruel if when you get home little Johnny wants his cereal and you cannot deliver. Then you have to lie about how the cereal monster came and must have stolen it! It’s a vicious cycle, but someone’s gotta do it.
So now that we have basic tantrum out of the way, let’s move on to the undisciplined tantrum. Bottom line – when your child is acting up in public, please do SOMETHING about it. Do not try and teach them some lesson that by ignoring them they are not getting your attention and thus should stop. In my opinion this doesn’t work in public because for one: they are throwing a fit for a reason and for two: it’s annoying the hell out of everyone around you. And Karma is a bitch. Ignoring your devil tantrum child most of time only pisses them off even more. Learning the art of distraction is such a great lesson as a parent. Try it sometime. (Side note: this is where those crayons can come in)
Last but not least, the free-range child. This is a child who is left to run amuck through a restaurant while mommy and daddy sip their wine and count on the general public to make sure their child doesn’t run out the front door into traffic. I don’t have to explain this one. Scroll back up to “how to keep my child entertained” section of this article and you could avoid possible keying of your car.
Bottom line – start good parenting early and you won’t run into these problems. Encounter each situation with a level head and try not to get so frustrated. They are only kids. You were probably a snot-nosed little beast yourself so keep smiling. No matter how angry you get, stop, breathe, and then put a smile on your face. Soon they will be in college getting arrested for public intoxication. Then it’s the State’s problem.