Even though we go to great lengths to save money each month, one thing my wife and I still like to do is go out to dinner at a restaurant that doesn’t serve fast food. We prefer to do this by ourselves since it is one of the few times when we can have some alone time. However, we don’t always have a baby sitter and, more often than not, have to take our two daughters with us.
This, in the past, was something we actually dreaded. While my two girls are actually pretty well behaved for the most part, they are also somewhat energetic. And, unfortunately, this excess energy always seemed to rear its ugly head whenever we took them out to dinner. As a result, between the shouting, the running around and the dirty looks we would get from other patrons, dining with them wasn’t very enjoyable.
Despite this, we weren’t about to give up having an occasional dinner outside the house either so, rather than always waiting until we could have a night out without the kids, we, instead, worked to make dining out with the kids much more enjoyable. Like most young children, they still aren’t perfect. But, we have seen results.
First, we make more of an effort to practice with them at home. Eating dinner at our kitchen table, while preferred, is always a bit of a challenge. Not only do we have to clean it off first (it’s the one spot in the entire house that seems to attract the most clutter), our kids, who are used to eating in the living room in front of the TV (a bad habit we also have), always end up being somewhat of a pain.
However, whenever my wife and I want to go out to a restaurant with them, this is the first place we start. If we can get them to remember their manners at the kitchen table, it makes it much easier to get them to remember them at a restaurant.
Second, the time of day is everything. My kids actually listen very well, even in public, until they are starting to get tired. So, when we do decide to have a restaurant dinner with them, we make sure it is an early dinner. This way, we can take them before their afternoon nap has worn off and they are getting tired and cranky again.
As an added bonus, the restaurant usually isn’t as crowded earlier in the evening. This lessens the chance of them having some sort of distraction and usually means we get our food a bit quicker.
The last thing we do is pick restaurants that either have buffets or very quick service. Again, when we do this, we are avoiding fast food. But, like many kids, my daughters don’t like to sit still for a great deal of time and, if they have to wait for their food, it gives them more of a chance to start acting up.
Buffets are perfect for preventing this both because they can eat right away and because they can get up from their seat to get more food. If a buffet isn’t an option, we then rely on a list of restaurants we know won’t take forever to serve us.
As I said before, my daughters still aren’t perfect when we take them out to dinner. But, thanks to these changes, my wife and I have a much better chance of enjoying our dinner than we had before.