Posts Tagged ‘ kids restaurants ’

The “Five Ps” of Restaurant Dining with Small Children

Monday, August 11th, 2014

Joe DeProspero has two sons and a wife, and he is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” Author of the dark comedy fiction novel “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt,” Joe is also writing a parenting humor book. He will be posting twice monthly and his previous posts can be found here.  He currently lives in New Jersey and can be found on Facebook and on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.


It’s possible, I assure you. Like finding a perfectly symmetrical, scar-less pumpkin the day before Halloween, or an ESPN article that doesn’t mention Johnny Manziel or LeBron James, having a successful, painless dinner at a restaurant with your kids could happen. Clearly, it doesn’t always happen but it’s attainable. Being honest, it happens about as frequently as a flawless pumpkin or a LeBron-less ESPN tweet. If you have any children (or follow ESPN on social media), you know exactly what I mean.

If you have older children, you’ve already been through “the dining experience” more times than you could likely count. But if you’re a newer parent with children aged 2-3, here are some tips I’ve found most useful when attempting to eat a meal without losing my mind or getting banned by the owner. I call them “The 5 Ps.”


The biggest mistake any parent can make when taking their small children out in public (especially to a restaurant) is not being able to come correct. By this, I mean you should have prepared diapers (if needed), a backup outfit, and the most crucial item: the entertainment. A coloring book, a doll, or an Etch-a-Sketch — anything that will occupy your child’s mind and deter him from destruction. If you’re counting on the restaurant to supply the crayons, it’s a risky bet as you’ll often be left, quite literally, empty-handed.


Whoever coined the phrase “time is of the essence” was clearly either a parent of young kids or a war general (or both). Because being tactical with your time is most important when leading troops into battle or feeding your children. And frankly, both acts can feel quite similar. In short, don’t bring your children out to a late dinner. Early on in my parenthood, I made the monumental mistake of arriving at a restaurant at a time we would normally eat dinner, forgetting that we’d need to be given a table, then order and wait for our food. And the place didn’t have crayons! Bottom line is: get to the restaurant at least half an hour before the time you actually plan to eat.

Portion Control

This is the trickiest maneuver to pull off successfully. Mostly because it depends on your child’s appetite and demeanor at the exact second you sit down to eat on a particular night. Has she not eaten a morsel since lunch? Has she eaten a granola bar as recently as half an hour ago? Is she being an irritable little jerk? These are all questions you have to ask yourself when ordering your meals. If your child looks like she can hold out to eat, give her a toy/book to play with first, have your meals come out together, and then eat at the same time. If your kid looks like a character from Dawn of the Dead, give her something small to eat to hold her over or have her food come out first.


A necessary virtue in any aspect of parenting, but yours will truly be tested when you’re surrounded by angry, unsympathetic patrons who are simply looking for a peaceful night out at Fuddruckers. Your child is undoubtedly going to do something to annoy them (and you). Take a breath, gather yourself, and try your absolute best not to lose it. Having patience doesn’t mean allowing your 2-year-old to knock down his juice cup on his little sister without consequence. It just means you can’t fly off the handle because two peas fell on the floor. Pick your battles. This leads right into the fifth and final P…


Goes hand in hand with patience. You can’t really have one without the other. Poise is the difference between flipping the table over and storming out the front door like Teresa Giudice vs. calmly carrying your unruly kid to a neutral zone and coolly, yet forcefully, threatening the disposal of the entire collection of whatever they love. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve lost it many, many times with my children in public. But I’ve found that, aside from the release of letting off steam, losing my cool only yields negative results. However, staying poised amidst chaos is a virtue worth its weight in gold, and it will make you the envy of every parent around you  who are slamming their fists on the table in disgust.


I know what you’re thinking: But Joe, I have definitely tried all of these tips and I still want to smash my face into a wall every time I set foot in an Outback. Trust me, I understand. It’s not an exact science. And like anything related to your kids, there is no handbook/guide that guarantees a disaster-less night. But if you think ahead, come correct, and maintain whatever composure you have left, there’s actually an outside chance you could (gasp) enjoy a meal with your kids. Just maybe.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to post a comment below or read more of my ramblings here.

Manners & Responsibility: Teaching Table Manners
Manners & Responsibility: Teaching Table Manners
Manners & Responsibility: Teaching Table Manners


Image: Restaurant table photo via

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Don’t Ban Kids from Fancy Grownup Stuff

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

There’s been a big brouhaha over a crying baby in Alinea, one of Chicago’s top restaurants. And that’s led to some people—including my friend, Melanie—calling for a ban on kids from five-star eateries and other adult fare. But that’s not really fair to families whose kids aren’t bawling their way through the amuse bouche or the latest ballet. There are plenty of parents out there (including me) who want to encourage their kids to expand their horizons, and not always live a chicken nugget and Chuck E. Cheese filled existence. And there are lots of kids (like mine) who are perfectly able to behave as well as—or even better than—adults in a sophisticated situation.

And how will our kids ever learn how to behave properly in different settings, if they’re never allowed to experience them?

My kids, now six and nine, have been going to swank eateries, Broadway shows, ballets and museums since before they were potty trained, and we haven’t always gotten a warm welcome when we arrive. We’re talking some serious cold stares from fellow patrons—the kind of ire usually reserved for a fussy baby on a transatlantic flight (and yes, we’ve been there, too).

But I think if we parents follow a few key rules, we can avoid being relegated to a McDonalds and Disney-on-Ice wasteland until our kids are teenagers—and help make kids more welcome in adult surroundings.

1. Be prepared to leave—STAT. This is perhaps the biggest issue I’ve seen. If your kid starts acting up and disturbing those around you, it’s time to head for the exits ASAP—at least until your kiddo gets back under control. (And in fact, if one of these parents had just stepped outside for a little while to try to calm their baby, we probably wouldn’t be hearing a thing about this.) When we first took our kids to shows, we opted for tickets on the aisle, close to the exits, so we could get out with a minimum of fuss if someone wasn’t behaving. Fortunately, it never came to that—though my girls themselves have grumbled about other kids whose parents let them kick seats and cry throughout the performance.

2. Lay the groundwork. If your kiddo’s older than two, you can spend some time leading up to the big day prepping them for the event. We give our kids a brief primer on the plot of a play or ballet we’re seeing, and talk about the expected behavior (no kicking seats, no talking until intermission). Before a dinner out, we check out the menu online, and decide what they (and we) are getting—it makes getting them fed a little bit faster, too. We’ve even done practice fancy dinners, with cloth napkins and wine glasses—the girls love playing restaurant.

3. Stash emergency supplies. We usually came prepared with small toys during the wait for the meal, and small snacks to eat before the show or during intermission to ensure that hunger didn’t lead to a meltdown. Now that my girls are older, though, we find that we need these less and less.

4. Don’t be afraid to challenge your kids’—and your—boundaries. Even if it’s a complete fail—like my daughters’ first taste of Ethiopian food—it makes for a great story down the road. But maybe you’ll find that your chicken-and-fries kiddo actually would like sushi. Life should be an adventure, and coming out of your comfort zone can help you find new passions and new things to love.

What do you think? Should five-star eateries be kid-free? Do you take your kids to “grown-up” places—and how do they do?

Disciplining Kids of Different Ages
Disciplining Kids of Different Ages
Disciplining Kids of Different Ages

Image: Elena Stepanova/

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