Scream Savers, p.4
1. Disciplined Dining
Recognizing consumer demand, more and more restaurants, even chichi ones, welcome kids. Scott Campbell, owner and chef of Avenue restaurant on New York City's Upper West Side, offers organic baby food and burgers alongside coq au vin and steak frites.
"Our customers take their children out to eat from an early age," Campbell says. "It used to be considered uncool for a serious chef to serve a hamburger, but I'd rather make the kids something they love."
Of course, not all Happy Meal-free zones are as kid-friendly as Avenue. But no matter what restaurant you choose, it helps to go on the early side and to keep kids busy with books, crayons, and nonmessy toys. Bring along crackers for fidgety toddlers, and order bread or an appetizer as soon as you sit down. And, as simple as it sounds, don't forget to include your child in the conversation. "Look at the evening from his point of view," says June Solnit Sale, the Los Angeles-based coauthor of the Working Parents Handbook and a childcare expert for ParentsEdge.com. "Two adults who go out after not seeing each other all day have a lot to say. If the child just sits there, he's going to feel left out and restless."
It also helps to give your child a refresher course on restaurant etiquette, even if she's been out to dinner before. "I believe in discussing ahead of time what the rules are -- and reviewing them," says Dr. Katz. Explain what the child can bring and what she will be allowed to do when you get there. Remind her that she needs to stay in her seat and that throwing food, running, and yelling won't be tolerated. With older children, you can practice ordering from a menu.
Now the hard part: If your child acts up, you have to whisk him outside. "Even if you say to the waitress, 'We'll be back in five minutes,' take your child for a brief time-out," says Dr. Katz. Let him know that if it happens again, you're going to have to leave -- and then stick to it.