Don't Ban Children From Restaurants, Teach Them How to Act
According to a recent Washington Post story that is causing a quite a viral storm, Oma's Küche, a restaurant in Germany, is banning children under 14 from dining during dinnertime. The restaurant owner said the controversial kid-free policy was made in response to several instances of kids misbehaving and damaging property while their parents, "looked on idly." He added that the decision won't hurt their bottom line—but, what about the moral line?
- RELATED: Your Guide to Table Manners for Kids
I believe that parents have to put the time into teaching their children how to behave in public so eating at restaurants as a family does not become an issue.
As a married mom of two, I know that family nights out are a great time to bond with your children and restaurants are one of the best places to connect as a family—especially with children under 14. Sitting at a table while mom and dad aren't cooking or dishing out baked ziti can give a much needed mental break. I remember taking my young children out to dinner and being worried that they would cause a stir or ruckus in a restaurant. But, like most things in life, the more you do it, the better you (and they) become at it.
As children are introduced to experiences, they learn from them. They soon realize that sitting at a table in a restaurant, napkin on lap, reading a menu, and speaking politely to a waiter or waitress comes with benefits. And these benefits include ordering what they want to eat; getting a beverage they may not have at home (for our family, we order lemonade out but only drink water at home with meals); and ordering dessert when they complete their meal. Kids feel empowered when they go out and get to show their independence with meal choices. I often would connect good behavior or top grades with the restaurant choice. My kids loved the idea and as they got older, they learned how to act while dining out. If you start them young, they only get better.
Another great benefit of dining out is meeting grandparents and extended family members in restaurants. How fun is it to sit next to grandma while eating a burger and fries and playing tic-tac-toe with crayons on your menu?
I think parents do play a part in teaching children how to be respectful in restaurants. It's really something that parents have to start to do when their children are young. So what do I say to restaurants that ban children from eating there? I think your policy is a poor choice. We're trying to teach children family values, tolerance, and acceptance—how does this policy help accomplish this? These children can read, and when it says, "Kids aren't welcome," on your website, on your menu, or in your storefront, it hurts kids, their parents, and our communities.
If you're considering bringing your young kids to a restaurant for the first time, follow these tips:
Pick restaurants that have the menu and policies to accommodate the needs of your family. And, don't expect your kids to sit through a two-hour fine dining experience. That's even hard for adults to endure. If you can go a bit earlier than the dinner rush, plan it that way. Or stick to restaurants that take reservations. Starving children and a 90-minute wait is not a recipe for restaurant success.
Keep a bag of tricks ready. I always kept a deck of playing cards in my purse and we played cards while dining out. Sometimes the card game usurps our family chats, but it's a different type of family time. I know we've played hundreds of games of rummy and "go fish" while waiting for grilled cheese sandwiches and personal-size pizzas. We also would play "the letter game" and would go through the alphabet trying to name fruits, vegetables, and other categories by chronological letters. My children are now over 14, so they do use their phones while waiting for meals, but before they had phones they learned how to pass the time without causing a ruckus in a restaurant, and we are grateful they had plenty of opportunities and family-friendly restaurants that allowed us this experience.