I love dining out with my family, and I do it often. It’s one of my favorite ways to bond with them after a long, busy day. Sometimes we all go out and enjoy our favorite Mexican or Chinese place together. I also love the bonding time I get when I steal one child away and we have each other’s undivided attention as we sit at a little bakery, cafe, or fast food joint.
The beauty of going out to eat for parents is that we don’t have to cook or clean up, and kids usually enjoy restaurant food more than home-cooked meals (little shits). Less work, less complaining, and coloring at the table are more exciting than eating at our dining room table. I get it — have fun kids! — but I am very diligent about one thing: manners.
I am not just talking about chewing with your mouth open, using your napkin, belching at the table, or talking with your mouth full. I want my kids to know other people are there to enjoy their meal too and the people working at the restaurant also deserve to be respected. That is a large part of having good manners, after all. I don’t expect them to be perfect little robots, but I consistently remind them to demonstrate good behavior.
Our kids certainly don’t learn manners in one outing, and as adults, we should be leading by example while dining out. Here’s how I’m helping them develop manners:
Leave a decent tip.
We all know kids make a bigger mess, so a bigger tip is in order. Waiters and waitresses depend on their tips to pay their bills. (And this is where someone in the comments points out that one time their drinks took too long, or their bread wasn’t warm, and honestly having a truly terrible server is quite rare, so don’t be a jerk.) They are on their feet for miles, carting heavy trays of food and drinks in/out of hot kitchens, refilling drinks, bringing extra napkins/spoons/condiments, and cleaning up the table for the next guests. It is a physically, and mentally, exhausting job. Be the kind of person who makes their day and leave a nice fucking tip.
Don’t leave a huge mess.
Yes, it’s part of how they earn their tip, but if your kid drops 13 french fries and a dozen napkins, pick them up. Don’t clean out your purse and leave all the debris on the table for someone else to take care of. And if your kid empties out all the sugar packets and spreads them all over the table, put them back. It’s called common courtesy.
Don’t be rude to the waitstaff.
They are people who work really fucking hard. If the food sucks, it’s not their fault because they are not the chef. If they are slow coming to your table because they are slammed, give them a break. If they accidentally spill something, they already feel like shit. Don’t make it worse by being rude. Just be nice.
Don’t use your speakerphone.
This is just barbaric. No one cares about your conversation with your co-worker Susan about how Lindsey’s IBS renders the office bathroom unusable, and for sure no one wants to hear it while they are trying to enjoy a meal. They want to be able to hear the person they are dining with, so turn off the damn speakerphone (or lower your voice) or take that shit outside.
It’s not the place to let your kid scream it out.
It is almost impossible to get your child out of a public place right away, especially if you are solo and have more than one child in tow. Believe me, I’ve been there, and I get it — it can’t happen immediately. A little whining here and there is no big deal anyway, but the full-blown screaming and crying fits? A restaurant just isn’t the place to work through that. Let them scream it out in the car, the parking lot, or somewhere people aren’t trying to engage in conversation and enjoy a meal.
If someone is struggling with their child, don’t be an asshat.
They don’t need any more stress added to their situation. They don’t need advice or a dirty look. Maybe a “Can I help?” or “Let me get the door for you,” or “You are doing a great job,” but dickweed behavior is not going to make their child magically be quiet or make anyone feel better.All in all, just don’t be a rude asshole while dining out. Don’t let your kids act like assholes either. And don’t forget to tip your server. Now let’s all enjoy our damn meal.