I have two children. Snow white is often added in as the third, if not Blueberry Nights. I'd say I'm alone with them about 70% of the time, and we do go out to eat on a semi-regular basis. Now, with that said, I'd like you to watch the ABC clip from the show "What would you do?" about out of control kids in "family friendly" restaurants. Here's the linky.
I'm appalled on multiple counts. Number one, that a parent has become so overwhelmed that they cannot effectively deal with their children when they reach that point of meltdown. (Yes, I know those were actors, but none of us can deny that it happens every day.) Number two, I'm shocked that so many people voted to oust the family, instead of taking initiative. In this circumstance, I refer to the wait staff and managers.
Having worked in food service, one of the things that was always stressed to us as serve staff is diffuse, diffuse, diffuse. Now, obviously in certain circumstances there isn't much to be done. That said, there is always *something* to try, even if it's calling back to the kitchen for some nibblies on the house. And don't tell me there isn't always a way to do it... forgo your OWN nibblies. This isn't even for the childrens' sake. Take one long look at the parent, and if you see a human being at their breaking point, reach out with a lifeline.
The other thing that really, really upset me was the reaction of other parents, or people who otherwise worked with children.* (*not including the teacher at the end. She was awesome.)
Admittedly, there are often instances where it is inappropriate to scold or intervene in another child's circumstance. Here, though? Here is where you will see and have seen me do any of the following:
- Offer distraction. Like I said, 2-4 kids at all times, I have a large supply of somewhat melty crayons, wrinkled paper, small toys, board books, and even some individually wrapped nibblies (GOD I love the word "nibblies,") at the bottom of my purse/bag. Talk to mom or dad first, of course, but if they give the go ahead? Dude. Matchbox cars and crayons can be replaced for less than a dollar. Share your distraction wealth, even if it means a quiet, impromptu story time with your "Who's nose is this?" book.
- Quiet games! As always, check with mom or dad first, but if Thundercats Are Go, engage not only your own children, but theirs as well. I spy, Simon Says, hell... even Rock/Paper/Scissors are all great, especially since you're someone they don't know that wishes to pay attention to them. Under the age of ten, that is a HUGE moment, since they are still at the stage of psychological development that attention = praise, and many kids will happily join in to attain that praise.
- For children that are older and engaged in downright destructive behavior, I've found that a quiet scolding that is non-ego-damaging can work, and work quickly. Most often, I go with "You know what? You are awesome, and I know your mama/daddy raised you to show how awesome you are, instead of acting/doing this. Could you show me why they think you're as special as you are?" It's praise more than scold, and it reminds them that their parents ARE proud of them, and that their behavior is perhaps not living up to the best qualities they possess. Now, that said, I live in the deep south. I've had neighbors/friends that told me it was okay to strap their kids' asses if necessary. Regardless of that, though - encourage good behavior with redirecting praise, and you generally won't get an objection from the overwhelmed and exhausted parent because you're NOT berating or punishing, you're acknowledging that their child has GOOD qualities, and you're able to see that through their rowdy behavior.