Manners Much? Teaching Restaurant Etiquette to Little Ones

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Here you are planning this amazing dining out experience for your young family, complete with great ambiance and all of the trimmings. No doubt, your family is just as excited as you are about the lovely meal that you will enjoy together. Then, it happens. What starts out as seafood quickly turns into “see” food, in the blink of an eye. And with that, your momentous family meal has gone from awesome to “Oh, No!”. It’s safe to say that you’re not the first, nor will you be the last, parent to experience a restaurant visit gone awry because of your little ones.

Yup! There will be a few embarrassing moments with your children when trying to eat out, regardless of whether your meal is at a 5-star restaurant or at the local burger spot. With children, you simply can’t predict how things will go. While you may not know exactly what to expect, you can do some things in anticipation of going out to dinner with your children to prepare them for the experience. Try these strategies to minimize the awkwardness of the situation and to hone your little one’s restaurant etiquette:

  1. 1. Use the internet to find videos that help teach your child basic etiquette. Children love to see other kids trying and mastering a skill. Encourage your child to emulate the various steps. Make sure to incorporate tons of positive reinforcement.
  2. Try teaching your little one very simple etiquette techniques such as not chewing with their mouth open before moving up to more challenging ones. You will need to exercise a lot of patience. You may be a little concerned while they’re still learning to not talk with their mouth full, but with time, he or she can get it!
  3. Don’t expect your child to be perfect. Your goal is a priceless moment for family interaction over a delicious meal. With that should come normalcy and the unexpected cuteness that your child will bring. He or she may be trying their hardest to do everything just right, and they might fail miserably. That’s not a reason to throw up your hands and give up on your child learning to dine properly. It just means that tonight was not the best etiquette night. It still may have been an amazing family experience that you won’t ever forget.
  4. Practice at home. Get dressed up and do your best to follow the different rules of etiquette. If your child makes little mistakes, try not to make it feel like he or she has committed a cardinal sin. Instead, compliment your little one on what he or she did correctly. Make it fun by recording your “training sessions” and asking your child for feedback on how both of you did with following the restaurant etiquette rules.
  5. If you find yourself in a restaurant and your child is doing something gross or totally disturbing, it’s okay to leave. Put your pride and the cost aside, and consider the dining enjoyment of the other patrons. You don’t want others to have their dining experiences destroyed because of your child. Think of the ensuing Yelp review, lol, as well as how you would feel if things were the other way around! Additionally, leaving can send a very strong message to your child about his or her behavior. Talk to your little one about how you were disappointed by their behavior and that you expect them to do better next time.


Relax and enjoy. Your child won’t want to hang or eat out if you make the meal so stuffy that he or she doesn’t have a good time. So while making sure general manners are observed also remember kids are kids!


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