One of the things that I am usually careful not to do is criticize other parents. I’ve been the parent who has carried the crying, protesting child out of the restaurant, playground, or park on occasion. I’ve been the parent of the child who has made the incredibly inappropriate remark. You know, the comment that makes you want to crawl under a table and pretend not to be the parent.
I know children are unpredictable. I know that no matter how hard you try as a parent to set your child up for success in social situations, sometimes the but-I’m-NOT-tired monster, the imp, or the time-to-test-the-boundaries-and-make-sure-they-are-still-there monster will appear from nowhere, and you are hosed. It happens. Parenting is hard work, trial and error, and nobody is perfect.
Parenting IS hard work. HARD work. H-A-R-D-W-O-R-K. Incredibly rewarding, but like all incredibly rewarding things, work.
Now, I am going to rant. If you aren’t working at raising your child, then you are doing your child an incredible disservice. If you aren’t getting up off the couch to look outside and figure out what your child is doing and where your child is, you are doing your child an incredible disservice. If you are at a restaurant talking on the cell phone without so much as dirty look in his direction, while your child rolls around on the floor, pokes his siblings with a fork or drums with chopsticks on the wall of the restaurant for 10 minutes straight, you are doing your child an incredible disservice.
I know that some children have behavioral issues that are no fault of the parents. I also know the difference between parents who don’t care and those with children who have genuine behavioral issues. The parents who are dealing with ADHD, autistic or other developmentally challenged children usually aren’t chatting on the cell phone while their children are running amuck in a public place. Those parents are usually working really hard to model good behavior, to constantly teach, to work with their children, to set their children up for success.
Here are some basic manners that all children should be taught and that all parents should model whenever possible.
- No cell phone conversations, ever, at the dinner table. If someone calls, and you need to take the call, excuse yourself and leave the vicinity of the table. If no one else is with you to watch your child, either decline the call or take your child with you.
- For preteens and older, no texting at the table.
- No hand-held computer games at the table (although for toddlers, this sometimes helps with waiting—so do a few crayons and a piece of paper, and there’s more opportunity for interaction).
- When having dinner with people, engage them face-to-face. Teach your child how to converse. (This will be a big advantage on the job interview later in life.)
- All children, no matter how well behaved, have their moments, if your child is having a meltdown, go home. Ask for your food in a to-go box, remove the child from the scene, and go home. (Yes, I’ve done this. It’s embarrassing to say “I’m sorry but we cannot stay”, but the diners around you and the restaurant management will appreciate what you are doing, and your little one—the one you have threatened that you will go home if she doesn’t straighten up, will learn that you mean business.)
- Remind children to speak in a quiet voice.
- Teach children to say “please”, “thank you” and “you’re welcome” so that it is second nature to them. In particular teach them to be polite to the service staff. Model this behavior at all times.
- Remind children not to run inside.
- Remind children to sit up straight at the table.
- As age appropriate, teach them to use utensils, place their napkin in their lap, and try new foods.
- Set your children up for success. If they are tired or sick, keep them home and comfortable.
Please, teach your children. No child is perfect. Neither is any parent, but we can at least try.
©2012 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.