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Happy Meal

Aug 31, 2012 03:00AM ● Published by Style

At breakfast in a café recently, a family with two boys was seated at the table next to us.

The youngest, about three years old, clearly did not want to stay in his chair. After a few times chasing him around the table, his flustered mom finally convinced him to sit down by offering her smartphone. The toddler immediately settled down, entranced by his favorite app.

No doubt parents today have convenient tools at hand when it comes to entertaining their kids at the restaurant table, but many families forego using electronic devices as pacifiers, choosing instead to encourage their children’s participation in the dining experience. Practicing table manners can make eating out a positive adventure. Or not. Truth is, as every parent knows, any kid could “act up” in a public place – no matter how well behaved they usually are.

So how do you put your best kid forward? “Start by gauging your child’s temperament and setting realistic expectations,” says Suzette James, a licensed therapist with more than 20 years of experience counseling children and families. As the founder of Family Tree Counseling in Folsom, she works with parents and kids on many aspects of behavior and discipline issues and warns against attempting a restaurant outing that is likely to end in disappointment. “A strong-willed toddler who has a hard time sitting still, with parents who desire a calm and relaxing meal, is not a good set-up for anyone at the table,” James cautions.

 

Most kids are ready to begin practicing simple restaurant manners at three or four years old. Try an establishment with the highest level of kid friendliness – Old Spaghetti Factory, IHOP, Red Robin, etc. – and request your child to sit still with a quiet voice for short increments. “With each request for ‘manners’ it is important that you follow through with praise when deserved, and reasonable consequences when deserved, too,” James says.

As your family becomes more comfortable with restaurant dining, simple ways to encourage social interaction may be introduced. Suggest (but don’t force) that he/she orders their meal or dessert on their own. Again, James advises that you should respect your child’s individuality and limitations. “The key is to model empowerment of the child, not anxiety,” she explains.  

Lastly, because it’s bound to happen at least once, what should a parent do when a child throws a fit while dining out? With five children of her own, James has hands-on experience with this one. “When behavior begins to be a problem, firmly and quietly let the child know that the behavior is unacceptable,” she says. “Give a warning along with a positive distraction or quiet activity to reign in the behavior naturally. I like to keep ‘special restaurant’ coloring books and fun puzzles in my car to have on hand; I establish that they can only be used in a restaurant. If the child is not redirected by the fun distraction or by a verbalized limit, then a final warning should be offered before the child is taken for a time-out.”

Whether dining out or at home, James encourages parents to use praise for desired behavior on an ongoing basis. “Children can learn what is expected and feel good about themselves,” she concludes.

 

Kids Eat Free Nights!

Monday:

Strings (Most Locations)

Kids 12 and Under Eat Free 4-9 p.m.

Texas West Barbeque – Roseville

Kids Eat Free All Day

TGI Fridays – Roseville

Kids Under 3 Eat Free All Day

Baja Fresh – Roseville

Kids Eat Free 4-9 p.m.

 

Tuesday:

Chevy’s – Roseville, Rocklin

Kids 10 and under eat free all day with purchase of an adult meal.

Chick-fil-a - Folsom

Kids Eat Free 5-8 p.m.

Denny’s – Rocklin

Kids Eat Free 4-10 p.m. (2 kids/1 adult)

Hacienda del Rio – Folsom

Kids Eat Free 4:30-8:30 p.m.

IHOP – Folsom, Rocklin

Kids Eat Free 4-8 p.m. with purchase of an adult meal.

Pasta Pomodoro – Roseville

Kids Eat Free All Day

Back Forty BBQ – Shingle Springs

Kids Eat Free 4-8 p.m.

Mama Ann’s Deli – El Dorado Hills

Kids Eat Free All Day

Sir Vesas Mexican Grill – El Dorado Hills

Kids Eat Free All Day.

TGI Fridays – Roseville

Kids Under 3 Eat Free All Day

Rubino’s Ristorante

Kids (12 and under) eat free with purchase of one adult meal.

 

Wednesday:

Carrows – Roseville, Placerville

One free kids meal with purchase of an adult meal.

Baja Fresh – Roseville

Kids Eat Free 4-9 p.m.

 

Thursday:

Carrows – Roseville, Placerville

One free kids meal with purchase of an adult meal.

IHOP – Folsom, Rocklin

Kids Eat Free 4-8 p.m. with purchase of an adult meal.

Denny’s – Auburn, Placerville, Cameron Park, Rocklin

Kids eat free 4-10 p.m.

 

Satuday:

Denny’s – Auburn, Placerville, Cameron Park, Rocklin

Kids Eat Free 4-10 p.m. (2 kids/1 adult)

 

Sunday:

Mexquite – Folsom

Kids ages 10 and under eat free per 1 adult entrée purchased.

Strings – Most Locations

Kids Eat Free 4-9 p.m.

Dickey’s BBQ Pit – All Locations

Kids Eat Free All Day

Relish Burger Bar – El Dorado Hills

Kids Eat Free All Day

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