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How to get your child ready for a restaurant outing

Kia Morgan Smith is a popular mommy blogger at Cincomom.com where she blogs about her life as a mom of five children and wife.

Don't be the parent with a crying kid in a restaurant — 4 tips to help

There's a growing debate ablaze on social media with parents picking sides and becoming divided over an issue about a crying toddler and a restaurant owner who shut the kid up by firmly screaming to get the kid quiet.

According to the New York Times, a Facebook exchange between the owner of a Maine diner called Marcy's Diner in Portland, Darla Neugebauer, and the screaming young girl's mother, Tara Carson, has started a firestorm on social media. Neugebauer, however, is unapologetic in her approach to silent the screamer, saying, "That needs to stop!" while pointing at the crying child, who had apparently been screaming for about an hour. On the other hand, Carson is appalled, posting to Facebook: "You have a problem with a child crying then you are not suitable to run a business."

The restaurant owner then went on an expletive-laden rant in a post that questioned and blamed Carson's parenting style, but later took it down.

Some parents think the restaurant owner has clearly lost her mind, slamming her fists on the table and screaming for the kid to get quiet. However, Neugebauer is being hailed as a hero by others — myself included — who have suffered in airplane seats and restaurant booths trying to eat a meal in peace for the few hours of freedom we may have in that moment of time.

You might ask how I could side with the owner when I myself have five kids. Here’s why. For one, I've seen many parents allow their kids to be the boss and cut up in public and then have the nerve to be upset when someone tells them they're wrong. Additionally, the kid was not in pain or hurt but instead crying because their parent was being neglectful. I've seen little girls and boys' arms flail as they wailed and whined and cried up and down the aisles of the grocery store while their parents stood by looking dumbfounded and lost. I've witnessed toddlers hitting their parents over and over again while making demands for things they want while their parents look defeated as if they needed counseling on how to raise their own rambunctious kid. Yes, kids will be kids. A toddler will be a toddler. But the actions a child exhibits in public clearly are a reflection of the behavior they are learning at home.

The owner has a business to run, and to say that they are hurt because of her actions is exhibiting the same dramatics demonstrated by their child. Save it.

We have to teach our children how to conduct themselves when they are away from home and in a public space. The world doesn't revolve around your brat or mine; and the truth is if you let them think they run the world, they will prove it to be true when they embarrass you when you're out and about.

Kids tend to think they are in charge and have control because parents sometimes coddle them at the wrong time and don't toughen up to teach them that there is something called etiquette in this world. Even the smallest child can comply with social etiquette if they are taught early on. Not only that, but the owner is running a business and her concern is to ensure that all her customers have a good restaurant experience — even that child. Therefore, the burden is on the parent to ensure that their child is OK; and if not, be mature and responsible enough to get up, bag up your vittles and take the child home so they can get comfortable and you can calm down the meltdown behind closed doors.

"I'd love to go to that fancy restaurant with the loud, screaming out-of-control kid," said no one ever.

Crying and cutting up in public is unacceptable, and you can teach a child as young as 1 about expectations and how to act. Here’s how:

  • Take small steps before a big restaurant outing. If you're not sure your kid knows how to act in public, start out with a simple picnic outing in a public place. A picnic at the park has all of the elements a restaurant would: you have food and plenty of people around to gauge how your child acts and reacts. Teach your kid to sit in his or her chair while eating, which will help them resist the urge to jump up and around. Also, pack the basic essentials like a coloring book or an iPad packed with games to keep your child occupied in their seat and further enforce how they should remain seated while eating.
  • Invite guests over for dinner. How does your child act at home at his or her own dinner table? That's a tell-tale sign of how they will act while out. If you're having difficulty keeping them put because they jump in their chair, refuse to remain seated and run in and out of the dining room, then there’s a good chance that they're not ready for a mature night out at a restaurant.
  • Consider kid-friendly establishments. There are plenty of restaurants that cater to kids and are ready for them with crayons, coloring books and activities to keep them occupied. Do some research and find the ones that want to entertain your kid so you can avoid getting cursed out by a business owner who doesn't want your business.
  • Have a pretend restaurant experience. Kids love pretend, so why not set-up a pretend restaurant in your home and have your child play in several different roles so they can “act out” how they should really behave in that role. First, they can be the customer who orders and eats; perhaps they can be the waiter or waitress, the cook or even the restaurant owner. It's up to you though to model how each role should be acted out. How does the waiter or waitress act? How is the customer supposed to act. And surely, if the customer is seen crying, kicking and screaming, that would be a no-no. Your child will have fun while learning a valuable lesson about what is expected of them when they go out to a restaurant.
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