Top 5 Rules For Dining Out With Your Children

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banning children from restaurantWhen Natasha Young brought her six-week-old baby to Cosmo – a popular British restaurant chain – earlier this month, she was charged an extra $5 (what the media is calling a “baby tax“). She asked the staff to remove the charge from her bill but they refused to do so because they felt her stroller was taking up too much real estate in the 800-seat, 22,000-square-foot space (also known as the UK’s largest restaurant).

Cosmo has since apologized to Young, but the incident has sparked an international debate over children’s role in the dining-out experience. Some restaurants, like McDain’s in Monroeville, PA, have gone so far as to ban children under six altogether. Others encourage family dining and offer up everything from complementary crayons and coloring books to special kids’ menus and treats. Parents are equally as torn; comments on various sites range from “This baby tax is a great idea. Why shouldn’t you pay more if you’re the kind of careless person who makes everyone put up with your stroller hogging extra space?” to “Boycott the blood sucking restaurant!!!!!!!!

I think that most parents would agree there’s a happy medium. Personally, I believe that children belong in restaurants but that parents have a responsibility to keep them respectful. Here are our top 5 tips for dining out with your children in peace.

(Photo: Polka Dot Images)




  1. Jen

    November 30, 2011 at 8:23 am

    I agree. Most children are capable of sitting quietly for an hour and a half or so, especially if you take pains to keep them engaged (either in the conversation or with coloring books/playsets/whatever). My husband and I never hesitated to bring my daughter along to restaurants and we never hesitated to ask for our order to go if she was behaving poorly. As a result she learned the appropriate behavior for a restaurant (and at four is able to go anywhere without the slightest issue, including making a mess).

    I think a lot of parents assume that their kid isn’t able to behave and so they don’t bother trying. But this is a self-fulfilling prophecy. I can guarantee that with the exception of special cases (like certain special needs children) any child can be taught to behave appropriately IF their parents are willing to put in the effort.

  2. Megan

    November 30, 2011 at 9:36 am

    These rules are a good start.

    When we go anywhere, library, restaurant, grocery store, we discuss appropriate behavior on the way in business. It is fine to say, Be good. It is better to express exactly what being good is. Things like: Use inside voices. No running. Use your manners. Don’t throw your food. This is the reminder to my young ones what good behavior is. We also make our kids help clean up if they make a mess.

  3. NotThumper

    November 30, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    I agree with all of these tips except the one in regard to tipping. I do not feel that a bigger tip is warranted simply because a child was at the table. Yes it is true that children can (and usually do) make large messes but anyone who has ever been in a restaurant can say that they’ve seen a group of adults make just as large of a mess. I tip based off of the service, not who is sitting at the table. If my server goes above and beyond they will get a larger tip but do not expect one just because my kid is seated at the table.

    • Unsanctimommy

      August 8, 2013 at 8:54 am

      ANYONE who leaves a big mess or gives the server extra work should tip more. This is just usually a given for parties with small children. If your little kids don’t make a mess and you aren’t running the server ragged, standard tipping applies.

  4. Kim

    November 30, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    If my 3 year old makes a big mess I make a point to tip the server AND the busser. The server isn’t cleaning up all the rice or noodles my kid couldn’t get into her piehole. It’s a nice gesture to give the extra dollar or two to the busser.

    On that note, the server should know how to deal with a table with children if they want a good tip. I always give 20% (former waitress) but I’ll give 25-30% if they offer to bring the kid’s meal first and are quick about offering and processing the check when we’re done. If you can’t afford to tip properly, stay at home or go to Burger King.

    If I want to hang out and have a few drinks after dinner, we stop at the liquor store on the way home and pick up a bottle of wine. No one, including myself, can enjoy a cocktail while listening to a small child whine. If you have a toddler, your days of leisurely enjoying drinks after dinner are over. Don’t make everyone else suffer. Eventually, you will enjoy them again when the kid is older. Or at home with a baby sitter.

  5. Byron

    December 1, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    My parents would take me with them almost every time since I was about 5 or even younger, they must have been proto-foodies when I think back to it now, always going to different types of places and frequently so.

    When I was younger I had this bad habit of using the original fork (my fingers) to eat and when in a high-end place my folks had to be extra strict. I wasn’t afraid of the waiters you see and being the spoiled only-child that I was I didn’t much mind their looks.

    This has fostered a love of food culture in me, I still remember in the second grade having to explain what salmon roe is to my teacher when answering her query as to my favorite food in the whole world. The only thing I won’t eat is artichokes.

    I think going out to eat frequently a good way of preventing your kids from becoming picky (knowing how to cook also helps :P) but I won’t say that you wont be annoying the rest of the people sitting next to you, knowing myself I probably did a lot of that. You should just try to minimize the damages and if your kid is cute or funny enough they’ll not mind that much.

    Oh and avoid the kid-oriented menus, they’re the most depressing thing I’ve ever seen. If it’s a new place for your child order their specialty or their original creation or something other than freaking fries and chicken fingers with ketchup!

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