What works for us is to involve our son in the decision-making on where to eat. This way, we are sure he would enjoy his meal, too. Moreover, it helps to discuss with your child/children the itinerary for the day when you are going out. That helps them mentally and emotionally prepare for wherever you are taking them.
We have to treat our children as equals when going out and consider their input, too— not just drag them around everywhere, which I think is the main culprit behind their misbehaving in public places. Make them feel like it’s also their decision to be there with you. —Sara Alvarez, mom to Basti, 9
Before the food is served, we engage the kids in meaningful conversation about topics they can relate to. Usually the kids are done eating first, then we allow them to use gadgets, but only because the adults want to enjoy the rest of the meal in peace. —Crazy Ninja Mom, mom to Jolo, 11, and Lucas, 8
Know their interests
There was a time I had to download movies or episodes of cartoons on my phone to always keep him behaved in restaurants—the only time he ever really gets to watch stuff on my phone. But lately, as he is closer to turning 4 years old, I’ve noticed him enjoying his food more (that is, if the restaurant has his favorite food—pumpkin soup or pancakes). He will occasionally try to walk around our table—he is a very curious child—and that is always okay, as long as he doesn’t disturb other people.
I don’t think there’s an ultimate secret to making kids behave in restaurants. It changes all the time. But knowing your kids’ interests and how they may respond to certain things is very helpful. —Wiji Lacsamana, mom to Rocco, 3
Sadly—when all else fails—we let our son watch videos on my phone so we can all sit down and eat. It’s a habit we’re trying really hard to break! —Annelle Tayao-Juego, mom to Dakila, 3, and Dalisay, 10 months
My wife Anna and I order snacks to keep them occupied. —Charles Paw, dad to Charlee, 8, and Conrad, 3
We are blessed to have kids who are generally well-behaved. Like other kids their age, they misbehave and have petty arguments. We teach them to get only what they can finish and to have a clean plate so they are not wasting food. We have a “no gadgets on the table” rule which encourages interaction during mealtime, and helps us to appreciate the time we have together. —Treena Tecson, mom to Hailey, 11, and Hannah, 7
Haha, not so secret: food! Whenever we enter a restaurant, I ask for the appetizers to be served quickly or I take out her milk or baon (biscuits). I try singing with her, too, to calm her down. Songs like “If You’re Happy and You Know It” or “Bingo” work like a charm. The last resort is YouTube. —NJ Torres-Jacobson, mom to Savannah Taylor, 1