Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The point of a blog is dialogue, right?

So, please don’t think I’m picking on anyone here, but I wanted to address this comment.

um... isn't that how a three-year-old SHOULD behave? I have a three-and-a-half-year-old and a 15 month old and I would never allow my kids to wander around the restaurant during the meal. Even my 15 month old knows that he's expected to stay at the table for a reasonable amount of time, no matter how much entertaining it takes.

OK, yes, in theory, this probably is how a three-year-old should behave. But the reality is that most of them don’t, at least in my experience. My parents are always quick to tell me that my brother, my sister, and I never behaved the way my children do. I, however, don’t really recall a childhood where I was constantly praised for my stellar behavior, so I take it all with a grain of salt.

I know that there are plenty of times when I have been dealing fairly effectively with my kids all day, and by dinnertime, I am just plain tired. I never take my kids to a restaurant without Mr. WG, because I need to tag team with him. (My version of tag team is usually to say, “Dude, your kid is over there,” while continuing to sit an eat.) I don’t take my kids to nice restaurants, and I usually take the food to go. It’s simply much easier to control my kids at home. If we are eating just with our own family, I call in an order ahead of time so that it’s ready when we walk in and sit down. I have simply accepted reality and am working within those parameters.

Does D. sit with the family during meals at home?

We have a sit-down dinner every night chez WG. D. generally eats and leaves. We are now encouraging him to stay at the table rather than to race off, but honestly, if he’s playing quietly and not bothering anyone, we are OK with him leaving. When we have large meals on Friday nights and Shabbat lunch, the kids sit while they eat (about 5-6 minutes) and then take off to go play. Generally, we prefer it that way. Maybe we’re doing the wrong thing, but a lot of our friends are doing it, too, and we are pretty much OK with it.

I understand that he is not the average three-year-old and he may warrant a little leeway on the normal expectations of a child his age. I also understand he may be bigger and hard to control when he has his mind set on something, and that you don't want to cause a scene... but doesn't he need to learn what is expected of him sometime? He's only going to get bigger (and smarter) and know that he CAN get away with running the show.

I have actually recently reached the same conclusion. This is why behavior that we once tolerated is no longer acceptable, and Mr. WG and I are working on strategies. The trick is, here, you can really only focus on one thing at a time. You have to pick one behavior that you want to change and work on that until you’ve changed it. With D. right now, that behavior is hitting/tantrums. When D. gets angry, he smacks (me, his siblings, himself, the door, whatever) and launches into a tantrum. We started by not allowing him to hit anyone else, which is when he reacted by hitting (or biting) himself or the doors in our house. Now as soon as the tantrum starts, we drop everything and put D. in our room for a time out. We expect and hope that some of this behavior will naturally resolve as D. gains language skills.

Your depiction of the average dining out experience in your family sounds like anything but enjoyable.

You are correct. That’s why we try to avoid it.

I know D. may be a bit of an exception in the behavior department, but I get tired of parents complaining about their kids' behavior in restaurants. Children need to be taught how to behave when out to eat and to be courteous to the other people trying to enjoy their meal. No matter their age.

I don’t know. I’m astounded that your kids behave in restaurants. I think a lot has to do with the temperament of the child. I have good friends who have two boys. The first was always content to sit quietly in his stroller and not make a peep. The second was an actual child who would get into trouble, do things, make noise, etc. And suddenly they realized that it had very little to do with their parenting. That’s not to say that you’re wrong – my mom would certainly agree with you. And some of my friends. But I tend to instead avoid the situations where I know things aren’t going to go well. My 5 and 7 year old know how to behave properly in restaurants, and that’s really what matters. So my 3-year-old is noisy and doesn’t sit, and his friends don’t, either. Oh, well.

I have a close friend with a 6-year-old with Sotos and I am very much a part of helping and supporting thier family (which is also how I found and am so intrigued by your blog), so please don't think I'm coming out of left field with this or that I'm just talking out of my ass. And I know each child with Sotos is different... as a matter of fact, your D. at three sounds pretty close to right on track language-wise with my six-year-old friend --at the age of six. So Good Job D.! I mean no disprespect- I guess I just mean to say, So glad you finally had a nice dinner out... and that D. showed you what he's capable of! Good Job!

And I hope you understand that I’m not picking on you – I just really wanted to address all of this. I hope you agree that I have done so respectfully.


ADHD Mom said...

May I add my .02? I think that what it really boils down to is picking your battles. You choose what is important to you and what you do or do not want to emphasize as important to your kids. Especially when you have a child with special needs. And, for what it's worth, I can totally relate to the whole personality of a child thing. My easiest kid is a nightmare at restaurants, while my most challenging child is the picture of fine dining etiquette. Go figger. We can't lock them in a box so we take them out and hope for the best, right? Also, if I may, we aren't talking about taking them to the Ritz Carlton, right? WG took D to a family restaurant where some deviations in manners are completely expected both by management and other diners. OK, enough rambling.

Momof2boys said...

I think your response was very respectful!
I would have to agree with you that most 3 year olds don't say seated for a full meal in a restaurant. I have 2 sons, one is just 4, one is almost 3 - when I take them out to eat they sit and eat for 5 minutes, then they go look at the ketchup packets, the candy machines, the bathroom - can you tell I don't take them to nice places? I think they are reasonably well behaved kids. They're not runnning around screaming, but they certainly arent sitting for an hour with their hands folded in their laps. Maybe I'm a bad parent but if so, I'm among friends because all my friends sons behave the same way! The girls, well that's a whole different story...

3MGA mom said...

Cole was a terror tonight in a family-oriented restaurant. We figure that in the long run, he wants to emulate adult behavior, but sometimes he can't control feelings of boredom, pain, tiredness, or simply the desire to explore. He'll sit for 20+ minutes, but then he's just got to check things out.

I don't know any kids over the age of 10 who can't sit through a meal in a restaurant. I'm sure D and Cole are both going to figure it all out someday, and until then there may be a few bumps in the road.

Meredith said...

I think it was very respectable.

My son is only 2 but we get maybe 5-10 minutes of him sitting and eating at a restaurant before he is demanding to get out of the high chair and wanting to explore and if not allowed, tantrum city.

It is a big deal for us to try to learn to teach him the social rules but it is tough. I really think it does in part boil down to temperament. LM cannot sit still really unless watching TV or strapped to a car seat during a drive. It is tough and one of the reasons that we don't eat out much because it is just not fun.

Still just me said...

You have given me a whole new perspective on kids in eating places. I am one that got upset, wondering why on earth "those kids parent's can't control their kids" for mine never ran around. Thank you for opening up my eyes to the situation. I will now try to be a little more understanding.

Angelfeet said...

I came here via ... someone's link ...really not sure, Anyhow, enjoyed reading the comments about eating out with kids of varying sizes. When I remember, I remind myself that kids are often used to sitting down at the table when the meal is ready, rather than being sat down and waiting for the food to be prepared. That extra bit of waiting can use up a lot of patience. I also agree with with adhd mom - part of parenting, whatever the needs of your child/children are is knowing what is the most important things to "battle" over at that particular time.

I thought your response was very measured and respectful. I've learnt a lot by finding your blog - thank you.