"Wow, you're brave."
I often hear those words from other parents and the occasional non-parent whenever I'm out with my two girls. I'm shocked to find the amazement from strangers when they see me carting the two around the grocery store or a clothing store. Brave? No. Taking a risk of running into a temper tantrum, lost child or diaper explosion while out in public? Yes.
If I decided to only do my food shopping on the weekends or late at night while my husband was home I'd miss out on time to spend with him. And if we never went out to eat as a family, my girls wouldn't learn how to behave in a restaurant.
Too often I hear of parents who refuse to go places and do things as a family because they don't know how the kids will act. Well, how are you going to know if you don't try?
Obviously there is going to be the occasion when you'll just have to pack it in and leave. One time, while out to dinner, my oldest daughter wouldn't sit down and eat. Instead she decided it was more fun to run up and down the aisles, singing at the top of her lungs and jumping into every open seat at each table. As amusing as it may have been for the other patrons, my husband and I were humiliated. My husband scooped her up and took her outside. I then told the waiter we were taking out food to go and we went home and finished eating our dinner. Sure, it's no fun having to pack it all in but she needed to learn that we would pack up and leave if she didn't behave. The next time we went out she stayed in her seat.
As parents and just people, we still need to enjoy going out and doing fun things. Who wants to stay in the house all day or visit the same neighborhood playground day in and day out? If we want our kids to learn how to behave in a restaurant, at the movies, even a sporting event, they need to be given the opportunity to experience it and learn the rules of behavior. We take our girls to Phillies games quite often. Yes, the first go at it was a bit rough and we did have to leave early but now it's a fun thing we can do as a family.
Here are my tips for making it through an outing:
Bring snacks: Pack all their favorite snacks. Most kids love munching and snacks are a great way to get them to sit and distract them from running about.
Stick to the rules: Be consistent. Let them know you always sit at the table when you're eating. Always hold hands or sit in the stroller in a crowded place. Bending the rules can make it confusing for kids and they won't know what they can and can't do.
Take a timeout: Who cares if you're in public! If your child is misbehaving give them a time out. Take them out of the situation and into a quiet place and go through your timeout routine just as you would at home.
Get them involved: Show them the menu, let them pick out what to eat. Explain what is going on around them. During baseball games we explain to our daughter who's at bat and why we're cheering. It makes her feel like a part of the action.
Relax: You need to sit back and let them explore a bit. Kids are curious and will want to see what they can get away with. I don't know any child who sits with their hands folded while waiting for their food to arrive. Don't expect that out of your kids because you'll only grow on edge. Who cares what other people around you think. You're raising your kids the way you see is best.
And if all else fails... Get out!: Sometimes you have to bail early. If you know that going in, it's not as big of a deal to you. However, you should make it a big deal for the kids. Let them know that their behavior has led them to missing out on something. Eventually they'll understand that if they don't behave in public they won't get to go out and have a good time with the family.