Had lots of fun this morning on KC Live TV with Michelle Davidson and Joel Nichols! I think I practiced this table setting a dozen times last night at home:) Link below:
We just returned from a vacation with our children that totaled almost 18 hours in airports or airplanes from start to finish. I’m not complaining because there was a beach in between, but this topic is fresh in my mind from our travels.
We’re in that in between spot with our children where it’s easy and hard all at the same time. Our oldest is easy and very content to read or watch movies the entire time. Our middle one doesn’t have the attention span (he’s just now 4), and so he requires more frequent activity changes. The baby is only content to be moving, crawling or squirming at all times. Unless he is sleeping, which usually happens during takeoff. In which case my husband and I high five each other.
In other words, we are a lot of work when traveling. Because of that, I’m also really cognizant of how we are affecting the travel experience of others. Are we being too loud? Are the children controlling their physical actions i.e. are they having a Star Wars reenactment in the middle of the boarding line? Is someone having a meltdown because the security line is long?
As we all know, our children can be unpredictable despite what we’ve taught them, so the best we can do is try and be prepared to make life easier on us and other passengers. Here are a few things to hopefully help your next journey and if you have any tips or tricks, I’d love to hear them too!
Pack a Bag
Better yet, let your child help pack a bag or backpack. This is their carry-on. I prefer backpacks for my kids because it leaves their hands free and they are less likely to accidentally leave it behind. They might fill it with robots, American Girl dolls, Legos, books, an iPad, etc. Make it light enough so they can carry it. It is their responsibility, even if you have to help. It helps them learn that mom and dad can’t carry everything for them, which shows consideration and respect. And don’t underestimate the value of packing snacks and gum.
Stretch their Legs
I can’t take full credit for this one. I read it in an article once and have been putting it to use ever since. In between flights at the airport, or before we board, we don’t sit very much, we use that time to get the wiggles out. Take a walk down the concourse, let them look at knick-knacks in stores, go down the moving walkway a few times (being mindful of others of course). That way when they get on the plane in their seat, they are hopefully a little more ready to sit still and do an activity.
There are a lot of opportunities for children to say “hello”, “please” and “thank you” boarding and during a flight. If you feel comfortable, have your children give the attendant their ticket as they are getting on and say “hello” and “thank you” to them. They will feel a little sense of responsibility for their ticket that gets them on the plane, and it’s another opportunity to interact with adults. Just as important, it’s nice to say “hello” to the flight attendants as they get on the plane. And, if the cockpit is open, say “hello” to the pilots too. You just never know when the captain will invite your child in to look at the gear just because they stopped to say “hello”. My children are so thrilled when this happens.
Along the same lines, try having your children order their own drinks (that you approve) from the flight attendant politely and say “thank you” when it arrives. This helps teach them the value of consideration and respect for the work the flight attendants are doing for them and others on the plane.
On the Plane
There are a few small details of behavior that make a world of difference to other passengers on an airplane. These can sometimes be the hardest to manage, but I find most passengers are sympathetic to the plight of parents traveling with children, especially if you are being mindful. Here they are in no specific order:
· Headphones on! Be sure to watch the volume of your child’s voice as they often can’t tell how loud they are talking, or singing, with headphones on.
· Keep their feet off the back of the seat in front of them – at all times. I think I repeat this to my children a thousand times every flight.
· Tray tables should probably just remain up as a courtesy to other passengers unless your child is aware and knows not to put it up and down several times.
· Recline seats only in the smallest of circumstances. If there is no one behind your child, then it is okay. Or, if you’re on a very long international flight. But on a domestic flight, it’s typically quite an inconvenience to the person sitting behind you or your child. The key here is to observe the rule of doing what’s most considerate for those around you.
· Watch pulling on the seats in front of you. My least favorite part of a flight is waiting for our turn to disembark the plane once we’ve landed. I know it’s a matter of mere minutes, but with antsy children it can seem like a lifetime. This is when they are standing up in their places and sometimes accidentally pulling on the seat in front of them. Some people don’t mind, but some people definitely do, trust me on this one. That’s a story for another time. But I’m very mindful of it and try and be considerate of that person in front of my child. This is a great time to play I Spy, ask some silly trivia questions (what’s the fastest animal on earth?), or even pull out a snack or piece of gum to help keep them preoccupied while waiting their turn to get off the plane.
Leaving the Plane
Don’t forget to set the example and say “thank you” to all the flight attendants and pilots (if you see them) as you pass on your way off the plane. It’s always nice for your children to be sure and say “thank you” on their way out too.
Lastly, have fun on the trip! Our children will grow up and these moments will become memories. So enjoy them and the journey! Oh, and book a babysitter for the night after your return, you’ve earned it:)
This topic comes up all the time! Tell me you haven’t discussed this with your friends. When I was talking to my friends about developing different children’s etiquette classes, I heard this idea more than once. We talk about “restaurant training” with a little bit of a wink. It’s that goal we have for our children, but I think most of us know that the unpredictable 4-year-old can give you a run for your money, no matter how many times you’ve taught him how to behave.
Because the truth is there are many times when eating out at a restaurant with children is neither easy nor relaxing. So many factors come into play. Did they nap today? Who took whose favorite Lego ship in the car? Who spent all afternoon at a play-date and is now completely exhausted and grumpy? Who doesn’t like the food smells coming from the table next to yours? I could go on and on. Point is, we’ve all had highs and lows. I’ve come away from a 2-hour dinner so exceptionally proud of mine, and I’ve also left a 25-minute dinner with my kids in complete meltdowns so exhausting that I bee-lined straight for a glass of wine. How many times can they drop the crayons under the table?! Why do they always need to go to the bathroom when the food arrives? And why do they randomly wander out of their seats for no reason? (If you’re shaking your head puzzled at any of this because it doesn’t happen to you, you probably have girls;)
But here’s the deal, hang in there and KEEP AT IT! You are teaching your child valuable life skills that will benefit them now, on their first date, and at their first job. With repetition and reminding, it will sink in, and your child will stun you into total glee by placing his napkin in his lap first thing, using the right utensil at the right time and ordering so politely from the waiter you almost tear up. And yes, even your 4-year-old can do all of that.
So with that said, “restaurant training” really begins at home…
· Have Dinner Together!
We have to start here, right? Having dinner together at home around the table presents those flexible teaching moments. Using family dinners at home as teachable opportunities is just smart, and helps set up your children to understand what kind of expectations you have around a dinner table, no matter where that dinner table may be. I’ll talk more about how and what to teach in another blog, or you can always email me to set up a lesson, I love talking table manners. And you’d be surprised how much your child enjoys it too! Children want to know expectations and do a great job, they want to please you, and they don’t want to feel confused or embarrassed.
Also, besides the impact it has on your child’s ability to successfully manage a dinner out and about or even at grandmother’s house, there have been numerous studies on the benefits of having a family meal together. Studies showing everything from performing better academically in school to staying out of trouble outside of school. We talk about giving our children the gift of good manners, because it really is a gift for their entire life. But by having dinner we’re also giving them the gift of our time and attention. That’s priceless.
· Technology stays put away
I don’t compromise on this in my home or at a restaurant. The cell phones stay in purses or pockets. The iPads are put away. At home, I leave my cell phone in a completely different room where I can’t hear it or be tempted by it if it dings. Our dinners at home typically last all of 25-minutes because I have 3 young boys and that is about their attention span. If that’s the same for you, for that short, precious time try leaving all of your phones in another room and just focusing on the people around your dinner table. I often keep my phone close by all day long because I worry what if the school calls and needs me for one of the boys. But at the dinner table, with everyone there, I can just disconnect and put it away. I could teach an entire class on etiquette tips and tricks for technology with children (and will be doing so soonJ.) Try it tonight, when you’re at home or a restaurant, put it all away and see how your child responds to your direct attention for 30-minutes. You’re teaching your child how to behave without technological distractions, how to be patient and wait for their dinner, and how to improve their social interaction etiquette at a table.
Side note: I’ll write more on this later in another post, but when at a restaurant, I always pack a bag of crayons, coloring books, building blocks, legos, etc. Sometimes our conversations revolve around what the kids are coloring, and that’s okay!!
· Let Them Set the Table
I know how incredibly basic this sounds, but it works. Want to teach them which fork to use when they sit down at a restaurant or which water glass is theirs? Have them help set the table at home, and they will get it in a snap. If you’re worried about them carrying glasses or dishes, just set everything they need on the dinner table, but have them actually set it up at each place setting.
· Clear the Table and Help with Dishes
This is an important part of behaving at a restaurant, because it teaches them to be considerate and respectful of the wait staff clearing their plates. If they’ve had to take dishes off the table and to the sink at home, they will look up more and realize when someone is doing it for them. This is essential to instilling etiquette in your children – noticing and appreciating what others are doing for them, and saying “thank you!” Don’t say “thank you” on behalf of your children, they can and should do it themselves. Eventually the goal is for them to clear dishes at home for you without you even having to ask – talk about good manners!
· Allow Your Child to Order for Himself
Your child can do this as soon as they learn to talk. Teach them to say “please” when ordering their meal and “thank you” once the waiter has acknowledged their order. They should also say “thank you” anytime the waiter brings them something or delivers their food. The same as above, this teaches your child kindness and consideration for the person who is waiting on them, and also makes them practice key conversation skills including speaking up, looking the person in the eye and using those magic manner words of “please” and “thank you.”
· Participate in Conversation
Don’t let them off the hook on this. You will only help your child if you teach them at a young age how to be a considerate member of a dinner conversation. So many etiquette skills are involved…not interrupting, saying excuse me, speaking directly to another person and looking him or her in the eye while doing so. And those are just a small few. If you help them be counted and considered in the dinner table conversation, it just may make your time at a restaurant a lot more pleasant on both ends. Not to mention you learn more about your child’s day.