Titus and I demonstrate one step of Gentle Disicpline in Teaching Obedience to babies and toddlers. (I’m totally partial to his adorable little self.) 🙂
When you’re in the early days of dating or marriage (i.e. before children!), eating a meal out is a delightful experience.
Leisurely conversation over a piping-hot meal—what could be better?
Then the babies start coming, and if you’ve been a parent for any length of time, you know that the eating-out experience changes forever.
The conversation changes from “How was your day?” to “Don’t touch that. Please don’t lick the salt shaker! Get back in your chair. Could you PLEASE wait to poop until we get home???” 🙂
We have been living life ON THE ROAD for over two years now, and we eat out more frequently than I prefer (I enjoy home-cooked meals and life around our family table!).
We also have EIGHT children, of various ages, and I developed most of these strategies
out of necessity when our virtual triplets were all toddlers.
Often we’re eating out with pastors and/or other missionaries—which adds another dimension to the meal, as they prefer to sit with the adults and have adult conversation. While these tips are helpful for any growing family who desires a smoother eating-out-experience, they are especially applicable for those families in full-time ministry (and find themselves frequently parenting at restaurants).
Here’s my 5 BEST TIPS for Wrangling Wiggly Ones in Restaurants:
1. Keep things CLEAR by telling your children your expectations ahead of time, and REMINDING them of those expectations before exiting your vehicle.
Give clear rules, and remind everyone before EVERY restaurant meal, to avoid the “I forgot” syndrome. 🙂
For example, we remind our children that they are not to argue about their seat assignment (Daddy and Mommy choose!), that they are to stay IN THEIR CHAIR unless they have an urgent need, and that since we desire to allow OTHER FAMILIES to enjoy their meal–they must use a quiet voice in the restaurant.
2. Streamline the “what do you want to eat?” dilemna by deciding what your order will be BEFORE you exit your vehicle.
Unless we are eating at a new-to-us restaurant, I know BEFORE we sit down exactly what I’m going to order for my entire family.
Whether it’s McDonald’s or Outback Steakhouse, ordering for 10 people can be time-consuming and STRESSFUL, so whenever possible, we choose ahead of time to streamline the process. I can rattle off the order for all 10 of us quickly and efficiently. 🙂
3. Avoid unnecessary meal disruptions by taking EVERYONE to the restroom before placing your order.
Sigh. Even with the best-laid plans in this area, SOMEONE will need to use the bathroom during a long restaurant meal. It’s just one of those things with little ones! 🙂
4. Teach your children acceptable table manners.
This covers burping at the table, grabbing over someone else’s plate, loud voices, whining, etc.
Children, by nature, are TAKERS—not GIVERS—and they become quite accustomed to getting their needs met by their parents. This is a GOOD thing. 🙂 However, when you’re in a restaurant (or church potluck, or being guests at a family dinner), having a TAKER attitude can be very rude.
“When will we eat?” “Why isn’t our food here yet?” “I’m starving, Mommy!” “Can I have dessert now?” “I hate this food!” “Is there any MORE food?” “Yuck! I’m not eating that!” etc are all phrases that little ones can be taught not to use in public, as they can be VERY offensive to hosts or waitress staff.
You can teach your children to whisper their needs to you privately if they feel they can’t wait. Give them clear expectations about the food on their plate (eat it all, or eat 5 bites, or whatever is acceptable for you) and then teach them not to fuss about it during the meal.
Even at home, we use “I don’t care for that”, or “That’s not my favorite food” instead of “I hate that!” or “I’m not eating that!” 🙂
5. Bring along a quiet activity to keep little ones entertained, and teach your children little games to play quietly with each other.
A quick family trip to Chick-fil-a may not require anything, but a 2 hour Golden Corral experience may warrant some little things to keep the children nicely entertained while the adults visit.
Our older children keep a couple of card games and a travel size game of Checkers in their bags. These are great ice breakers for making new friends, too!
I keep sticker books, coloring books, colored pencils, and a small tote of Playmobil toys in our van. If I suspect the restaurant experience will go longer OR MY CHILDREN ARE TIRED FROM A LONG DAY IN CHURCH, I will let them play with these things.
Thumb-wrestling, Rock-Paper-Scissors, Bubble-Gum-Bubble-Gum, I-Spy, and Tell-a-Story-Around-The-Table are all games we encourage our children to play while they’re waiting for the food to arrive (or for the adults to be done talking!). 🙂
I hope these tips are a blessing to you! Please leave YOUR best “Wrangling” tips in the comments below!
We are blessed with four girls. Dramatic, gentle, quiet, nurturing, self-controlled, calm girls.
We also have four boys. Rambunctious, curious, destructive, loud, busy little boys.
When our first son was born, I didn’t realize that boys were wired SO differently than girls.
At only eight weeks old, he would awake from a sound sleep with a grin on his face and his little feet kicking rapidly.
He was loud. And silly. And wild. He was amazingly imaginative–all.day.long.
When he started walking, he wasn’t content with coloring or looking at books like his sister.
Instead, he stuck his hand in toilets.
He climbed up on the kitchen table.
He jumped off anything and everything.
He played BIG and loved BIG and the only time he was STILL was when he was asleep.
I remember the first time I tried doing “school” with him. He had just turned two years old so I put him in his high chair and gave him a coloring page and a handful of crayons.
I told him to color, then turned to my four year old and got her started with her schoolwork.
By the time I turned back around, he had broken all five crayons and dropped them all on the floor, one by one, and was watching them roll away.
“All done, Mommy!” he exclaimed, with his hands out-stretched and waiting.
(You mamas of busy boys know exactly what I’m talking about, don’t you?)
I had my first lesson about little boys that day. And while I’m still learning, today I wanted to share a few of the lessons I’ve learned since then.
How to Find Joy in Little Boys:
1. Embrace the Difference.
It’s easy to look at your little *boy* and compare him with your friend’s little *girl*, and wonder what am I doing WRONG? Look at how docile she is! Her little girl will be content to sit and play with a bucket and shovel in the sand for an hour while your little boy is throwing the sand (to make a windstorm, Mommy!), jumping off the side of the sandbox (I’m flying, Mommy!), and running off a hundred times in the first ten minutes of the play date.
You just can’t compare boys with girls. Their entire physical, emotional, and educational make-up is different. God made them that way—so DON’T compare.
We mothers are GIRLS and so we often don’t understand the way our boys think. It’s unfair to expect them to act like little girls when they are wired so very differently.
After church one Wednesday night, when Nathaniel was four, his teacher approached me.
“Nathaniel said he doesn’t want to color in class.”
“I know. He doesn’t like to color at home either.”
“But he says it hurts his hand to hold the crayon that long. I think he’s lying and you should deal with it. He needs to learn to color.”
“Well, I will talk to him about it. But he isn’t lying. He really, really has a hard time coloring for a long time.”
I was tempted to come down hard on my little guy after this conversation. But then I realized something. This teacher was comparing my little guy to the only other child in her class–a GIRL who LOVED to color and did so elaborately. My little guy had many strengths, but coloring just wasn’t one of them. 🙂
Don’t compare boys to girls. Let them be different. It’s okay.
2. Embrace the Energy.
We have four boys. Just one of my boys has more energy than all four of my girls put together.
If I fight this fact, and expect them to sit all day, docile and quiet, I frustrate both myself and them. 🙂
Every single day, these precious little boys awake with a seemingly endless supply of energy.
If you can learn to laugh at their antics, redirect their rough play (“Balls are for throwing OUTSIDE. Here are your shoes.”), and engage their energy in creative ways, you will find such JOY!
*Be a Mama Bear and get down on the floor and TACKLE your Baby Bear.
*Surprise your little boy by grabbing his hand and jumping with him across the parking lot.
*Have him stand to do his homework, run to his room, and crawl to the kitchen table.
*Let him “race” to complete every task. “How fast can you pick up all of these Legos? Ready, set, GO!”
The next time you find yourself frustrated at your little boy’s energy level, think outside-the-box for a way to exercise that energy in creative ways.
3.Embrace the Opportunity to Train .
Sometimes parenting a child brings you to a point of frustration. Yes, little boys are different than little girls. Yes, they are full of life and energy and we need to be understanding and creative in our interactions with them.
BUT–they are NOT un-trainable! They absolutely CAN learn self-control, gain a quiet spirit, and be obedient!
My boys LOVE to play “rough”, to sword-fight with sticks, to chase the girls, and to wiggle through their schoolwork. 🙂 But all three of our older boys were sitting quietly through multiple church services at a year old. All three of them would stay on their blanket time for thirty minutes by a year old. These may not be goals you have for your little boys, and that’s okay—each family has different goals, expectations, and experiences.
But every little boy can begin to be taught how to channel all of that energy into appropriate behavior.
Now, my boys are not quiet little robots by any means. 🙂 When I take them all shopping they get antsy and sometimes very foolish. 🙂 They are still a glorious work-in-progress.
Aren’t we all? 🙂
I have found the key to not being frustrated is by setting the goal HIGH but working towards that goal with baby steps.
If he can’t sit still for an hour, try 10 minute increments. If he is has too much energy to focus for three hours on his schoolwork, try shorter bursts of time with a lot of physical activity mixed in. Give lots of praise and tiny rewards when he gains skills that don’t come easy to him. Stay positive.
Appreciate the fact that your little boy’s most annoying qualities will most likely be what drives him to be a successful man someday.
Let me give you an example. Remember my two-year-old-crayon-breaker/thrower? He still doesn’t love to color. But he will read (without moving or getting distracted!) for over an hour now. He will RUN to accomplish any little task for Mommy. He is by far my most nurturing, protective, tender little soul. He is still loud. He is still busy and energetic. But he is learning to turn that energy into productivity.
That early riser who never seems to need sleep? He’s going to jump out of bed to go to work each morning with a smile.
That energizer bunny? He’s going to work circles around his laid-back college friends.
That loud, embarrassing, over-the-top little guy? He might be a preacher, unafraid of what people think, willing to speak the truth at all costs.
That curious, take-everything-apart, destroyer? He just might change the world with his inventions.
Perspective is EVERYTHING. Embrace your little boys for who they are–and who they will become.
Set goals for your little boys. Help them learn to focus, to complete tasks in a timely manner, to stay quiet when necessary. But don’t just EXPECT them to obey—TEACH them how to do it.
Little by little, one baby step at a time. 🙂
When I began parenting BOYS, I was frequently frustrated. I wanted quiet, still little angels and was shocked at boyish behavior. Thankfully, the Lord worked in my heart, gentling me toward these sweet little men. Now I wouldn’t trade my busy boys for all the “quiet” in the world. 🙂
Embrace Boyhood–and you will find such JOY in little boys!