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September 01, 2007


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Oh the irony... I just found this:

September is National Table Manners Month!


I know my kids are normally well behaved, but there is no "absolutely perfect" everytime.

I don't care who says what, one day you will be caught out with tired, cranky kids and they will act out in ways you would not imagine. I try to limit this with my family, but I know it happens.

My kids have much better table manners at home where there aren't as many distractions and "fun things" to look at (read other people to look at and tables to climb under because the crayons have dropped) AND when they don't have to wait 20 minutes for a meal. Sitting. At the table. Hungry.

At home, we sit down when dinner is ready. Not when I start cooking it.

Hmmmm ... PunditGirl has great manners away from home, but not so much at home -- do I have sonething backwards??

Why oh why do adults assume that children are all the same? Adults have radically different personalities, levels of comfort in social situations and activity levels. Some grownups, and kids, are just plain moody. Sometimes my kids are good, sometimes they are not. Sometimes one is angelic, rarely both. Yes, it is my job as a parent to try and contain them, teach them manners, and not let them bother others. Do I always succeed? Hell no. But I try and teach them, and hopefully they will learn. However, they were born with at least some traits, or have developed some, that no amount of me threatening them with consequences, and carrying them through will always temper their behavior.

My kids act like they do whether they are home or not. There are times when they are perfect little specimens. There are times when one of them is a difficult nutcase. They are often louder and more animated than most adults. I do tend to keep them 'reined in' more when we are out, esp. if we are somewhere where kids aren't the norm.

So, if you saw me for 10 minutes in the supermarket, no, you could not say for certain that my kids were one way or another. But, if you spent an entire day with us, you'd get the picture.

It's amazing that there are people with perfectly behaved children. Yeah, right. And it's amazing how everyone with children that are less inclined to be, um, rowdy sees that as a result of their amazing parenting abilities.

Not every child with a lot of energy has a disability. Some of it is personality. I see it in my 2 kids already. The oldest is very well behaved in public. Because he's naturally very reserved and prefers to stick close to us. Our youngest is an overstimulated NIGHTMARE in public. Same parenting. Two very different kids.

For the most part, my girls behave themselves in restaurants and other public venues. However, there are days that I was embarrassed by the mess or the noise. My younger daughter is a screamer, and we have had to take her aside for a chat. We have had to remind her of the consequences. I don't think we have had to leave a restaurant but I was willing to do so. We do a lot of take out when we eat out, I would rather eat at home, but still not cook. It is a little cheaper because I don't have tip, drinks or dessert. One of the other solutions is to have more adults than children, if possible. My mom is a big help in that regard. I don't think bad behavior is limited to public, and my kids can have a meltdown out at a restaurant, as easily as at home. Case in point, my almost six year old had to be taken out of church today. She wouldn't stop for the prayer so I put my hand over her mouth, held her tight, and waited for the prayer to end. Then, she and I left the sanctuary for a place to have a conversation. Maybe, when they begin to respond to reason, their behavior can reflect parenting, but if a child is tired, hungry, or otherwise out of sorts, then parenting is less reflected. Most parents are doing the best they can to do the best for their kids. No one wants to raise horrible children, so they are making decisions as they best see fit. I've also come to realize, that most of those looks, the ones that make me feel guilty about my kids, are misinterpreted. Most people have been where I am and are simply remembering the days when they were in the trenches of parenting. Most are more understanding and empathetic than we think. It's our own insecurity that makes us feel so guilty.

There is one thing that everyone here is forgetting.

Bad behavior in public-bad parenting, just an off day, or....

Perhaps the kid has some SPECIAL NEEDS? Many special needs just aren't visable and the kid will look totally normal. Does that mean that parents of kids who are autistic or who have sensory issues should never take them out in public? Absolutely not. I mean, how else are they going to learn to cope with public places?

My kid was FAR better at home then in a grocery store, movie theatre, or restaurant, because I can tailor the environment to meet his needs. Public places were hellish-full of noise, people, crowds, etc. He couldn't stand being in them for very long. Of course we were very concious of other people and would remove him if he was out of hand, but sometimes people would be all over him for something as simple as picking an item off the shelf.

One can't just jump on the judgement bandwagon and immediately assume that any child that misbehaves is a hooligan, or that the parent is at fault. Many of these parents are already struggling, and get judged from friends/family/schools, and the last thing they need is more judgement. They're probably already hanging by a thread.

Once I was at the beach with my son (who is Learning Disabled, has dyspraxia and sensory issues) and was telling him it was time to go home. He continued to play, using his usual stalling tactic. I told him again, and he still ignored me. A stranger approached me and said, "It's obvious who's in charge-and it's not YOU."

The ass didn't know that my kid has a lot of trouble with transitions, slower processing, and that his ignoring me was FAR preferable to the 2 hour long tantrums that we had previously been dealing with. Not to mention that I had told him he had FIVE MINUTES longer. Plus he'd been distracted and it took me walking up to him, taking his hand and getting him to look me in the eye for him to come. There was no tantrum, no mouthing me off, no hooligan behavior.

At that time I was a struggling Mom that thought I was the worst parent in the world, and I didn't know my son's special needs. But that moron reinforced my own thought-that my son's issues were completely my fault.

And you know what? They weren't.

People need to think a bit before they judge someone. Sure, it's easy when you've had a kid that's easy. Not all of us get dealt that dream hand.

Bad parenting? Of course not! It's one thing to cook dinner at home, call your kids, sit them down at the table, have them eat their food and then return them to "freedom"...

It's an entirely different thing going to a restaurant, sitting at a table for 10 minutes, before your order is taken, sitting for another 20 minutes before the food is served, and sitting some more while Mom and Dad finish their drinks.

It is wonderful to have the perfect children, who will always sit still the entire time. For the rest of us there is always "the future"... someday they'll be perfect. ;) And maybe then we'll be perfect too and not expect too much of other parents who are struggling with their squirmy kids.

Re-reading my comment, I hope I didn't sound like an attack dog on River. I'm just sensitive about this topic due to the difficulties we've endured.

And I forgot to add: there is sometimes a clear difference between bad parenting and an off night. If the kids are throwing things, being loud, etc. - what are the parents doing?

If they're just sitting there ignoring their kids (or worse - laughing at their antics), then you've got a case of bad parenting in that moment. If they're trying to correct or re-direct the kids to better behaviors, then they are doing their best to deal with the situation.

Oh yesyesyes and nononono.

No, I don't think it is cool to see one family scene and make a judgment.

No, I don't think you can judge home or elsewhere behavior by how kids act in restaurants (which are notorious spots for meltdowns).

But...yes, the one place my kids are sure to be dreadful at is a table at meal time.

It's not for want of trying on our end. So why then?

It only took my three years but I figured out what the f*ck it is that happens to make my children into deranged lunatics as soon as we sit down to the table: sibling rivalry.

Like many parents, we had it so well in hand with one child that eating out was a joy. (So you parents with one perfecto-child...enjoy.) We had people comment, frequently, about how our Lovely Well-mannered Little Girl made their reproductive bits ache.

Then we had number two.

Individually my children are lovely. In school, my children are generally The Good Ones. With sitters, No Trouble At All.

So why so horrid with mom and dad and at the table, especially out to eat?

Sibling rivalry and egging it on escalation. My kids are curious, get overstimulated, feel their oats in new environments etc. But that just adds a special little undertone. The real issue is the rivalry and escalation.

The dinner table is one of the few times the entire family sits down together. So the excitement is there (making them slightly spazzy) and then they begin the competition.

We're trying, we are.

But lately, with two bigger and verbal KIDS (not babies or toddlers) the behavior has gotten to where we are often packing up food and just leaving.

My kids are curious explorers and hate to sit down. Patience is in short supply, but rivalry at the table is high.

I hope we figure out soon what to do, LOL.

Ravin' Picture Maven

I realize that there are inevitable meltdowns, and no kid is perfect.


When parents ignore their kids and let them act like uncivilized brats, that's on the parents, not the kids. I was in the doctor's office last week and there was a mom with two boys (estimate 7/9 maybe 8/10)who let her boys bounce in their chairs, run (literally) around the office, and generally be loud and disruptive. That was just plain bad parenting.

When the parents are trying to calm the kids down, I have a lot more sympathy. You never know when a generally good kid is just melting down from overstimulation or the kid is special needs or whatever.

As a teacher, I do worry that too often parents let their kids run the show and are afraid to take charge and actually be the PARENT. I see a lot of families where the kid is very obviously the one in charge. When they screw up, the parents talk a good game, but don't actually create consequences for them.

The other thing to keep in mind is that children use their parents as role models. When they see their parents treat school, or acting in public as a trite or unimportant, they believe it is too.

So sorry everyone, didn't mean to sound judgemental there, and I do extend extra apologies to people who have to cope with children who have, for want of a better word, "disabilities" with situations. I did mention somewhere that my kids certainly aren't perfect and I don't know what else to say here so i'll just quietly go away....

Cordy used to be a dream at restaurants. Give her crayons and something to draw on and she was happy. Never dropped or threw food, never fussed in her high chair.

She's still good at home when it comes to table manners, but now in restaurants we're always "that family".

As you know, Kristen, Cordy possibly has some sensory issues. She now spends the first part of a meal out sitting under the table to acclimate, then she slowly comes back to her seat to eat. If you try to get her back in her seat before she's ready, a meltdown erupts.

She also still won't eat with a spoon consistently, and in public is where she's more likely to thrust her spoon at us and beg us to feed her. Loudly.

Are we bad parents because we can't control our daughter in public? I certainly don't think so. We still set limits with her, and each experience is a learning opportunity for her. A restaurant is a lot for her to deal with, but keeping her out of the public won't help her learn to cope.

I'd advise River not to judge a family at the next table over, since he has no idea what could be going on with that family. It could be bad parenting, but more likely it's an off night - and sometimes it's more than that.

I find that my kids' behavior in a restaurant is inversely proportionate to how many times they've been there. Meaning they behave themselves incredibly well the first couple times we go to a new place, then their behavior steadily disintegrates the more times we go. I think it has to do with comfort level.

And with three boys under 6 years old, who--even when well-behaved--tend to make a mess, we're excellent tippers.

Frankly, I think River is bragging to make up for other areas where his parenting is lacking.

Not every child can behave all the time.

I have a three-year-old with exceptional manners -- Dawson always says "please", "thank you", "your welcom" "God bless you" (when someone sneezes) and even "excuse me" (when he accidentally bumps into someone).

People are ASTOUNDED by this wonderful display, yet the child can't seem to sit still in a restaurant. Why?

Think about it: at home the kids get to play with toys, watch a video, play a game, or whatever until dinner is ready, but in a restauarnt the choices for distraction are very limited.

I don't think this is a display of bad parenting and shame on River for suggesting it.

I'm sorry, I have to agree with River on this one. I took my daughter out to restaurants since she was months old and taught her table manners as quickly as possible. At 13 years old, I can proudly say I did not have any screaming fits, throwing things, running around or distrupt the entire restaurant incidences. Once, only once, did she cry uncontrollably in a store...and we left immediately with punishment beginning the moment we arrived at the car.

I know that when we are in a new environment, The Poo cannot be contained. She gets too excited by all the new stimuli. In a good way, she wants to explore. The flip side of that is that she can be a little exasperating.

But I have a hard time believing River's kids NEVER acted up in a public place.

By the way, we took an entire year off of eating out with The Poo. Had to, I couldn't take it.

I went back and read the previous post and you were wrong about "River". I do hate him and his been little condescending tone, too.

Quite frankly, I was ASTOUNDED... that he's only be around robot children all of his life. Com'on, everyone's been (or at least around) "that family" before.

I think it all depends on the parents' expectations and how they react to "bad behavior".

We take our 17-month old son out to eat with us on a regular basis-- mostly loud family restaurants, of course. He knows what to expect and acts fine most of the time, but he's been known to pitch a fit... and that's generally when we'll leave cash on the table, clean up, and leave.

Although I've seen kids out to dinner where it was clearly past their bedtime. Everyone has a bad day, but if you push your kids past their limits they're bound to act up.

My question is at what age are kids expected to "be good" while out? I have a 15 month old, and most of the time, is wonderful when out, sits nice, colors, looks at books, eats her meal, etc. But some days - teething, or just "off" days - she is a beast, screaming, wanting "dowwww, mama!"

And somedays at play gym she is an angel and shares and other days she knocks kids down and steals their toys. On these "bad" days, I find parents giving me "the look," but my issue is that she is still only 15 months old and only understands discipline to a very small extent. Am I doing something wrong or is "behaving" for a 15 month old absurd like I surmise?

My kids are much better behaved in public than they are at home. I love taking them out when we are having a whiny no good day because I can change the mood immediately.

my kids act relatively normal and good at home. we have good dinners. but at montana's last week they acted insane. spilled milk, launched utensils...reading your post was like reading about our dinner and it just made me feel normal. but if my kids are out without me or my husband (with family or friends) they are the most angelic creatures. well behaved, polite and respectful. that is what i want. for them to not give others a hard time so people want to spend time with my kids.

Some of the hooligans that you see out in public could be attributed to parenting. Some of it is the child's personality--some kids are just going to be stinkers, no matter what you do. And most of it is due to the fact they are children, and children are going to misbehave and push you as hard as they can.

As an example: My eldest child (2 and a half) can pretty much be taken anywhere. While his little brother was being born, he sat in the hospital waiting room for four hours with almost no entertainment and just a small snack to tide him over. He was 17 months old, and was an angel, but he's like that everywhere we go. He's just that kind of kid.

My youngest....er...not so much. He is the type child that considers the world his playground, and is.....fearless. We call him our little daredevil, and if it can be climbed, by george he's gonna figure out a way to climb it. If it does something interesting, he's going to rip it apart until he figures it out. But that's his personality.

To be honest, we don't invite trouble and take them out much, though. It's easier when the chaos can be contained behind baby gates and in one room. ;)

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