Parenting in Public

19 Feb


Picture disclosure: this was taken at home, on another night, were we had a tantrum over who-knows-what.

Here’s what happened:

We are sitting down at a restaurant trying to have a nice family meal when my toddler starts screaming her head off because she can’t stand to sit in the high chair another minute.

Here’s what she does:

We try soothing her for about 30 seconds, no success. And it’s embarrassing because half the restaurant is looking our way. We don’t want to take her out of the chair because we’re barely on our appetizer and that means one of us we’ll eat our meal with her in our lap. She’s halfway up already, moving her arms from one of us to the other, hoping we’ll believe her crocodile tears. She knows we’re about to cave, so she turns up her volume, arches her back, and stiffens her legs.

Here’s what we did (my husband is the biggest softy of the two):

We stare at each other, both thinking we’re that annoying family that is disturbing all the couples having quiet date nights. I smile the “I told you so” smile because I had warned him before we left the house that maybe it was too late and we should order in. But really, that’s unnecessary and I know it, so I laugh and wait for his move. At this point we’ve already tried bribing her with our phones (that entertained her for a few minutes) and her toys (those are now littered around the table, ignored). He smiles back and with a sigh reaches for the little noisemaker who is now standing on the seat of the high chair screaming her head off and reaching for him like the seat is about to go up in flames. The minute she’s in his arms the screaming stops, the tears dry up, and she smiles at us both with a look that clearly shows she won this round. If you’re wondering why she’s not tied down, we always tie her but she learned how to untie herself and after trying for 20 minutes, managed it.

We eat with her taking turn on our laps. No more crying at dinner that night.

Happy baby = quiet dinner. But at what expense? Are we encouraging her disruptive behavior by allowing her to manipulate us that way? I tell myself she’s still too little to really understand…but she’s almost two. What’s the right age to start explaining things to her?  How do I tell her things in public without embarrassing her or myself but still getting my point across? It seems it would be easy, but it’s not, at least not for me. Am I that permissive parent that other moms avoid because I can’t control my kid? Jeez, who ever said it was easy and things like these would come naturally was not raising a toddler when that was said. At a place like Disney world, where every other toddler/baby is screaming/crying/fuzzing, it’s no big but what about at regular places like Cheesecake Factory or Olive Garden? Easy. Yea. Right. Sure.

I found an article that I’m sharing below but it seems their suggestion is we dine early. I can appreciate that but we’re not early diners. It’s on normal nights, either at home or out, that I can’t seem to find a way to keep her in that high chair, regardless of the time. The older she gets the better she is at slithering her way out of that seat. We can certainly get a sitter for special nights or go out to dinner early. I’m really hoping those are not my only options. I’m wishing someone has the miracle answer (or something that worked for them) so that we can dine when we want, with our toddler in-tow, and in relative peace – or as much peace as any toddler allows 🙂 Are there any parents out there that can please share thoughts on what I (we) can try? Until what age did you toddler tolerate the high chair? Should we switch to a booster seat, maybe?

Final disclosure: I absolutely love my toddler and want her with me 24/7. But I work. So after work, I want her with me all the time. I don’t care that she wants to sit in my lap and most nights she does – even if I have to eat one handed. But I want her to be respectful, too. I wanted/needed to vent a little….other moms are welcome to vent on here if they want/need 🙂

How to Parent in Public.

Photo credit: my camera, my picture 🙂


4 Responses to “Parenting in Public”

  1. hrosez February 19, 2013 at 7:55 pm #

    In my opinion, raising children is the same as raising a puppy. Take… crate training for example. Compare that to your trouble with the high chair.

    The puppy goes in the crate, and the crying, howling, whining, barking starts. What do you do? If you bring the puppy out when it is misbehaving like that, you are teaching the puppy that is how it gets what it wants. Is to cry and howl and make a lot of noise. Thus, teaching your puppy, you desire this behavior.

    Same goes for children. If you respond to the crying, whining, and temper tantrums, you are teaching your child that she can get what she wants by acting this way.

    So, how do I handle this? As a puppy/dog trainer, I wait until I see the behavior I want. Now, with puppies, you can’t tell him exactly what you want by saying, “Ok, puppy. Please be quiet. When you are quiet, you can come out.” You have to ‘mark’ the behavior. So, as soon as they are lying down quietly in the crate, say ‘easy’, and then let them out.

    For children, it’s actually even more straight forward (again, this is my opinion, and what has worked for me). You just completely ignore them at home. As soon as they are quiet for say, 5 seconds, then you can pick them up, feed them a bite on your lap or whatever they way, and then put them back again. Eventually, once they start learning to be quiet and respectful, they can get more and more freedom.

    What HASN’T worked. The 1-2-3 counting system. That means (just like dogs when you say a command more than once. Haha, can you tell I’m a trainer?) they have 2 chances to fail or ignore you until they have to do what you say. We want to set up our puppies, I mean…CHILDREN… to succeed. I would work on this at home first, and then start taking them to McDonalds, or some place not as nice as Olive Garden or Cheesecake Factory. Then, work your way up! You and your hubby need date nights too, so maybe plan once a week where it’s just you two, and leave the baby with a sitter until she starts to learn how to behave. 🙂 We want happy families who can have quiet dinners! 🙂

    Good luck in whatever you decide to do!


    • mom305 February 20, 2013 at 9:59 am #

      Hi hrosez. Thank you for your reply. Yes, I do want hubby and me time once a week. Ah, that would be nice! We are working up to that now. In the meantime, I will continue my crate, er I mean baby training. 🙂 I can relate because our chihuahua Maddie was wee-wee pad trained when she was a tiny puppy. I know it’s hard work but I also know it is doable…
      Thanks again!


      • hrosez February 20, 2013 at 1:44 pm #

        🙂 glad I could help!!


  2. Literary Tiger February 21, 2013 at 9:42 am #

    Oh my goodness, I’ve been there too. 🙂 I don’t think there is one way to train your child. I think there are a lot of ways, and the best way may depend on the type of temperament that your child has.

    My little girl who is just over 2 years old gets fussy in the high chair, too. You know what? If she is crying in a restaurant and can’t be consoled, I pick her up and hold her in my lap. At that point, I am feeling too embarrassed over a possible tantrum that I don’t force it. I think one has to look at one’s parenting style as a whole. If you’re pretty consistent with her overall, I don’t think you suddenly become the permissive parent if you take her out of her high chair at a restaurant.

    When my son was little, he was fussy too. We brought toys and a whole bunch of other stuff with us to dinner. Mr. LT and I wolfed our food down so that we didn’t have to stay long. Their attention spans are short. Silly things.

    You know what? Charlie grew out of it. He is now 7 and a joy to take out to dinner. Sometimes, we have mother and son lunch dates.

    My daughter is a little tougher than my son, but over the last 6 months, it’s easier and easier to eat out. She can still be disobedient (does anyone use that word anymore?), but we work on that all the time and it’s a learning process. Your little one is still so young.

    And I LOVE that picture you took of her. I should dig one up of Lola in the same pose. 😀


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