Eating out with kids can be a challenge but also has its rewards.

Eating out with kids can be a challenge but also has its rewards.

Last Friday our family went out to dinner at a local Italian restaurant, Sogno di Vino, in Poulsbo, WA. We’ve eaten there a handful of times over the past couple years and have enjoyed their braised short ribs, divine pizzas and mushroom ragu. We were seated at one of the last available tables around 6pm and were greeted happily with menus and bread. We sat and discussed planets, race cars, zebra jokes and “Freckle Juice” until we our meals arrived.

The food was lovely. Our eldest, who is clearly in the middle of a growth spurt, ate her share and mine, as our littlies munched happily while periodically stopping to notice the small fireplace in the corner and the window paintings on the wall of grapevines in Italy.

It certainly makes you feel good when someone else notices your kids in a positive light. 

“Wine is grape juice, Papa”, says our eight-year-old, who also declares that “It tastes gross to kids”.

Well behaved kids are worth a $4 discount at this restaurant.

Well behaved kids are worth a $4 discount at this restaurant.

Near the end of our meal, our server visits our table to tell us how impressed the staff are with our kids’ behaviour and that many of them didn’t even realize we had little ones eating with us. She then brought us a bowl of ice cream to share. When we received our tab, it had a discount listed for “Well Behaved Kids”. A pleasant surprise after a lovely meal.

As a family of five, with kids aged two, three and eight, we know that restaurant staff aren’t always terribly excited to have us seated at one of their larger tables. Having worked front of house in the restaurant industry prior to having children, I also know firsthand what it can be like to serve families.

We eat most of our meals as a family around our kitchen table. It is one of the ways we come together throughout our week to talk about our lives, to catch up and to share our love. We don’t have any hard rules about no iPods or laptops at the table, but most of the time they’re not welcome. We do sometimes Google something surrounding our conversation - we’ve been known to look at Google Earth at dinner time on more than one occasion.

Our kids are also encouraged to pick up on general etiquette at the table. That same etiquette occurs when we’re out at dinner. We, as parents, lead by example and if we have to spell out what and how we’re doing something, we will. We don’t expect handouts for acting respectful of the folks who bring us our food. But it certainly makes you feel good when someone else notices your kids in a positive light.

My suggestions to other parents:

* Take your kids out to eat at least a couple times a month.
* Give your kids a snack before you head out.
* Be sure they’re rested and healthy.
* Be ready to engage with your kids.
* Notice the people, art, music, food in the room and talk about it.
* Encourage your kids to talk with you just like you would talk with another adult.
* Enjoy the time you’ve carved out to be with them.

ETA: In response to the hype found on huffington postmsnreddit.

This article first appeared on Laura King's blog Beer after tea and has been republished with permission.