Child expectations in a restaurant

Old Fashioned or Just Good Parenting?

Don’t get defensive when you read this. We’ve all done it. We’ve all had prouder parenting moments, but let’s speak candidly.

More and more you notice technology in the hands of babes. It’s happening in restaurants, doctors’ offices, cars, and even the lines at Disney. Once I even saw it at church! Please don’t misunderstand. There is certainly a time and a place for these techno babysitters, but are we over doing it?

How did parents before us survive? The answer is simple. They had behavioral expectations in certain settings, and they interacted with their children. Certainly, the quality of that interaction must have waned on a nine-hour drive to the beach, but preparations were made in the form of coloring books, billboard games, and car tag challenges. Even the dreaded punch buggy game.

Do we really need to rely on an iPad to entice our children to stay in a seat and behave in a restaurant? Plan accordingly for the setting. Is it a place that you can play tic-tac-toe? Rock, paper, scissors? If not, how about a dog-eat-dog game of I Spy or 20 Questions?

There is certainly nothing wrong with popping in a favorite DVD for that drive to the beach, but do we need it playing on the drive to and from school or on the way to soccer practice?

Language deficits in children are at an all-time high. These short car rides are great opportunities for language development! Don’t just ask if they had a good day. Ask him to tell you the three best parts of the day.  Or the best part and the worst part. Ask her to tell you the beginning, middle, and end of a book she just read. Summarizing and retelling books, games, movies, etc. are all great exercises in expressive language. Why not ask him to help you plan some meals for the week and even write the grocery list? When you think about it, the topic possibilities are endless.

A personal favorite is a good game of “Would You Rather”? Would you rather eat three toenails from a monkey or two fleas and a tick? Although, not ideal for a restaurant, as it may result in a diminished appetite, this game is sure to get giggles and inspire the imagination.

Yes, life is easier when your three children each have something to occupy them. They don’t argue, they’re quiet, and they’re entertained. However, there is something to be said for developing conflict resolution skills with a sibling. A few gray hairs may be acquired along the way, but your guidance with what is acceptable in arguing and negotiating may serve him well in the future.

Have behavioral expectations, but also plan for the setting. With younger children, it might be best to start out with short periods and gradually increase the time. It can be challenging at first, but you may be surprised at how much fun you can have and how much you will learn about your child!

Patience is a virtue, right? Behavioral expectations for these settings must be set and rich conversations can be had. Give it a try and see the growth and benefits!

*Without a doubt, there are certainly benefits to some electronic devices, apps, games, etc. There are also many electronic educational tools that can be used for enrichment and supplemental remediation.  The key, as with everything, is for them to be used in moderation.



Conversations With Your Child

Why the Car Can be a Great Place for Conversations With Your Child: 3 Things to Consider

You’re driving down the road and your child asks you where babies come from. Well, you can either drive up on the sidewalk, or you can clench the steering wheel a little tighter and go with the conversation.

While this might not quite be the setting you envisioned for this conversation, it could actually turn out to be for the best. At least it can be a great starting point! A car can end up being the ideal setting for many “sensitive” conversations. Whether it is a younger child or a teenager, you can use it to your advantage.

Why? Here are a few things to consider.

1) You can avoid that awkward eye contact. Depending on the topic, it can really make a difference. Sometimes a child (or adult) will feel more at ease to ask questions, make comments, or go deeper into a conversation when you aren’t facing each other. Lying in bed while looking at the ceiling can be a similar strategy.

2) You are not as likely to be interrupted. The doorbell won’t ring. She won’t be pulling away trying to watch television. He won’t be asking if he can play a video game. They can’t exit to another room. There is nowhere to run! (However, you might need to silence a cell phone.)

3) The setting is more casual. And there are built-in distractions if needed. Especially with some of the teenager conversations, you are less likely to give the impression that you are “too interested,” “too concerned,” or “too intrusive.” (For those of you with teenagers, you know precisely to what I’m referring.) If you occasionally make a comment about a car, a street, or make some other observation, it will make it less intense. A random comment can also fill in that dreaded lull, should one occur.

Over the years, I’ve gotten more information out of my children during car rides than in any other place. We’ve also had some of the deepest, most heart-felt conversations we’ve ever had.

Your peripheral vision can allow you to see how much your oldest child is squirming when your youngest child is asking twenty puberty questions. (This is actually a hilarious memory for us!)

My mini-van was the backdrop for topics from school struggles, strategies for asking someone to a dance, to hearing about a first kiss. Admittedly, there have been some close calls, but I’ve never run up on the sidewalk.

Put away the phones and other electronics for some of your car rides and wait for the conversations to unfold!