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How to teach kids good dining manners

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Several readers have ideas about making dining out a better experience for everyone. Here are some of their suggestions.

When you take your children out, set up guidelines that are appropriate within your family, said Casey Bulkley, father of three and managing partner of Biaggi's at The Gateway.

"Verbalize those expectations with children of all ages: This is OK, this isn't OK; behave like this; remember to say please and thank you," Bulkley said. "Those are life skills for any situation, not just eating out."

Don't take children out to eat when they are tired or sick, advises mother of seven, grandmother of 30 and great-grandmother of seven LeAnn Rushton, who adds, "You are inviting trouble if you do."

Mother of two toddlers Christie Dickson advises heading off trouble before it starts, when possible. "We try to bring little snacks for them to eat before food arrives. We have had to take them out for a walk if service is slow, and we do our best to keep them well-behaved."

Amanda Charlesworth, who has two sons, looks at eating out as a training ground for her children and uses "coaching and redirection" to ensure a nice meal for her family and everyone else. "Parents should be aware of what their children are doing and either redirect them to calm them down, or remove the children until they can (calm them down)."

Children do better in smaller groups, said Rushton, who often takes her grandchildren and great-grandchildren to dinner in groups of three or four. "Eating out with our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren is a good time for together time just to visit and enjoy one another."

Contrary to what many parents believe, Rushton said that, if she wants the children with her to behave, she avoids raucous eateries such as McDonald's or Joe's Crab Shack. "If you take them to a noisy place, you can just about expect your kids to be more hyper."

Reader Tanya Spackman, who calls herself "single and not a big fan of kids," said diners should pause a moment before judging groups with kids. "Hating the kids before you even find out how they behave is ridiculous."

When kids are behaving badly, Ogden resident Shelly Strahan thinks a little public reprimand might help. "I believe the solution is for more restaurants to embarrass parents who do allow their children to act like animals by asking them to leave. I think this would solve the problem."

Reader Weston Smith said he would like to sit in a "children" section of a restaurant, "along the lines of the old smoking or nonsmoking sections. ... I would much rather be segregated to a children-accepted area than to feel like I have shattered the 'cone of silence' for those who are not dining with young ones and feeling their wrath of discontent because I chose to take my whole family out to dinner."

For reader Marge Aten, the solution is even simpler: "Next time you are out with your family, think about the others around you. They are trying to enjoy their dinner, also. The most important thing you can do for your children is teach them manners and how to behave in public — something not done much these days."

Finally, Bulkley would like to see everyone — diners with kids, diners without kids, diners who sometimes bring kids but don't have theirs along that night — "be a little more patient with each other. People should give each other a break and allow other people a little more space, and especially allow children a little room to grow and develop, and maybe even a little more love for those kids.

"It's for the greater good. Anytime you make even a little sacrifice or you're a little bit kinder, that helps everyone."