Child Discipline

Restaurant Manners for Kids and Teens

I recently read an article about how nicely French kids act when they’re out at restaurants with their parents.  They sit quietly.  They don’t interrupt.  They don’t squirm in their seats.  Hmm.  I guess my kids aren’t French!  For the non-French among us, there are things you can do to make eating out with your kids enjoyable.  We’ve come up with some tips to improve your kids’ and teens’ restaurant manners.  Give them a try and let us know if you enjoy your next meal out just a little bit more.

For Kids

  • Plan Ahead.  Getting your kids to have good manners when you’re eating out starts well before you look at the menu. Before you go, talk to them about what’s expected.
  • Be Specific.  If you want them to sit quietly while they eat, tell them.  If you want them to put their napkin in their lap, let them know.  Come up with two or three very specific items, and focus on those.
  • Set Them up for Success.  A tired child will not likely be a polite child.  If you’re eating out past their bedtime, think twice!  If you decide to go ahead with your plans, make sure your child gets an extra nap or goes to bed early the night before.
  • Prepare Diversions.  Good manners dictate that there should be no electronics at the table, but a small book or a small coloring pad with crayons might be the saving grace for keeping your kids in obedience mode.
  • Reward!  Tell your child that if they behave, they’ll get a thank you in the form of a special dessert, a small toy, or some of our Manners Rewards Coupons.  Of course, heap praise on them throughout the meal as they meet your expectations.

For Teens

  • Pep Talk.  Before you eat out, tell your tween or teen that you know they’ll do great.  Let them know you expect them to take part in the conversation, act politely, and use good table manners.
  • Review Course.  Go over the basics before you eat out. Young men stand when a lady comes to the table.  Food is passed counterclockwise. Napkins go on the lap as soon as you’re seated.
  • Back Off…a Bit.  Once you’re seated, give your child the chance to have good manners without swooping in to remind him to put his napkin on his lap, get his elbows off the table, etc.  Let him figure it out and only pipe in if he’s really missing the boat.
  • Electronics Free Zone.  Make sure your teen knows that meals are to be taken sans electronics…a fancy way of saying, “Do not check your phone or text during the meal.”
  • Pat on the Back.  When your teen or tween hits the mark, thank them for their good manners.  If you have critiques, save them for later.  Let them bask in the glow of your favor at least until morning.


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Nancy Jergins has written about relationship and family issues for more than 15 years, and does her best to enlighten and encourage others with her words.

2 thoughts on “Restaurant Manners for Kids and Teens

  1. Agree with no electronics during the meal but after they’re done (provided electronics are on silent and your child is sitting quietly) waiting for others to finish then go for it. This definitely beats the kid acting up and the parents losing patience trying to control every bored action.

    1. For us, I don’t see a difference between playing a game (on mute) or coloring in a book. (Like you said, after the meal.) I don’t want them to be bored and I don’t expect them to be fascinated by the adult conversation.

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