As I was reading one of my parenting magazines last night, I came across an article about how to handle your toddler while eating out. It said what most of us know: to bring a fun activity for them to play with, feed them as soon as you get there, and go at an early time so you don't bother other diners. And lastly, if your child has a stronger temperament, then hold off on going out to eat until they are a little older.
Wait a year or so? Wow, that sounds harsh. Not always an easy solution for families.
And what exactly do they mean by 'strong temperament?'
A temperament is basically a behavior/disposition that someone is born with. Some define it as: characteristics of a baby and how they respond to the environment, such as fearfulness, irritability, emotionality and sociability.
Babies and toddlers are described as easy going vs. fussy. Quiet vs outgoing. These are attributes that can all be caused by temperament. You hear parents all the time saying "I have one child that is so easy and the other throws fits like no tomorrow!" How amazing it is that children in the same family can be so different!
Temperaments are something a child is born with and not a reflection of 'parenting'. You can be an awesome parent, with great discipline techniques but still have a child that is easily frustrated and throw more temper tantrums.
Everyone is wired differently, and to me that makes perfect sense. Each person's personality is unique. We wouldn't all want to be born exactly alike when it comes to temperament.
I think it also takes having a positive outlook when it comes to your child's temperament. If your child is more of a high-need, fussy child, people may describe their attributes negatively such as 'cranky', 'feisty', 'fussy' or 'easily upset' but don't let them make you feel bad! You can always say to them, 'well, I am glad my child is reacting to his feelings and surroundings. It shows that he has emotions and right now he is just figuring out how to handle them since they are all new to him.
And being 'easy going' isn't necessarily always a good thing, just like the opposite isn't always bad.
A high need newborn baby that is fussy gets more of its needs met and more attention, so even though it is draining on the parents, they get more hugs and TLC. And going into adulthood, they have learned how to self soothe more, delay instant gratification and self-control. And hey, those fussy kids are usually the ones with the funny personalities that are outgoing and have ambition in life.
So back to the 'strong temperament' that the magazine was discussing. If your child can just sit at a restaurant and be easy going, then they are suggesting you have it easy! What are the poor parents to do who have a difficult child?
Children under 3 have very, very short attentions spans, so even the most easy going child can only sit still in one place for so long!
As in any situation when going somewhere with a toddler, it takes being more prepared by making sure they are fed and rested before you head out the door. And of course have packed a few food items you know they will eat, and some special toys, crayons and coloring paper to entertain them at the table.
You can also try to explain to them before you get there about what is going to happen: we will all sit down at the table, the waiter will then come over, we will all eat at the table, etc.. it helps kids know what to expect. You can even write out the steps in crayon on their placemat and when each step is completed, make a game of it and check it off.
When eating out, also make sure your family (grandparents or visitors) know that this dining experience is not going to be fine dining! It's going to be a quick in and out kind of thing. And if any sort of fussiness begins, to nip it early at the first signs by setting limits if needed, or having one parent take the child outside while waiting for the check.
What are your thoughts on temperament?