Don't Retract Pack

Better Homes and Gardens' 10 Commandments of Dining With Kids

The following 'Better Homes and Gardens' 10 Commandments of dining with little kids' was posted by Heather W., a writer for BH&G, earlier this week. Immediately we started receiving a flood of letters regarding this (anti-family/anti-baby/anti-mom?) posting. Parents saying they were boycotting BH&G and those who were disgusted that 'Commandment Four' is not only entirely lactiphobic, unnatural (to feed a child in a bathroom?!), but also against the law. Federal law (and most State laws) protect a baby's right to eat normally (i.e. breastfeed) anytime, anywhere, that a mother and her child are already allowed to be.

Looking back over the 'commandments' (with the exception of #4) I believe the root problem is in our unfriendly mother/baby culture (and the expectations we have or don't have for kids) rather than the actual act of taking children or babies out to dine in nice restaurants.

Most adults enjoy a dinner out -- and often sans kids in tow. And we (at peaceful parenting) are not advocating for a 'kids can do whatever they want!' attitude. No, of course not. Healthy boundaries are beneficial. But the thing is, most securely attached children, gently parented by involved moms and dads, who have been eating out with the family since the time they arrived earthside and started dining at mom's breastaurant, know how to behave in a restaurant setting. They are the kids whose parents consider the location where their family will dine, and select one that is family-friendly (and it need not be fast food!).

I am able to count on two hands the number of times my husband and I have enjoyed a dinner out while our little ones stayed at home. Instead, we like to include them in the occasion. This isn't to say that we don't indulge in our much needed 'date nights.' But when we chose to bring children into this world, we actually wanted to be parents. For just a few short years (during the time they are babies) kids need their mom. Sure, she can escape for a dinner out here and there without much fuss - but why not take them along on occasion and let them soak up culture and learn how to behave right along side you from day one? One writer pointed out, "How will children learn how to behave in a restaurant if they are never allowed to go with their parents?"

As Drs. Neufeld and Mate wrote in their excellent book, Hold Onto Your Kids, we do our children a disservice when we separate them out into their own box labeled 'children only' rather than including them right along side us in this thing called 'family.' Children do not need more separation from their parents - they need to be closer to us now than ever before. Be this when waking up in the morning, playing and learning throughout their day, or eating their evening meal together as family.

I'd encourage Heather (and other BH&G editors) to check out several other equally brilliant books which touch on the heart (and development/brain research) of why this particular subject is one that should be addressed in a slightly different manner. The Continuum Concept, Our Babies, Ourselves, The Science of Parenting, and Why Love Matters, all demonstrate that children grow up much healthier, happier, and 'well behaved' when they live life alongside mom and dad -- even at a nice restaurant -- than when they are left behind at home with a sitter. There are many things that we (in our often baby-unfriendly U.S. culture) could learn from societies that do not have all these issues with 'terrible twos and tyrannical threes.' Quite realistically, we (as a culture, and the way we parent) often are to blame for creating the problems that we superimpose upon our children. As the title of Dr. Severe's book cleverly states, we must learn how to behave so our preschoolers will too.

I had to chuckle at a few of these 'commandments' because I know that the majority of our readers would not be (for example) toting along a huge bulky stroller with a bucket baby inside... rather s/he would be slinging along, worn closely on mom or dad. Attached babies are happy babies. Toddlers would not be screaming or having a breakdown because they could obtain comfort by nursing and being held whenever it was needed. Peaceful parenting moms and dads would not be ignoring their little ones, or expecting the wait staff to 'babysit' because they would be engaged with their youngsters. An activity book, or conversation would take the place of noisy toys. Quite simply, when we support family, when we support healthy baby/child practices, when we support mothers and mothering, we just do not find that many of the 'commandments' below are even necessary. Once again, parenting naturally really does eliminate most of the problems that otherwise arise in a mother/baby unfriendly society.

Update: Less than 7 hours after we first presented this information to readers, Better Homes and Gardens retracted the lactiphobic "Commandment Four" and changed the title to "The 9 Commandments of Dining..."

The 10 commandments of dining with little kids
by Heather W. at Better Homes and Gardens
posted on Wed May 19, 2010 1:34pm PDT

Strollers have begun to overtake cars and wristwatches as conspicuous status symbols. You may be proud of your double-wide Maclaren, but be sure not to leave it jutting out in a place where waiters and other patrons might trip over in transit. Leave the stroller at home and indulge your family with this melty, tasty Chicken and Cheese Panini.

Kids, as we all know, have kid-sized attention spans. Attempting to make them sit still while you enjoy a world-renowned chef’s esoteric, glacially-paced tasting menu isn’t going to be a pleasant experience for anyone. For a fast meal your kids will still savor, whip up this Quick Crunchy Chicken Dinner.

Your server is there to accommodate you, but customer service has its limits. While most waiters are happy to engage and amuse your little one, it's bad form to delegate your child-minding duties to the person taking your sea bass order. Let your kids serve themselves with our Best Yummy Mexican Meals.

Yes, I have seen table-side breast feeding at a four-star restaurant. If at all possible, take it to the ladies room. (Note: most upscale restaurants have really nice restrooms!) If you're breastfeeding, you likely want to cook something quick, easy, and protein-rich; we love this Speedy Bow Tie Pasta Dinner.

Most restaurants are happy to provide kid-friendly cuisine, so don’t hesitate to ask, just keep in mind you may experience sticker shock (e.g., $23 for pasta with butter) For a filling and savory twist on basic spaghetti, try these hearty Filled Pasta Entrees.

It’s exciting to see your little one all dressed up at the table, and special occasions and birthdays are naturally conducive to photos, but overzealous documentation with flash photography, flip-cams, and camcorders can be distracting to fellow diners. Say "cheese" with these ten tasty Macaroni and Cheese recipes.

It’s wise to bring a few of your kid’s favorite toys for their amusement but try not to bring excessively loud games and bleep-blooping electronic toys -- or at least be sure there’s a volume-off button. Keep their hands busy with a finger-food meal, such as this tasty Buffalo Wing Dinner.

Unexpected tantrums and outbursts are a fact of life, but when a parent sits stoically as their child screams without any intervention, the mood of the room can quickly turn from convivial to incredulous to profoundly irritated. They'll be screaming with joy for these homemade Mini Pizzas With Pizazz.

When you let your child run free in the restaurant, it’s not only disruptive to other diners, but it could be a safety hazard: Restaurants are full of hot plates and sharp cutlery, and kids underfoot could cause a major disaster. Keep them planted happily in their seats with this zesty, crunchy Skillet Tostada Dinner.

Ah, the food fight. The epitome of fun at summer camp and grade school cafeterias -- less so at Michelin-starred eateries. If the food starts flying, quietly and firmly put an end to it. And if your kids politely make their way through the meal without incident, treat them to a well-deserved Dessert treat.

Comments may be left for BH&G at their post site of this article.

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Commandment #9 made me decide to go buy this shirt today for my youngest... ;)


  1. Whoa. I can't BELIEVE they had that in there.

  2. My daughter does roam free in restauants, under a vigilant eye. She kmnows what is hot or sharp and doesn't bother others. That being said, we live in AFrica and nobody bats an eye when a child runs around, more so, it is appreciated and people interact with her.
    She can handle a ten course meal and is in no way in need of special children's food.

    It's so funny how Westerners feel the need to give their kids tomato pasta at every meal and then find it bizarre that they don't want to eat vegetables or taste anything else

  3. Most of these commandments seem reasonable, but the breastfeeding one just jumped right out at me. WHOA. What a horrible thing to command mothers to do! I also don't like that ANY of these are "commandments." Why not make them suggestions? And of course they won't apply to all kids, or all restaurants. I hate that with every commandment they suggest just staying at home to eat, as if children should stay out of restaurants all together.

    As a side note, I agree with what mamapoekie said about what children eat. My son won't eat off the children's menu unless they serve quality food.

    And I sure wouldn't mind if I could let my child run free around a restaurant but I do see potential problems with that, so if possible, I will take him outside to run around until our food is ready.

  4. Well said! Why is APing so 'radical' when it is so natural?? We also take our baby everywhere. In his 3 months of life, I've been away from him a total of 5 hours, if that. And all of those times, he was left with a grandparent while I ran an errand... and once, went out with friends from college for 1.5 hrs. :)

  5. Hi there! I featured your post in the monthly Gentle Discipline Fair! You can display the badge on your post if you like to tell readers. Here is the code (alter as you like but please keep the alt tag credit for the artist).

  6. My kids love roaming from table to table in restaurants and chat with patrons... They are so annoying like this. Until people realize they can actually have decent conversations with them. Most people enjoy a chat for a few minutes.
    They are also allowed to cashier me at the local HFS and knew the manager before I did.
    I love that. A bit free, and it shocks people, but they are absolutely vibrant being. Who am i to crush this?

  7. Excellent post. We have been dining out with our daughter since she was born, and I can count on less than 5 fingers the times I've had to remove her for being disruptive. (My boundary is that you may not disturb the other eaters. That doesn't mean not smiling and waving over the booth at them, but screaming so loudly they can't enjoy their meal. She gets taken out for that.) At the busy toddler stage, it was easier a lot of times to stay home, and when we did go out, we took turns walking around outside with her when she wasn't eating. And she passed that stage, and now at age 4 still knows how to act in a restaurant. And LOVES to go, more than our wallets can afford! :) And we've never been guilty of any of those "commandments", except number 4. Because you know, breastfeeding is eating too. *rolleyes*

  8. As a server in a restaurant, I must say, kids running around is one of my pet peeves. It *is* a serious safety issue! Sometimes I am carrying as many as four hot plates in my hands at once. It is not ok for parents treat a restaurant as a playground. Think of where you work an imagine a child running around that space and running into you! On the other hand, a child carefully walking around is a completely different story. In fact, this type of thing gives children the opportunity to learn what type of behavior is appropriate for which situation.

  9. I love how each "commandment" is followed by a link to a recipe, a nice not-so-subtle way of telling people with kids to stay at home.

  10. Megan, that was my first thought! The article is really not child or family friendly at all. They sound like those snobs who want child free grocery shopping. Those people need to realize they were once children too, and probably snot nosed brats at the sound of it.

  11. I'm sorry, but allowing your child to wander a restaurant and talk with other tables is not only rude, it is teaching your child poor social graces. Do you feel like it's acceptable to wander from table to table, interrupting other people's meals? Probably not... I know, your kids are cute, but believe me, they're not that cute.

    Letting your child walk around in a restaurant is also poor manners. Do you wander a restaurant? No, so neither should your child. It's not a mall- if you're walking from the table to the restroom, that's one thing, but otherwise, stay seated. It IS a safety issue- and if a waiter drops a tray of hot food on your kid because they were in the way (and, btw- it's nearly impossible to see a kid when you have a tray of food in front of you), the waiter would lose his job, and your child could end up in the hospital because of burns.

  12. I will breast feed at a restaurant.. I will bring noisy toys to help quiet my baby and sooth her.. I will take pictures of my family wherever I want ( my phone camera doesn't have a flash anyways. ) Food will fall on the floor.. I have a toddler.. though I am trying to teach her to keep it on her plate. I would never let my child cry without comforting her at home. why would I do it at a restaurant?!? I shall spend as much time at the restaurant as me and my children feel fit to. why would i use the waitress as a sitter? I don't even have a sitter for my kids ?! I babywear.. I don't need strollers.. and if there isn't enough room for my stroller if I had one.. then it would be up to the restaurant to find an adequate safe place for it. My children are encouraged to stay at our dinner table till everyone else is done.. why would this be different at a restaurant.. these " commandments" a ludicrous ..

  13. Oh noes! I nurse bare-boobed while my toddler explores the place. I'm clearly a menace to society.

  14. Wow, I can't tell you how many times I've been at a very high end restaurant and a old women walks in with enough perfume to choke a horse. What about poor tale manners? Yet my breastfeeding is a no no? Our daughter is one, we always order her own food, typically a high quality fish, pay a fortune and SHE needs to nurse in the restroom? I always use a cover, and feel that is enough.