Meltdowns at Restaurants: How I stopped them from happening.


A few weeks ago, my family and I walked into a pizza and Italian restaurant for our after-swim lessons dinner choice.  The restaurant received good reviews on various websites so we thought we would give a try.  As we were waiting to get seated, I noticed not one but two signs adjacent to each other asking parents to make sure that they keep an eye on their children.  It also said that restaurant employees would have to the right to ask you to leave if your children were a bit too rowdy. 

As I looked around the restaurant I noticed there were no other children.  The waitress come over and asked me how many.  I politely said we had changed our minds, and we left.  My kids are still at an age where we could have a meltdown at any minute, so my anxiety shot through the roof reading those two signs.  As moms, we don’t handle it well when someone accuses us of “bad parenting.”  Momma bear comes out and we either verbally get defensive or if you don’t like confrontation, leave with a huge sense of guilt and anger. 

After this restaurant sign thing, it had me thinking.  Why do my kids have meltdowns in restaurants?  What can I do to be proactive instead of reactive?  I found myself in the good old dollar store again.  There is half an aisle dedicated to grab and go activities.  Coloring books, re-positioning stickers, portable paints, character packets with crayons and stickers, reading books, math books, and the list goes on.  I made sure to grab two of everything that I wanted the kids to try out.  I have two girls and they will argue over having the same activity to play, just like they do with toys.  Buying two of everything makes sure that we don’t have a meltdown or fight at the restaurant. The dollar bins at Target are filled with great activities to keep the kids occupied too. 

I purchased about $30 of various activities and put them in our travel backpack.  Our family keeps a travel backpack in the car filled with activities, a change of clothes, and sweaters.  The first time we brought the backpack into the restaurant with us the kids picked their activity and they were occupied until their food came.  The next week we did again.  The kids each picked their activity and stayed occupied until their food came.  No more meltdowns or asking when is the food coming. 

It has been about six weeks now since I started bringing activities with us to restaurants.  I am so happy that we haven’t held a meltdown in a restaurant since the beginning of August.  The kids now get excited to have something to do besides what the restaurant gives them to color.  They work on their projects until the food comes, they eat, and then they finish their activity.  I feel very confident going back to that restaurant with the two “watch your children” signs knowing that my family would not be asked to leave due to a meltdown. 

P.S. We also take these various activities with us to other places to keep the kids occupied such as the football game, long car rides, waiting in lines at amusement parks, hotel rooms, and the waiting rooms at various places.

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Mary Yohannan lives in the Baldwin-Whitehall area of Pittsburgh. She moved to Pittsburgh over 2 years ago with her husband and 2 beautiful children. Mary owns her own travel agency Life is Better Traveling™, LLC which has helped hundreds of families take amazing vacations to Disney®, the Caribbean, Hawaii, Alaska, and all over Europe. She is also the founder of the Travel Agent School Supporting Learning and Education™ or T.A.S.S.L.E, which has the How to Become a SUCCESSFUL Travel Agent program™, a one-stop, all-inclusive program for someone who wants to become a Successful Travel Agent. Mary earned the distinguished honor of the Certified Travel Associate (CTA) through the Travel Institute in 2016, and has several other travel and tourism certifications. Mary has traveled to over 20 countries on 3 continents, but it wasn’t until she had children did she learn that traveling with little ones is a completely different, and sometimes challenging, traveling experience. Mary’s authentic passion for travel and traveling with her children has given her extensive knowledge on the best tips, tricks, and hacks to keep kids calm, entertained, and well-behaved while traveling. She posts a variety of travel tips and tricks on her highly coveted, High Content Life is Better Traveling website, but she has a lot of great advice on traveling with kids that she can’t wait to share with all those amazing Pittsburgh Moms.