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When can I expect him to sit still?

733 Views 5 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  oceanbaby
Please indulge me in a moment of grandparent-induced weakness

The other day ds and I had the most perfectly atrocious experience at lunch with my father. We see my father maybe once every two months, even though he lives less than an hour away... very rarely more often. When he comes to visit, he generally wants to go out to lunch. NOT one of my favorite activities with ds as it almost always happens near his nap time and he just does not sit still for a long time. (I am perfectly comfortable if he gets down from his chair so long as he stays near the table. My father is not). Our most recent foray ended in a major tantrum from ds.... a fairly rare occurrence. It began because I let him know that Paw Paw needed to get home which meant it was time to get in the car and drive him and asked him if he needed help. He said, "No, I can do it," and then proceeded to run away. So, I went and scooped him up and said, "It's time to go. I'm going to go ahead and help you get in the car." Enter meltdown. Of course ds fell asleep two minutes later... obviously exhausted. I'm so glad that my father could be there to witness this.

So, the gist of all of this is that I have a father who subscribes to the authoritarian model of what he calls discipline (which can more appropriately be labeled punishment). Probably why the only vivid memories I have of my childhood with my father are being in trouble, including being spanked. Thank goodness there are photos of the good times. My authoritarian father believes I have no control over my child. My strong, gentle-disciplining mama side is saying, "Yeah... I don't have 'control' over my child, but who cares. I am trying to establish parameters in a respectful manner which is much more important than having my child under my thumb." On the other hand, I can sort of see my father's point, especially after our follow-up e-mail exchange. He said he was uncomfortable because ds has no table manners..... and he is absolutely right. My son has absolutely no table manners. He does not understand that mealtime is when we sit down and enjoy one another's company in a calm manner.... and the truth is that I am not at all comfortable with this. Right now he can get away with all of this (to a degree) because he is a beautiful, magnanimous, charming, delightful 2-year-old. But he will be 3 soon and is less and less of a toddler everyday, and soon people aren't going to be willing to forgive him so much.

I need to teach him how to behave acceptably when we go out, and I honestly have no idea how to do this respectfully. Generally, modeling behavior has worked very well. It is not in this case. It also doesn't work to bring things for him to do at the table... he would rather bang silverware or rip open sugar packets or get down and move.

I don't want to expect too much of him... but I also don't want to expect too little. He's extremely bright, which sometimes works in my favor and just as often does not

Am I making too much of this? I just don't know. No one has really challenged my parenting in the way that my father has... truthfully, most everyone we know is completely enamored of my son. It's definitely got me thinking....

Anyway, I guess that in my roundabout way I'm looking for advice, support, shared experience... just need some input about something. Blah
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ok, I see a couple of questions here:

1) *can* a 2 (almost 3yo) child sit still at a table in a restaraunt for most of a meal?

yes, some children can do this, some cannot. I believe that if a child is taken in public (or in this case out to eat) enough they can learn the social graces of behaving in public. If you start now just going out and getting a soda or tea or whatever you drink...and a snack and sitting at a table with your son it will help him learn this quicker. You could make it a weekly treat or whatever, as long as you are consistant about what you expect from him. Of course he won't always act the same, but if the same standards are set down each and every time he might just catch on.

2) how do I teach him?

for example, you might set down some expectations like these:

~he needs to sit during the meal, but can get down from his seat and play quietly next to you when he is finished.

~throwing food, toys, crayons or other objects is impolite and not allowed

~he can bring a book or some small toys to play with at the table, as long as they are not distracting (read=loud) to other diners

~make a meal as quick as you can if his attention span is super short, don't order appetizers or dessert. Or, maybe only order an appetizer and not a main meal.... BRING SNACKS for him to eat while waiting for food!!! This really helps DD when she is getting impatient and wants to rip open all the sugar packets and spill the creamer all over the table

~don't go when he is hungry or tired, this is a recipe for disaster (ask how I know
: btdt too many times)

I don't think that you are asking too much of him to do these things. He is obviously a smart boy, but he knows his boundries with you...this does not seem to be one of them. (ooh, that sounded rude, I didn't mean it that way) It's just that he seems to know that you don't expect him to sit during a meal, and so he won't, he doesn't have to.

maybe a couple of test runs (some tea and a snack at a restaraunt) are in order. Just you and him (or you, him, and your DH) that way you are not feeling the pressure of your father watching over your shoulder every move you make. It drives me batty when my mom makes a comment about DD's behaviour b/c after that I'm so uncomfortable knowing that my mom noticed and is watching how I react.

On the other hand, it is a learning experience for our parents (mine was a spanker too) to see how you can handle a child's meltdowns without resorting to hitting or belittling a child.

sorry for the novel, hope that helps a little anyway
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I have a 4-1/2 yo girl. She's very energetic and rough and tumble. Definitely tomboy material. But, she's pretty good at the table. At our house, we have always had a sit down family dinner in which she was included from age 0, as long as she was awake for it. When we go out to eat, the rules are the same. She does not yet have the patience to sit through a long meal with a long adult conversation attached to it. But, this we do not expect from her. We just expect her to speak nicely, eat, and not make an inappropriate mess.

So #1. You child may not sit still for an adult meal for quite a long time. 6? 10? How long is an adult meal? We let the little ones leave the table when they are done and have shared some conversation.

#2. How to behave acceptably at the table? Everytime you sit down any where to eat with him at a table, he has learned how to behave acceptably. What he does now that bothers your father is/was acceptable to you. To change, create as many "nice table family" times as you can and start expecting him to behave a certain way. Tell him what you want him to do and not do at the table. Tell him everytime, because he's only a baby still. Give him lots of praise and cheat every chance you get. By cheating, I mean, bring crayons, little toys, and toddler snacks and juices with you every where you go.

Even during a casual lunch around here, ours are not allowed to bang things or stand up or yell or be generally obnoxious. We always tell them how we want them to behave during our "nice family time." We aren't formal, but every time we use the table together is a "nice" time. I do use punishments around here, so I might send a child having a difficult day to the couch for the rest of dinner.

Perhaps it is too much to expect your son to fulfill your father's expectations for a few years during a luncheon. Perhaps you should bring another person to help you with your son, or go without your son, or maybe you, your son, and your father could find another activity that suits both of their developmental levels. If it were up to you, you would not choose to go to lunch at these times because you know better! Order out and eat at home. Go to Arby's and on to a park.

Good Luck Dragonfly...
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From another perspective:

How often are we eating when were hungry and not necessarily when the child is hungry?

Kailey does well sitting at the table whe nshe is hungry. If she isnt, she doesnt have the patience to sit still. Because she is only two, we try to plan our dinners out according to when she will be hungry, same with lunches. When at home, I will fix a meal and if she isnt hungry she doesnt have to eat with us.

As for your delemma, its seems pretty fixable. Try scheduling lunches with your father at a time when a)your child will be hungry and b)when it isnt so close to nap time, either before or after.

I think it would be easier to teach him what you feel is appropriate behavior during times when he isnt tired or fussy.

Good luck on your next lunch, and hope I could help.
I noticed the other day that dd never eats more nicely, is never more quiet and willing to eat in her chair than when we have a quick lunch at her favorite bakery. (Next to the park - so she's usually tired and ready to eat by the time we get there.)

Is there a small place in your neighborhood that you could start cultivating as "your" restaurant? The place I'm talking about is not quite somewhere my folks would want to eat lunch, but if I could promise good behavior from a two year old, they'd probably go along.

She is frustrating to eat with in larger places, esp. ones that involve menus and food brought to the table rather than food picked up immediately from the counter and brought by us to the table.

Other than that - could you suggest to your dad that you have takeout at your place? Setting your son up to be comfortable and on his own turf rather than someplace somewhat unfamiliar with your dad might make a difference.
You've gotten a lot of great suggestions, and I agree with much of it. My ds is 2.5, and sometimes we get through a meal without much of a problem, and sometimes dh and I are taking turns walking outside with him because he just can't sit still or be quiet enough.

But I wanted to add something that I've noticed about my son that may or may not be true for your son as well: When my son hasn't seen someone in awhile - a friend of mine, a relative - he tends to go into overdrive, almost like he wants to show off all that crazy rambunctious things that he can do. The first 20 minutes or so that someone comes to my house, he will tear around like a wild man, making loud noises, throwing something, jumping, etc. It's a little embarassing, because they then think that he is always like this, which he is definitely not. If your son is anything like this, maybe it would be a better idea to meet your dad at the playground for 1/2 hour or so, and then go to lunch. That's probably what I would do.

As far as teaching table manners, they will learn it by example, not by force, IMO.
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