Q: You're enjoying a nice dinner with loved ones, but the table next to you has loud children, and you want them to quiet down. What do you do?
Rarely does the offended party start with a polite request. Dirty looks get thrown, nearby tables join in with eye rolling and supportive head shaking, then complaints erupt in whispers loud enough for the entire section to hear.
This solution is not especially gracious and can spoil both tables' meals. It's helpful to consider the entire system, which is made up of three parties: the offended table, the noisy family and restaurant management.
Which party has the highest obligation to put people at ease, maintain civility and save the evening? Restaurant management.
Your best option is to discreetly inform management about the situation and request that it resolve the problem. Focus on what you can control. Also, a willingness to move shows compassion and empathy for a (probably stressed-out) family trying to enjoy a rare meal out.
– Elena Neitlich, owner of etiquettemoms.com and socialskillscompany.com
First, try to sympathize with the parents of a screaming child. My heart goes out to those who try to curb bad behavior. Second, a tantrum is a tantrum, pure and simple. But when it happens in public, there's nothing simple about it. Here are four ways to tame the tantrum at the table.
Practice makes perfect. When you have dining rules at home, you can reinforce them before you go out, such as reminding children to be on their best behavior in public, to use their church voice, etc.
Distractions help. Find anything that will keep kids' attention when the food won't, such as books, coloring projects, etc.
Manage expectations. Sometimes an unplanned hug may work, but if you're in a tough spot, be clear, from "Stop that," to "Be nice," etc.
Remove the child from the situation. Why add insult to injury? If the outbursts won't stop, then you stop it by removing your child from the table.
– Lisa M. Grotts, etiquette expert