I cringed as my husband told my daughter that he would no longer help her order the next time we went to a restaurant. We have a hard and clean rule of not disagreeing in front of the children when one of us is setting a boundary, but in this situation I could not hold my tongue. I had never thought about it, but we disagreed about whether or not our children should order their own food at a restaurant.
I don't like it when children tell the waiter what they want to eat. I find it disrespectful, and I always feel uncomfortable that this waiter who may or may not like children, has to wait for my children to move past their shyness or thought process for them to do their job.
My husband, on the other hand, thinks that it is good etiquette and a great way for our children to be assertive and responsible for themselves. He also remembers how natural it was for him to serve kids when he worked at a beach concession in high school. He had the experience of running errands for his grandmother as young as 9 and values how much he learned in those interactions. He values the idea of these interactions, drawing lessons from "the village." Nevertheless, we could not agree.
At my center, we offer a subscription service for parents to get tips and form community called Online Parenting Support. I thought this topic, which seemed to frazzle both of us, was a great topic to bring to the group. I was happy that I did as it showed me those blind spots that I had around the “waiter/children/ordering” dilemma.
After reading all the comments, I recognized that I was primarily thinking about the waiter’s experience rather than the lesson available for my children. It’s a wonderful outcome because in parenting we often have to manage our responses, feelings, and expectations of the adults around us and reflect on how they affect the way we handle our kids/teens. So often we treat our children in a completely different manner when we are in front of in-laws, mom, or other parents at the park. My tunnel vision of only seeing the waiter's experience was a great example of changing my response for the benefit of the adult. That does not mean that there aren’t appropriate times to do this, but it is important to be conscious of why we are doing it.
What follows are the great tips and rationale the members of the online group presented.
How to help them:
Make sure to give them time to know what they want.
Assist them, if they need it, to ask politely.
Give them the option to ask or not to ask the waiter. Do not force them, especially the little ones under 6 ( I agree 100% with this statement.)
Here is WHY it is important to challenge them to order their meal:
It helps them practice to speak up for themselves – this can then be transferred to teacher, friends, etc.
It helps them practice eye contact and speaking respectfully to an adult.
It allows them to feel and participate in an “adult” social activity.
It challenges those children that can be “shy” or “slow to warm” to speak up in a safe activity.
It creates a sense of autonomy.
It gives the child an opportunity to verbalize their needs and feel their worth.
Great tips and ideas to give thought to the next time you are at your favorite restaurant!