Monday, November 22, 2010

Busy Restaurant, Tired Toddler

It was 6:00 on a Friday evening, and our family was circling the parking lot of the crowded restaurant, hoping to find an empty spot. When we were finally unloaded and we met up with the rest of our group, we found out that it was going to be about an hour before we'd have a table.

I looked at my already-tired toddler and thought, "Oh no. This is going to be a disaster." We were having dinner with several members of Clark's family, a couple of whom were visiting from out of state. It was one of those times where I desperately hoped my children would be well-behaved, and I was starting to realize that may not work out as well as I'd hoped.

As we waited outside, we all took turns playing with Isaac. Eventually, our table was ready and we all went inside. Isaac was uninterested in sitting in a highchair, so I let him sit with me and he had a great time trying to crack peanut shells. When the food arrived, he happily moved to the highchair and began eating. Once he was finished with his food, he returned to our laps and the peanuts. A few minutes before we were all ready to leave, he did begin to get restless, which was easily remedied by allowing him to walk around to the other side of the table and crunch the shells under his feet. (Don't worry, this was one of those restaurants where it's fine to put the peanut shells in the floor!)

At the end of the night, I breathed a sigh of relief. I had worried that the combination of crowded restaurant and tired toddler would be disastrous, but it actually went quite well. We stayed patient with him, gave him things to do, and set him up for success as much as possible in a situation that was challenging. I thought back on advice I've heard from other parents and even from books, about training children to behave in restaurants by using physical punishment. Yet I have never done this with Isaac, and he is learning to behave in restaurants anyway. It was a good reminder-- and I need those as much as any parent sometimes!-- that many of the frustrating behaviors present at certain ages/stages are simply grown out of as the child matures and as the parents model and teach the appropriate behaviors, no punishment necessary. Very, very cool!

Just a few days later, my friend Ashley mentioned this very same concept in the guest post she wrote:

One last point: It helps to remember that a lot of the annoying behaviors that come with certain ages and phases are just that: phases. Children generally mature out of them, just by maturing and consistent, gentle reinforcement of boundaries. (Really, they do. It's like magic.)

I was encouraged by these reminders-- both the real-life experience we had at the restaurant and Ashley's post. Sometimes when you're in the midst of challenging stages in a child's development, it's hard to remember that they will eventually grow out of those behaviors with time and patience. But they do! And it's such a neat thing to see.

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