It is natural for you to want to maintain tight control in restaurants. But once again – build for the future. Don’t wait until your child is 12 to begin lessons on how to order a restaurant meal. Your window of opportunity appears when children are much younger.
Expose your child to new dining situations – those they will encounter when they are older. Allow the child to order food while you are able to supervise, at places such as fast-food restaurants, sports events, cinemas, holiday sites, etc.
Before you do this, make sure your child has seen how you order food in restaurants and the way you ask all the relevant questions. Then in a gradual way, build up the child’s confidence. For example, you could start by encouraging them to order their food in a restaurant they are familiar with. As their confidence grows, they could then try to do this at a new restaurant.
Don’t become too anxious when your child makes mistakes at first when ordering food. Use these mistakes as an opportunity to educate. Be sure, however, not to embarrass your child in front of the restaurant staff or friends. To minimise the possibility of mistakes happening, discuss menu ideas at home before leaving for the restaurant. Once there, let your child do the ordering. If a question has not been asked, bring it up discreetly.
Ask your child before you leave for the restaurant how you would handle a difficult situation. For example, what if the waiter doesn’t take you seriously? If the waiter doesn’t quite get the point, encourage your child to ask to speak to the manager or chef.
Your goal is to build your child’s confidence in asking the right questions and making the right decisions. Although choosing a meal will be less time-consuming if you make all the decisions, your goal is a long-term one – to prepare your child for when you’re not there. You want it to become second nature for your child to ask about meal preparation and ingredients.