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Response to "Advice on baby dining etiquette"

Posted by Robin Abrahams  November 19, 2012 04:41 PM

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Wonderful advice, folks, to the LW who wondered about the finer points of taking her baby with her while eating out. For the most part, everyone commenting seemed to grasp that we are all but condiments clinging to the edge of the Great Lazy Susan as she spins us around the Table of Life, that every server or busser was once a baby, that any baby may grow up to be a server.

Four takeaways for dining in:

1. Do go out. Don’t sequester yourself because you have a baby, or a toddler, or a child. As tourtle78 wrote, 

My perspective is it’s a good idea to get the baby used to eating in public and try to impart some idea of table manners on her in different settings so that eventually she understands that whatever table she’s eating at requires a certain amount of control. Of course at 14 months her understanding of this is very limited, but I’d rather start sooner than later.

2. Tip well! As a sign of respect, as much as anything else. People will put up with a lot if you only acknowledge that they are putting up with it in the first place. AP-Mom also suggested:

Tip the bus person in addition to the wait staff. It doesnt have to be a lot but chances are its he/she that will be cleaning up the bulk of the mess. Even offering a dollar or two and saying thank you shows you recognize the mess.

3. Don't clean--but keep tidy. Wedging yourself under the table and trying to clean up spilled goldfish by hand is a good way to wind up making an even bigger mess. Let the staff sweep under the table. And don’t let messes get out of hand to begin with. Ash gave some excellent advice:

Just as important: Make sure you bring stuff for your child to do to keep them occupied while waiting; don’t let them wander around the restaurant; start teaching please and thank you early; don’t let you child be disrespectful to the waitstaff and other diners—no throwing stuff, shouting, etc.; don’t let them stand in the booth peeking over at the booth behind you (again, its sorta cute the first time, but it gets old and annoying fast); pay attention to what your child is doing; and finally, when things clearly start going south, get the check and leave.

4. Local & off-peak may be better than “family-friendly.” Instead of taking kids exclusively to child-oriented restaurants and fast-food places, try smaller, local places during off-peak hours. Making yourself a valued regular is also a good way to buy a little leeway when you need it. Aephid’s advice, I thought, was terrific:

When our son was young we solved this problem not by visiting “kid friendly” restaurants, but by only visiting 2 neighbohood places (a small japanese restaurant that was always staffed by the same three people, and a semi-upscale itallian place of similar size). We never went at peak hours, and we always left a 30% tip. Today (3 years later), we’re still quite welcome at these places, and the sushi chef even knows our son by name and makes special extra thin kid’s rolls so he can get the whole bit in his mouth.


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About Miss Conduct
Welcome to Miss Conduct’s blog, a place where the popular Boston Globe Magazine columnist Robin Abrahams and her readers share etiquette tips, unravel social conundrums, and gossip about social behavior in pop culture and the news. Have a question of your own? Ask Robin using this form or by emailing her at

Who is Miss Conduct?

Robin Abrahamswrites the weekly "Miss Conduct" column for The Boston Globe Magazine and is the author of Miss Conduct's Mind over Manners. Robin has a PhD in psychology from Boston University and also works as a research associate at Harvard Business School. Her column is informed by her experience as a theater publicist, organizational-change communications manager, editor, stand-up comedian, and professor of psychology and English. She lives in Cambridge with her husband Marc Abrahams, the founder of the Ig Nobel Prizes, and their socially challenged but charismatic dog, Milo.

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