How to Apply Time-out Outside Your Home (continued)
At a Sit-down Restaurant
Another setting that parents often find difficult is a sit-down restaurant with delays to be seated, then to be served, and then to eat in contrast to more child-friendly fast-food places. All the principles discussed so far apply here just as they do during shopping.
Anything that will make you more upset if your child doesn’t cooperate will undermine your effectiveness. Think of this as an opportunity to teach your child an important lesson for life so that your focus is on that outcome rather than on the meal itself or on the occasion or the company with you. You must be ready to respond as required by the child’s behavior unconstrained by the reactions of others or by your own hopes for the evening.
The first time you take a challenging child out to dinner, plan ahead to assure pay off from your efforts. Start well rested so that you can be patient. It is probably best to take only your child or your child and siblings to minimize distraction from your goal. If you do include others, be sure that they will respect your efforts and your approach. Grandparents, who might suggest, “Oh, don’t be so harsh; he’s only a baby,” will not be helpful. Therefore ask everyone not to comment when you deal with your child.
Plan your first meal out using this approach when you will not be disappointed if things don’t go smoothly or if the dinner is disrupted for a time. For instance, a special dinner out for your tenth anniversary would not be a good time to start using time-out. Since you may have to leave the table to use time-out, choose a meal that won’t be spoiled by sitting a few minutes, as might happen with dishes that must be either piping hot or cold to enjoy.
Accentuate the Positive
Recall the basics of our overall approach, namely eliminating benefits of inappropriate behavior and making it good for children to behave appropriately. To apply these notions to dining out, follow these steps:
1. Before you leave home, identify the success behaviors that are most likely to help your child get through the meal calmly, remembering to focus on those that you value and that are directly incompatible with the behaviors you are concerned might occur. Also make certain that each item defines a behavior that is realistically reachable by your child and that the wording is clear. For example:
Kelly, you are successful when you keep your voice calm for ten minutes during dinner.
Kelly, you are successful when you calmly sit in your chair at the table for ten minutes.
The amount of time specified should be based on how your child has done in the past in similar situations, making sure your standards are realistically reachable for your child.
2. Prepare a simple chart with the target behaviors and with a place to record successes. Be sure you have it with you and show it to your child when you arrive in the restaurant.
3. Because sitting quietly in a restaurant can be boring for a child, bring a few activities for your child to use at the table. A pad of paper and a few crayons or a small and quiet hand-held game can entertain a child for a good deal of time without disrupting adult conversation, all the more so if you occasionally show interest in the child’s play.