I was on a coveted "date night" with my husband the other week, eating dinner at a restaurant that has a casual atmosphere but has enough cachet to make it feel special. It isn't considered a family restaurant, per se, but it does offer a children's menu, so families are definitely welcome.
So, anyway, a family with a baby and a toddler was seated next to us. My husband and I chuckled when we saw them, glad that we were on a date without our kids for a change but empathetic to the challenges of eating out with young children. Once the family got settled with high chairs and booster seats, the baby of the family screamed...and screamed...and screamed...and screamed. The mother tried to placate the little munchkin (who looked to be about a year old) by saying, "Please sit still and be quiet or Mommy is going to put you in a time-out." The child continued to scream and cry, interrupted only by his mother's intermittent pleas, for the next 20 minutes. He did not sit still. He did not keep quiet. And his mother did not ever follow through with her promise to put him in a time-out. He just kept screaming until the food came (I understand -- sometimes I want to scream too when I'm so hungry I just can't wait).
Through the whole 20 minutes, I watched the restaurant owner as he paced nervously around this family's table, wringing his hands. I looked around at the other patrons and most of them looked annoyed, but dared not complain (we're polite Canadians after all!).
I know every family's situation is different and every parent has their own style of managing an event like this. For me, I would not have expected my one-year-old to sit quietly in his high chair while we waited the 20 minutes until his food came. When we went out with our kids at that age, we always swiftly ordered, and then one of us (my husband or I) would take the kids outside for a little walk to help pass the time before the food came. We never felt it was feasible to expect a one-year-old to be patient. And certainly, if our child screamed at the top of his lungs in a restaurant full of people, we would give him one minute to be quiet before we'd scoop him up and go for a walk to save the ears of our co-diners.
How would you handle a situation like this, if you were the parent with the screaming child at a restaurant?