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There's a war on bringing kids to restaurants, and parents are losing the battle. Last month, Grant Central Pizza, in Atlanta, printed a note on its menu banning crying children from the restaurant. In July, a Pennsylvania restaurant banned children under 6, crying or no crying. Even many restaurants with no bans don't exactly roll out the welcome mat for families. Taking your kids out to eat can be a fraught experience, but it doesn't have to be. You just have to know how to do it properly.

TIME

You can bring kids to any restaurant, so long as you will have paid and left by 8 p.m. After that you're trespassing on grown-ups-only time. Turns out 5 p.m. can be a happy hour for families, too.

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TIPPING

When you bring your progeny out to eat, you're asking more than usual of wait staff (See: WAITER) – replacing spilled juices, picking up dropped toys, bringing you crayons, speeding things up just enough so that you can still make it home in time for bedtime. Such service deserves an added reward. Leave a gratuity of at least 20 per cent. And if there's salmon mashed into upholstery or peas all over the floor, consider throwing in a little extra.

WAITER

The best ally you have. Make friends immediately. Be very courteous and grateful. And ask for something to nibble on as soon as you're seated.

ORDERING

Do it quickly. It's best to call ahead to see if the restaurant has a kid's menu. If it doesn't, consider ordering a meal for yourself that your kids might opt to eat if their meal isn't to their liking. And if your kid is a picky eater, now is not the time to force porcinis on them.

CRYING

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Babies cry at restaurants, because babies cry everywhere. You have one minute to soothe them at the table. After that, take them outside (See: OUTSIDE) or to the bathroom as a courtesy to other patrons.

OUTSIDE

Your refuge when problems – crying, hyperactivity, garden-variety fits and full-blown tantrums – cannot be quickly solved inside.

MAKING A BREAK FOR IT

Lasso that toddler immediately. This is a restaurant, not a playground. Provide distractions. (See: DISTRACTIONS)

DISTRACTIONS

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Never leave home without packing essential diversionary objects, be they colouring books, a favourite toy or an abridged Anna Karenina. You will need to keep your children occupied. It's not the bartender's job to supply you with markers.

TEENS AND CELLPHONE USE

Absolutely forbidden. Use this outing as a chance to instruct your teens on proper dining etiquette. (But be sure to make this clear before you arrive.)

DESSERT

Not a given. Dangle dessert as a reward for good behaviour. (Remember: You may need to make a break for it.)

STINK EYE

Other diners may give you the dreaded stink eye for bringing your children along. Offer them a smile and then ignore them. Unless your kids commit an actual restaurant offence it's the stink-eye givers who are in the wrong.

TABLE SELECTION

Ask for one close to the bathroom. You'll be glad you did.

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