Advice: Let the Kids Order in Restaurants

I certainly made parenting mistakes—ask my daughters, I think they have a list. But one thing I believe we did right was having our kids order for themselves in restaurants.

Image: brick walls, table in restaurant
A restaurant.

All of my kids are very particular about what they want or, to be more specific, don’t want.

No ketchup, no pickles, no onions, no tomatoes.

They’ve basically never been able to order a dish right off the menu without some kind of caveat. Early on, we decided that letting them advocate for themselves in this small way was one way to introduce them to “talking to strangers”— the strangers, in this case, being wait staff. I let my kids have the job of explaining to the nice wait person that they would like the penne, but not with the marinara, with just butter, please. Or whatever weird preference they might have.

Image: pizza with vegetables
What are those, vegetables? No thank you

Talking to new people, or even familiar faces, can be a struggle for many young people. I’m not denying that social anxiety is a real thing. But ordering food at a restaurant, from wait staff who are paid to listen to you and take your food order, is a very good entree (see what I did there?) into speaking up.

I love and have raised quite a few introverts. I even used to be one myself. I know the fear that can come from speaking out, but I encourage you to let your child read the menu, or read it to them; help them understand what they’re ordering, and then let them speak to the wait staff when they take the order. It’s a boost of confidence. It’s also a step in the direction of letting them check in at the doctor’s office, or even make their own appointments when the time comes.

Image: female doctor in scrubs, holding stethoscope
She seems nice

We’re all interested in making lives easier for our kids, but instead of being a lawnmower parent, we can help them make their own choices in a non-judgmental environment, especially one in the service industry. 


Sharon Falduto is a Central Iowa native who came to University of Iowa in 1991 and essentially never left the area. She is involved in local community theater, notably as one of the co-founders of Iowa City's Dreamwell Theatre. She has also directed children's plays with the Young Footliters group. Sharon works in with English Language Learners in a support position at Kirkwood Community College.. She lives in Coralville with her husband, Matt, and three daughters Rachel, Samantha, and Piper.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.