Kids Gone Wild (in restaurants)


Spawn of Satan—your table is ready.

A sign located in the window of a restaurant in North Carolina is grabbing national attention and reigniting a long-standing debate.

Screaming Children Will NOT Be Tolerated!

The gauntlet has been thrown down. Disciplinarians, libertarians, childless singles, stroller-pushers all seem to have an opinion, and the divide runs deep.

We have all been there. Even the most maternal, paternal, and child-loving among us have had an otherwise pleasant dining experience marred by food throwers, table wanderers, spoon bangers, booth kickers, toy tossers, water spillers, whiners, wailers, and weepers.

We grumble about the inappropriateness of bringing children to a restaurant of this caliber. We bemoan the current state of parenting, convinced that our parents would have never tolerated this disgraceful behavior. We recount travelers’ tales of meals spent observing the offspring of our European counterparts, with their hours of fidget-free behavior and adeptness with escargots tongs.

Defenders of the ban will point to the very underpinnings of a free society. The analogy has always been that the freedom to swing your fist should end where somebody else’s nose begins.

Then there’s the other side.

Parents and their defenders complain that they are being singled out. They gripe about the nasty looks they regularly receive, and sometimes even interference and criticisms.

They feel singled out, and consider a ban on children to be a form of discrimination. Would you outlaw people with Tourettes Syndrome because of their outbursts? Or seniors because they might have difficulty with hearing and tend to speak loudly? And let’s not forget their tendency to tell lame jokes to waitresses. How about the too-heavily perfumed, people who talk with their mouths full or tuck napkins in their shirts? The point, they say, is that accommodation and tolerance work both ways, and are a part of social intercourse. If you don’t like it, stay home.

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13 Responses to Kids Gone Wild (in restaurants)

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  3. Janice says:

    Or at least be very good tippers.

  4. Janice says:

    I agree that the burden is on the parents, although I have been there and I am sympathetic. More than one or 2 young kids and it can be unmanageable, being outnumbered. But then again it is expensive to go out with a large number, so it probably happens less frequently. That’s what babysitters are for!

  5. Janice says:

    I think you do need to take kids out to develop the restaurant skills- the more you do it the better they get. But you’re right to chose the venues wisely.

  6. Janice says:

    A meltdown every 20 minutes – boy were my kids overachievers.

  7. Lisa Faley says:

    I have two children 6 and 8. We frequently go out for dinner. We all enjoy the entire experience. Now…. my kids are very well behaved and have “restaurant etiquette”. That said, we stick to family style restaurants out of respect for diners who would like a quiet adult dinner. There are nights my husband and I go to dinner alone and like the chance to have an adults only evening.

  8. Kristina says:

    We take our 4-year-old and our 2-year-old out with us occasionally. Our rule is that we don’t take them anywhere that doesn’t have a children’s menu. There are some exceptions: Our 4-year-old is a sushi aficionado, and we took him to the local sushi restaurant for his birthday. However, we have taught our children to behave at least as well, if not better, in public as they do at home. And we get compliments all the time on how well-mannered they both are. Of course, there are occasional meltdowns. Studies show that the average toddler has a meltdown every 20 minutes of their waking lives. On average, we have a disruption from one of our kids one to two times for every three to four times we take them out. It’s a combination, really. Teach your children to behave, and be aware that even the most well-mannered children have their off moments (and sometimes days). If one of our kids starts acting up at a restaurant or the grocery store or wherever we happen to be, my husband or I take a trip with the disruptive child to the restroom. This gives the child a chance to disengage and a few minutes to calm down in a calmer, less crowded space.

  9. I don’t assume that all children misbehave in restaurants, but when they do, it can ruin the evening for everyone. I agree that a restaurant should be empowered to ask a family to leave if their children are disruptive.

  10. Kath says:

    Most of the time I think children misbehaving in a restaurant is a sign of bad family habits. How many families eat meals in front of the TV with the children free to move around and play as they wish? Children can not be expected to know how to behave in a restaurant if they are not taught at home. We sat at the dining room table every night with our children. They were taught to have acceptable table manners. They were expected to behave the same at home and at any restaurant–even fast food restaurants. We never had any problems taking them out to eat.

    I don’t think children should be banned, but parents should take a disruptive out of the restaurant. If they don’t do it voluntarily, the restaurant has every right to ask them to take the child out.

  11. Jennifer says:

    I do not patronize ‘family’ restaurants and then complain when children are acting like children. However, if a child has not been taught how to behave in a restaurant not designed for them, then the parents should not take them there. If the child in said restaurant begins to behave in such a way that is disruptive to the other guests dining, absolutely the restaurant should be able to ask the parents to either take the problem outside or to leave.

    And people who tell lame jokes to their waitresses should be required to tip at least double the standard.

  12. Hmmm, that’s a tough one. I can see both sides. Nothing in excess.

    An occasional yelp? No biggie. We all have issues. A loud, obnoxious tantrum and parents who yell back? Take it outside.

  13. Get a babysitter! Exchange a night out with other parents of similar aged children! Why do your children have to go EVERYWHERE with you? Did you go EVERYWHERE with you parents? My guess would be no.

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Is it appropriate conversation for the dinner table? Then it should be fine.

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