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Should Children Who Misbehave In Public Be Banned From Restaurants?

Should unruly children be banned from restaurants and coffee shops?

Children are meant to be seen not heard.  Did you ever hear that phrase growing up?  I heard it often and still hear it occasionally.  This phrase came to mind recently when I read an article about an Atlanta restaurant owner who, after several customer complaints, made a permanent note to his menu asking parents of crying children to please take them outside.  The new rule reads as follows:

“Dear all present and future patrons: GCP is proud of its reputation as a family restaurant, a title that we will work to keep. Unfortunately a number of our diners have posted unpleasant experiences because of crying and unsupervised children. To ensure that all diners have an enjoyable lunch or dinner with us we respectfully ask that parents tend to their crying tots outside.”

Making this request as a fixed part of the restaurant’s menu was a bold move on the owner’s part.  I’m sure there are many patrons with and without children around Atlanta and the entire country applauding him. 

Children, regardless of any note on any menu, are going to express themselves good or bad whether they are in public or not.  Of course, it’s the parents’ job to correct this behavior and teach their children what is and is not appropriate behavior in a restaurant atmosphere.  I find myself asking what kind of mayhem was going on in that pizzeria to merit so many complaints. 

A child’s behavior in a restaurant is an issue that almost every adult, with children or not, seems to have an opinion about.  It’s all too easy to make judgment when you’re not the parent of the child acting out.  If you go to a restaurant that is known for its family atmosphere, is it worth it to complain to the owner about misbehaving children?  Furthermore, as the owner, is it worth making a permanent note at the bottom of your menu just to appease the complainers? 

Last week I found myself on the parenting end of a similar situation.  I met up with a preschool friend of my daughter’s and her mother at Brown’s Coffee Shop in North City.  This coffee shop, as many do, lends itself to a casual atmosphere.  They even have a bag of stuffed animals up on their piano stage for child patrons.  My daughter and her friend eventually got up and started playing in that area.  The play was calm enough until it wasn’t.  The play escalated into a game of chase around the coffee shop.  I spoke with my daughter about how running around the coffee shop wasn’t appropriate and that she needed to settle down.  I also apologized to the owner.  He sincerely assured me that it was no problem at all.  It wasn’t long before the girls, being the 3 and 4-year-olds they are, were once again swept up into a game of chase, only this time with screams and screeches of excitement.  As much as it would have been tempting to take advantage of the owner’s generous attitude about children in his coffee shop, I couldn’t let this behavior go on.  It was clearly disturbing the other patrons and it was disturbing me. 

While I appreciated the owner’s easy going attitude about children in his coffee shop, if I were one of the other patrons I would have been thinking, “enough already, manage your kid lady!”  Plus, I don’t want my daughter thinking that this kind of behavior is ok in a coffee shop.  However, if I walked into a restaurant or coffee shop that had a note written to its patrons, such as the one at Grant Central Pizza in Atlanta, I probably wouldn’t be going back there with my child.  I would feel like all eyes were immediately on my child and me the entire time. 

Having to be ultra sensitive to every move my child makes in a restaurant because the owner is ultra sensitive about upsetting his ultra sensitive patrons is not a place where I want to spend my time and money.  Going out with your child can be stressful enough without the added stress of a note on a menu telling you that all eyes are on you and your parenting.

Here’s a solution.  Can all the adults just please be the adults?  Parents, pay attention to your children in public and educate them about what is and isn’t appropriate behavior so that restaurant owners aren’t compelled to make “rules” about your parenting while you’re their establishments.  To the adults who are so disturbed by children being children in public, be an adult an either try to understand how children can be, or don’t go back to a restaurant that is known for it’s casual family atmosphere.  On the rare occasions that my husband and I get out together without the company of our daughter, we certainly are not choosing to eat at pizzerias that are known for the children customers outnumbering the adults. 

Children are a part of society.  That’s not going to change nor should it.  How will they ever learn to be conscientious individuals in their communities if parents don’t take them out, or when they do take them out, don’t teach them about acceptable behavior?  Maybe if our society embraced children as important members of our society as a whole instead of shoving them in corners or the back of airplanes, we would have a more cohesive attitude about educating these important little people, who by the way, most certainly are meant to be heard. 

How do you deal with your children when they act out in public? 

How do you feel about other children acting out in public?

Would you go back to your favorite family restaurant if you saw a note such as the one posted by the Atlanta pizzeria?

Carolyn Renaud February 28, 2012 at 05:01 PM
I applaud you for understanding that running, screaming children make other patrons unconfortable. My children are grown now but when they were young, they were taught appropriate behavior in public. If they acted up, there were immediate consequences - they were removed from the situation. Prior to going in public to a restaurant, grocery store, etc., they were reminded that if they misbehaved, they would be removed and would not get to go on the next outing. Would I go to a restaurant with a posting on the menu requesting patrons be considerate? You bet! You cannot always predict how children will act, and they do act up. However, a few times of being taken to the car and denied the pleasure of finishing a meal will soon get them to understand that there are consequences.
Debra April 19, 2012 at 04:34 AM
I truly appreciate a parent that will take control (knowing their child/children) and teach their child/children how to behave in public. Before leaving our house, we would always have a pre-outing discussion with our children, so there were no questions as to what was expected... Of course, I had to reiterate a few times, and I had to turn around several times, and go back home. I knew, it was crucial to carry out the consequences, if there was a child that was misbehaving. I hated it, but oh well, there was always another day to go out. My children knew very early on what we expected of them in public. As a parent, it is a reflection on us, as to how our children behave. There is nothing more annoying, than to see a child throwing a fit that never seems to end, while the parent/parents look away. Come on, these are your children, not ours, and we should not have to put up with YOUR "bad parenting". We all believe in different ways of parenting, but one thing should be universal....let's raise our children to be respectful. I look at the parent, and they are clueless. I hold the parent totally responsible for their child's behavior.

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