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Banning Kids Is Really About Banning Bad Parents

Starting July 16, McDain’s, a Pittsburgh-area restaurant, will ban children under the age of 6 from its dining area. Restaurant owner Mike Vuick said the policy came in response to complaints he’d received from older customers about kids causing a ruckus. In an email to his clientele, Vuick wrote, “We feel that McDain’s is a not a place for young children … and many, many times they have disturbed other customers.”

A few weeks ago, Malaysia Airlines announced that it would ban infants from flying in the first-class cabin because other passengers had complained about squalling babies. And last February it was rumored that Virgin Atlantic and British Airways had been pressured to consider child-free zones and even child-free planes to appease business travelers who, according to a travel survey, listed unruly children as their No. 1 travel-related complaint.

To read the rest of the article, click here.

I’ve been asked to weigh in as to whether it is rude to restrict children from public places such as restaurants and airplanes. In short, no, I don’t think it is rude.

In these cases, children are being restricted from certain locations and areas due to perceived problems with behavior and not because they happen to be nascent adult humans.  Actually, it’s their parents who are being banned due to an inability to keep the child under control or to take decisive action to eliminate the source of irritation to others.  For example, when a baby or toddler begins to get fussy and cry in a restaurant, a parent should remove him/herself from the table with the child, retreat either outside or to a more distant area to attempt to soothe the child.  In the event the child cannot be calmed to a more suitable emotional level,  that means one or both parents needs to hastily get their dinner “to go” so as to not annoy other patrons.

My children are all adults now but many years ago we routinely dined out at least once a week with an infant, toddler and pre-schooler.  My youngest daughter made her public debut at a Chinese restaurant Christmas Eve at only five days old.   My son’s first attempted word was the name of the now defunct restaurant called “La Gringada” and his first sentence (“Food coming!”) was said in the same restaurant.  Suffice it say we ate out a lot.   I’m sure other patrons cringed seeing a young family with three children under the age of six being seated near them, expecting to be unwitting witnesses to a juvenile three ring circus.

But restaurant manners are taught at home first.  Our kids were expected to come to the table clean, to sit without squirming (and that means no kneeling on the chair or sitting Indian style…parents, get proper boosters seats), to eat their food, to not yell, to remain seated at the table even though they are finished, and to engage in talking and to ask for permission to get down from the table.   Dinnertime was a cherished, quiet time for everyone to enjoy the meal and talk with mom and dad.    So,  these same manners were easily transferred to being seated around a restaurant table.   My husband and I received many compliments on the behavior of our children from other diners but that did come with a price.  It takes time and energy to repeatedly train children to behave properly and sometimes that means sacrifice on the rare instances that my husband needed to take an unhappy child out to the car.  I can only recall once incident of needed to cut short our meal due to the unhappiness of what turned out to be a sick child.   I can attest that neither my husband or I are scarred from the obligations of parenting.

So, when I see ill-mannered children in restaurants, and by ill-mannered, I mean the ones who screech during dinner for no apparent reason other than vocalization, run around the tables, throw food, etc., I see parents who do not take the time to properly disciple their children at home. Those children undoubtedly act this way at home, too.  Mom and Dad are too tired to expend the effort to train them or they simply don’t care.  We were recently eating at a restaurant where a 4 year old girl was methodically issuing forth with a very high pitched, ear-splittingly loud  squeals merely out of happiness and because she could.   Mom and Dad may have been used to it but it was extremely unpleasant.  *Those* are the types of parents whose kids make people want to ban kid everywhere and ruin it for those who do behave.

Is it rude for businesses to ban children?   No.  A business owner is in business to make money, to support his family and provide employment that supports the families of others.  That owner has every right to ban a segment of clientele whose behavior has a negative effect on his earning potential due to deterring good paying customers.    It’s an extension of “my house, my rules” only it’s “my business, my rules”.   Customers vote with their dollars and if someone decides that an anti-kid policy is not congruent with their own beliefs, they can vote with their dollars at another restaurant.   The business owner who bans kids and their permissive parents is making a bet that more clients will vote to spend their dollars in support of his/her business than those who will not.

“Tis such fools as you that makes the world full of ill-favoured children.

As You Like It, Act 3, Scene 5


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Raven August 22, 2011, 11:55 am

    I think a ban on ALL children under 6 is unfair; what about the kids who actually behave? Why shouldn’t they be allowed to eat at the restaurant, if they’re being good? All patrons, whether they are children, teens, or full-grown adults, should be able to stay if they behave, and should be out on their butts if they can’t. That includes shrieking groups of girlfriends, loud groups of guys, and yes, inattentive parents whose kids are ruining the atmosphere for everyone. A ban on disruptive patrons, regardless of age, would be better.

    I love kids, but I hate parents. There, I said it. I’m so sick of parents thinking that their children are just so precious and perfect that everyone must find their loudness, sauciness, and lack of listening skills charming. No, it’s not charming. It’s irritating – and I say that as a former Early Childhood Educator, by the way. Failure to teach your child how to navigate the social realm, including the rules, is a form of neglect.

  • Goldie August 22, 2011, 11:56 am

    While I am all for restricting small children in places like fancy restaurants, concerts, movie theaters etc., I draw the line at airplanes and other means of public transportation. Like NooraK said, people need to travel, and not necessarily for leisure. The family could be relocating, etc. We came to America with a 4-year-old and a 1-year-old. The 4yo remained quiet through the entire ten-hour flight, but the one-year-old started crying about an hour before we landed because he was extremely tired. We tried everything to get him to stop, but nothing worked. What were we supposed to do, not come here? wait another five years? what’s the proper etiquette for immigrating with an infant?? FTR, when we landed, I promised I wouldn’t fly again until the kids were in school, and we didn’t. Because, guess what, flying with small kids is even less fun for their parents than it is for people sitting around them on the plane.

    Same with grocery stores – parents of small children need to eat too. I was lucky that I was able to leave the kids at home with my family members most of the times I went shopping. Not everyone is as fortunate.

  • The Elf August 22, 2011, 12:02 pm

    Re: Banning children on flights.

    When you look at the proposals, it is never a total ban. Either the airline wishes to create childfree zones in the aircraft, or they wish to restrict children on certain flights. Presumably, these are well-traveled flights where there are more options. So, the alternative isn’t “don’t fly”. The alternative is “buy a ticket in the family zone / buy a ticket on the family flight”. In all cases, the childfree section/flights are proposed as more expensive. In the example above, it is the first class section. So, parents would likely not be unduly burdened by the proposal to create childfree zones or childfree flights.

  • Louise August 22, 2011, 12:06 pm

    I think for many years we as a society have put up with lazy parents who shrug off their children’s bad behaviour with a “kids will be kids” attitude. Honestly, I’m not sorry to see this kind of backlash. I think it’s a shame parents with well-behaved children will be inconvenienced, but it’s a clear message that no one else thinks it’s sweet when your little child squeals, bangs on the table, runs around or tries to have a conversation with other patrons while they’re eating dinner in a nice restaurant or reading on a flight.

    Banning or restricting children is a risk, but it can be a smart business decision. My boyfriend and I find the idea of child-free dining and travel attractive. If the services meet our standards, we are more likely to stick with them over competitors because they are child free. In some cases, we would shell out quite a bit of money for child-free experiences, such as cruises. And as DINKs, there’s a good chance we have more disposable income to spend than families with children. If businesses want our money, they need to pay attention to what we want.

  • --E August 22, 2011, 12:11 pm

    And while we’re at it, can we ban kids from inappropriate movies?

    The number of times I’ve seen people with very young children in R-rated movies (usually after 8pm!) makes me want to call Child Protective Services. I can’t blame the kids for getting upset by a loud, violent movie (or being bored by a long, talky movie, or cranky because it’s long after their bedtime but they’re being kept away by the flashing lights and THX surround sound), but I definitely blame their parents for bringing them in the first place.

    Really, what the hell is wrong with people? How is anyone so stupid as to think that a four-year-old belongs in a grown-up movie on a Saturday night? Trade baby-sitting days with other parents if you can’t afford a sitter.

  • --E August 22, 2011, 12:11 pm

    Argh. “…kept AWAKE” of course, not away.

  • 8daysaweek August 22, 2011, 12:16 pm

    I support any business owner’s right to make this decision but my only problem with this is that instead of calling out the parents who are not parenting, all parents with young children get punished. That’s not fair or right and honestly does nothing to help the problem of lazy and lax parenting. I would fully support restaurants asking families with unruly and misbehaving children to leave, particularly if the parents are doing nothing to help the situation. That says to the parent “You and your child are disrupting our other patrons unnecessarily and it will not be tolerated.” By banning all children under a certain age, it says “All children act up. Go ahead, keep doing nothing, it’s perfectly fine and wouldn’t help anyway.”
    I have a 15-month-old daughter. She is a very well-behaved child but when she is fussing or acting up, we take her outside or to the lobby or soothe her in other ways. I always apologize immediately to everyone sitting around us. No one ever says anything nasty to me and people compliment us regularly on how well-behaved and quiet she is and because we clearly care if she is being loud or disruptive and are considerate of other people.
    That said, as I stated earlier, it’s the business owner’s decision. He would not get my business however, whether my daughter was with us or not or when she is older. To be honest, I find it insulting because such a policy suggests that all parents – including me – are incapable of being out in public with their children and being considerate of other people.

  • Abby August 22, 2011, 12:17 pm

    I agree with the Admin. There was a big argument over on another website about child-free hours, with parents complaining that if they are out with a child, and their child happens to throw a tantrum, the parents don’t want to leave immediately because they don’t want to teach their children that throwing a tantrum will get them attention, so they ignore them. Well, that’s a fine strategy to employ in the privacy of your home, but the general public should not be made unwilling participants in a parent training their kids not to throw tantrums.

    Sure, it punishes diligent parents and well behaved kids, but it’s just one restaurant. And I don’t think you can blame the owners/management/other patrons who complained that contributed to the ban- blame it on the irresponsible parents who can’t be bothered with their unruly children. A few bad apples spoil it for everyone.

  • bunnyface August 22, 2011, 12:18 pm

    If I lived anywhere near this restaurant I would go there once a week just to support the policy, so then other businesses would follow his lead, if his business does not suffer. I would definitely fly on child-free flights, or ones with soundproofed child sections. If I were screaming and carrying on in public and bothering others, I would surely expect to be asked to quiet down or leave, so why is that not the same across the board? If children are unable to control themselves, the parents should keep them at home, or else be aware they might be asked to *shock* be responsible for their child.

  • Harry August 22, 2011, 12:19 pm

    Margaret … your choice to possibly not return, will be offset by those customers who do go there because of this policy. I applaud the business owners decision. I’ve seen too many situations over the years where someones out of control brats, spoil it for everyone. I hope this starts for airplane travel as well.

  • starstruck August 22, 2011, 12:26 pm

    in reality mcdain’s is really screwing themselves out of business. lots of people take their kids out to eat these days. i know i do. so , if their kids can’t come, then they will gladly take their money else where. and why would you want business to go elsewhere? why would you want to limit your clientel? i can understand how some people will love this rule. your out to dinner and you dont have to worry about a misbehaving kid across from you. what scares me about this rule and how it’s acceptable, is who else is it gonna start to discriminate? people with turrets who cant help yelling? handicap? anyone really who is seem as nuisance will surely get the boot one day if this is allowed to persist. i am sorry but i would never spend money at place that wouldn’t allow my babies to come and have a meal. you want my money , but won’t let my babies eat? hell no ! and really, why cant adults just be cool and tolerant of kids. screw them. i will take my money elsewhere thank you.

  • B August 22, 2011, 12:29 pm

    I agree generally, but I do wish there was a bit more understanding that all kids have bad moments sometimes. Even the ones who are well-behaved and have been well-trained by their parents will have the occasional bad day or tantrum or whatever. In other words, one bad action does not demonstrate to me that a child is “bad” or that their parents haven’t raised them well. When there are repeated actions, with no intervention from the parents, that’s a different story.

    For instance, I was out at a restaurant with my cousin and her three small children, all of whom are very sweet and well-mannered. The baby started squawking a bit, and since this was unusual for her (she is usually pretty quiet), her mom gave her a few minutes to see if she would settle down before taking her outside while I watched the other kids. I’m sure the other diners didn’t appreciate the baby making the loud noise, but I would hate to think they immediately wrote my cousin off as inconsiderate or a bad mom.

  • Amber August 22, 2011, 12:39 pm

    I’m all for a child ban in certain restaurants. There are plenty of well-behaved kids out there, but it only takes one family with unruly kids to ruin a dining experience for a whole family.

    As a former server, I gave witness to this. There were your typical screamers, and kids who ran around without mom and dad paying attention. A few of the worst:
    A party with about 30 or so children who literally took over the restaurant, ran around playing hide and seek, nearly knocked over other patrons. This was a sit down, casual dining place, btw. The owner had to bellow at the mothers (of which there were 4, and none were minding the kids) to either rein in the children or get out of his store.
    A couple who allowed their screaming-bloody-murder infant sit and scream throughout the ENTIRE meal, without moving. They were so blaze about it! Kid was screaming when they entered, and screaming when they left, with neither parent attempting to calm it.
    At a hibachi grill, a child who loudly proclaimed to the other table members how much she hated the food, and *slapped her own mother* when mom asked her what she wanted for dinner because “I was TALKING to GRANDPA.” Mom blandly said, “Honey, don’t,” then turned to me and said “she’ll have the chicken.”
    My least favorite always, however, will be the parents, ALL parents whether their children were quiet or screaming, who fed their child off those little sticky mats that stick to the table. Food would be inevitably squished all over the table, not just the mat, which I would then be tasked with peeling off the table in strips. Double plus points if the kid had crackers, cheerios or cookies, as mom and dad were perfectly content with the GIANT mess that haloed their child’s chair; ground in crumbs that I had to work out of the carpet after they left and as quickly as possible before the next table came (a difficult task on a busy night). Only one mother ever apologized for the mess and asked for a broom or rag. One.

    Oh, if only I had been a server at a child-free restaurant…

  • Politrix August 22, 2011, 12:41 pm

    I agree with Margaret on this one. And to all of you who claim (with just a little too much self-righteousness, IMHO) that when you were growing up, you NEVER acted up in restaurants (because if you did, Mom/Dad would put the kibbosh on your behaviour with a quickness — or failing that, remove you from the restaurant):
    How would you feel if you had gone to a nice restaurant only to have your parents be told, “Sorry, we don’t allow little kids, no matter how well-behaved they are?” Would that inspire you to continue behaving nicely in public places, or would that just send the message that no matter how good you are, some people just don’t want you around?
    When I was little, there were places I acted up in, and had to be removed. I wasn’t a little angel, by any means. And I’m sure I annoyed my fair share of grown-ups. But you know what? Eventually, I learned how to behave in public. And I was also one of those kids (I think I was 8 or 9) when, as I was enjoying a lunch with my mother in a fancy restaurant one afternoon, the waiter bent down, looked my right in my face and said, “I have to tell you, you are one if the nicest and most well-behaved children I’ve ever seen.”
    I’m much older now, and my husband and I take our two-year-old to restaurants once a week, at least. Nice ones. If she gets squirmy or cranky, we threaten to leave the restaurant (with her, of course –haha!) and if she doesn’t stop (which is rare) we make good on our threat. Like a poster mentioned above, we keep her entertained with books, crayons, and songs, and before we leave, I clean the high chair and anything she spilled on the floor beneath her, until her seat is cleaner than when we came in.
    We also tip generously.
    This is how we teach our child to behave at nice restaurants. I feel sorry for those people who feel that children don’t belong any place where adults don’t want them (bars, night clubs and adult movies excepted, of course) — and I wonder how they expect kids to learn good manners if they’re not allowed to put what they’ve learned into practice in a real-life scenario. (Tea parties with their friends don’t always cut it.) I’ve also seen grown-ups act far ruder and rowdier than most young children at restaurants (maybe I’ve just been lucky), so maybe what’s needed is not so much a “no children” policy, but rather a “throw food or start screaming at any age and you’re outta here” pledge instead.

  • bansidhe August 22, 2011, 12:42 pm

    “what if the business owner bans overweight people because his customers complain they dont like to ‘watch fat people eat” (I have seen these complaints happen) is it still rude ?”

    People complaining about watching fat people eat are being major Special Snowflakes. It is not rude to be fat. It IS rude to let your kid run around a restaurant willy-nilly, scream, throw food, etc. The two situations are not comparable.

    I have no problem with the restaurant bans or airline bans. It’s time to get out of the “child worshipping” phase we’ve been in for a while now and get back to raising kids who aren’t constantly told they’re the best thing since sliced bread just by virtue of existing.

  • Claire August 22, 2011, 12:43 pm

    I have two preschoolers and while I can’t afford to take them to “fine dining ” places I still insist on proper manners even at a McDonalds. I think its vital for children t olearn how to behave in different situations as young as appropriate. They will sit and wait at a table for me without screming, fidgeting or fighting wile i get their food, they will eat cleanly and calmy and they know they will get a ballon and teh Happy Meal toy at the end if they behave. I have thrown it away in front of them if they have misbehaved, I only had to do that once. I truly believe it is down to the parents (unless the child has special needs, but even in some of those cases I sometimes start to wonder where the line is between a behavioral disorder and parental excuses – if a child can comprehend the sentence “thats naughty” then I don’t understand why they can’t be told, even if it has limited effect. Too often I hear “there’s no point telling him off he has adhd ” well fine it might not work immediately but you have to persevere, parenting is hard and constant work!)

    An anecdote, and I wouldn’t mind an opinion on whether I was out of line at the end….

    Recently my husband and I took our children aged 4 and 2 on a family outing to a “bygone age” style steam train trip aimed specifically at families, but open to all rail enthusiasts (eg my hubby!) and staffed entirely by volunteers. Our children were told at the start to sit still and look out of the window nicely. They behaved for the entire 30 min trip beautifully and had a small snack during it which they ate cleanly and said the usual please/thank you for. Next to us were two middle aged middle class women friends and their 6-7 year old daughters, I mention class only because there can be a snobbishness about naughty children but actually it transends all class levels. the daughters were consuming vast amount of food, spraying crumbs and spilling drink everywhere on this beautiful vintage rail coach. The women each had fancy coffee in disposable cups. The children were allowed to climb on the seats, over their mothers and demnded thing incessantly with not a single please, and not a single rebuke. The mothers basically ignored them while chatting so their behaviour got worse, clearly attention seeking. Once I made a comment to my daughter “We say please when we ask for things don’t we” just loud enough for them to hear, and one little girl had the grace to add “please” to her request, as a one off.
    When we arrived at our destination, we gathered our things including all litter and made sure our seats were clean for the next passengers (remember this is staffed by unpaid volunteers for a charity). The neighbouring females gathered most of their things but I saw one of the mothers furtively stuff some litter into her coffe cup, then leave it plus the dregs of her friend’s coffee and the girls drinks, under the seat, before hurriedly exiting in front of us.
    At this point I’d had enough, and grabbed their cups and bottles. I follwed her off teh train, went right up to her within the crowd, handed her the items and smiled sweetly, saying “Excuse me I noticed you forgot your drinks”. She went red and mumbled something, I returned to my husband (who was chuckling at my suppressed outrage) and my two wondering children.
    Was I rude?

    thanks for reading!

  • Jayne August 22, 2011, 12:44 pm

    I would whole heartedly support any restaurant with a small child ban. It isn’t just the noise that is disturbing – it is also the mess. Why parents just sit there and let their children drop/throw food all over the floor, smear food all over the table, etc is just beyond me. What pigs! It is nauseating just to see. And it’s hard not to notice when they are right at the next table.

    Yes, the ban wouldn’t be necessary if all parents were responsible and considerate of others. But those parents are fewer and fewer these days.

  • Lucy August 22, 2011, 12:46 pm

    I think the difference between banning overweight people or people of certain races/ethnicities because you don’t want to see them eat or don’t want to see them at all, is that if you don’t like to see those people, it’s YOUR problem. If children are being disruptive, it’s THEIR problem (well, it’s the parents’ problem). I don’t mind having kids in a restaurant at all, provided they’re behaving themselves. If too many kids aren’t well-supervised and it gets to be a chronic problem . . . well, I’m sorry that they’re spoiling it for everyone else.

    I like both kids and pets, but I firmly believe that they don’t belong everywhere. Even well-behaved ones have limits, and sometimes it’s simply not fair to them to expect them to be able to behave in an appropriate manner for a given occasion. A very young child is not well-suited to a long dinner at an “adult” restaurant, even if s/he is very well-behaved for his/her age. The vast majority of young kids simply do not have the attention span yet. Get a sitter and leave them at home until they’re old enough to appreciate it. Other diners will thank you and the kid, frankly, will have more fun.

  • LovleAnjel August 22, 2011, 12:53 pm

    I 100% agree with admin – kids have to be taught to treat all meals like restaurant meals if they are expected to act properly in a restaurant. Same thing with a movie theatre – they are going to treat it like watching random TV at home unless they are taught to sit quietly through an entire show. Children cannot figure this stuff out on their own, and they won’t suddenly do what you say because they’re in a public place. I will probably be castigated for this, but it’s like training a dog – you have to be consistent. If you don’t want Fido jumping all over the guests, don’t let him jump all over you. Give a child a mixed message and they’ll pick the part that’s easiest/most enjoyable for them.

  • Riri August 22, 2011, 1:03 pm

    I totally agree with admin, and applaud her on her great parenting! And in answer to some of the other comments, to follow on the “my business, my rules” thing, I think it is the owner’s decision to ban people of certain sizes, races, etc. Obviously, this is considered a hate crime in Canada (while banning children are not), but if it wasn’t, it would certainly be acceptable under “my property, my rules”. It would certainly not be a wise, moral or polite decision, but the point of owning property is that you allow who you want on it. I definitely would choose not to associate with such prejudiced owners or their businesses, but it’s still their choice, whether the reasoning behind the choice is a considerate one (banning small children to reduce misbehavior) or rude one (banning overweight people because they are “unattractive”). People often forget that they don’t have right of access everywhere. Owners of private property are allowed to make (legal) decisions on who they serve, and while I’m sure some have lost customers over banning children, or even drunken customers, it’s a risk they take to run their business.

  • zeroentitlement August 22, 2011, 1:23 pm

    NooraK: “What would be the alternative? Not traveling? Would we keep people from being able to visit their families until their children are of a certain age?”

    No, but a commercial air carrier is under no obligation to let you fly if you’re driving away their other customers and making what’s already a huge hassle a truly miserable experience for other passengers. Nothing is stopping you from buying your own plane and transporting yourself, if you feel an entitlement to tote your reluctant children to every corner of the globe.

    In the States, the Constitution guarantees us the right to travel. This does not mean that individuals or businesses have an obligation to transport you or your children.

    The idea that public places are merely an extension of one’s living room, that children should be welcome anywhere, and that all of their “normal” behavior should be tolerated regardless of situation, time of day, or surroundings, is not only relatively new, but revoltingly odious and boorish.

  • sj August 22, 2011, 1:42 pm

    Some places really aren’t geared toward or suitable for children. To me, this is in stark contrast with the idea of banning people based on prejudices.

    I was at an event in which the invitation clearly stated children under one were allowed, but all others were not invited. A woman showed up with her three children anyway. They behaved fine, but were still a bit of a distraction.

  • Erin August 22, 2011, 1:47 pm

    I have to disagree with the admin – to me, it’s rude to tell potential guests that you expect the worst from them and they are unwelcome. Of course, I don’t appreciate parents who let their kids run amok (my daughter is 3 and she knows how to behave politely in public), but just because some parents are lazy doesn’t mean all of us are. A business that tells me my daughter is unwelcome won’t have my business when she’s old enough to be welcome.

  • Angie August 22, 2011, 1:48 pm

    Kids don’t bother me too much (my youngest is 13 so I remember what it was like to have little ones) but I can certainly understand people wanting to have a quiet meal out, or a relatively peaceful airplane flight. My kids were usually pretty good but if they started acting up they were promptly removed from the situation.

    With regards to being trapped somewhere like an airplane where a parent can’t just “take the kid out” – many theaters and churches where I live have “crying rooms” that are soundproof, for people to take a crying or restless child. There are still windows so you can see what’s happening. No idea how feasible it would be to build these, but I think they could be quite useful on an airplane.

  • The Other Amber August 22, 2011, 2:06 pm

    On the children problem with children on airplanes:
    For young children it’s sometimes impossible to know ahead of time how they’re going to react to being on a plane. The change in air pressure causes pain in their little ears and while we understand it and how to handle it, they don’t. They’re in pain and they get scared and they cry. It doesn’t always happen, and some kids seem to be more sensitive to it than others, but for the most part you’re not going to know how a child is going to react until you’re in the air.

    For children who are old enough, planning ahead and play practicing with your child can do wonders. Set up your dining room chairs like airline seats and pretend to take a flight with your child – that means both of you sitting quietly, not kicking the seat in front of you etc. For the flight itself make sure you bring things that are going to entertain/occupy your child – but please don’t bring the toys and gadgets that make noise! Unless headsets can be worn with them. But as much as everyone appreciates your efforts to keep your child from screaming for 3 hours, no one wants to listen to “the sheep goes baaaa” for 3 hours either. Reading to your child is a much better bet (it’s less annoying, it promotes literacy and is great for bonding).

  • Chocobo August 22, 2011, 2:09 pm

    No, I don’t think it’s rude, I don’t even think it’s wrong in certain cases. But unfortunately such policies are taking the place of actually learning manners, and how do you think those children who have never eaten in a nice place will act when they get older? It won’t magically get better.

    I don’t blame the businesses, because it is a hassle to have unruly guests of any age. But honestly, a little spine would go a long way without banning all youngsters. If any guests (children or adult) misbehave, restaurants should have a one-warning policy, and then chuck them out if necessary. The public embarrassment of having such terrible manners that you’re thrown out of a building might be more of a wake-up call than simply being banned in the first place.

    In summary, this is a temporary solution to a permanent problem. I think for long-term results we need less legal consequences and more social ones. The law can’t take the place of social grace.

  • SV August 22, 2011, 2:28 pm

    If someone does not like the policy of a child free restaurant they are free to choose one that is child friendly….or get a sitter. There are child free resorts specifically because sometimes adults wish to be in the presence of only other adults. As a parent of three fairly well behaved children I have still left many restaurants/stores etc when one of my children were being disruptive. Part of being a parent is being respectful of the people around you while at the same time teaching your kids how to act properly in public.
    And in response to “me”‘s comment…you cannot compare someone who has a social prejudice against overweight people to someone who wishes to eat a peaceful meal without ill behaved children.

  • Lizza August 22, 2011, 2:31 pm

    @AS: One of the salons I worked in had a display of nail polishes in a cabinet type thing. One day a woman was browsing and her toddler plopped down in front of the polishes, and began grabbing bottles and shaking them. The mother did nothing, not even when the toddler started throwing them, not even when one broke and got all over the floor and on the legs of a woman waiting in line! (Luckily no one was hurt by the broken glass.) My coworkers and I of course apologized all over the place, set about cleaning up the mess, and charged the woman for the polish. She was irate! Her toddler didn’t mean to break it, she was just playing, she shouldn’t have to pay! Finally my manager had to step in and say, “It doesn’t matter what she meant to do. The bottle’s still broken, and it’s something we can’t sell to anyone else.” Harsh maybe, but the woman finally paid. I couldn’t believe her attitude!

    Admin, I believe you’re completely right about the behaviour of children in restaurants. A lot of it is to do with the parents – a young child has to be taught what is right and wrong, and that has to be enforced by the parents. I worked in a chain restaurant for a while and I could horrify you with what some children got away with. (One little boy was literally running around the restaurant while his parents did nothing. They berated every server who tried to get them to see reason, that the boy was trying to go in the kitchen, that he was getting in the way, etc., until a manager told them they could either control him or leave.) My parents had a simple way to keep us calm: we each had a wordsearch/crossword book that came with us when we went out to eat. We could still talk, but we were occupied and not focused on waiting for our food and getting restless.

  • mean ol' mom August 22, 2011, 2:43 pm

    Oh yes, that’s me….the mean ol’ mom. Why? Because I taught my children to behave in public! It wasn’t that difficult once my children understood the guidelines for eating out.

    -Sit on your seat.
    -Use indoor voices.
    -Running around restaurants will lead to getting burned/injured/etc. when you trip up a waiter/waitress delivering food.
    -How would you feel if you were paying for this meal and had to listen to some other person act like a jerk?

    Pretty simple concepts and worked wonders. I can’t count the number of times I have been praised for having such wonderfully behaved children. My kiddos knew that if they had too many warnings, they were done–meaning food packed in to go boxes and we’d be going home, and they’d lose the privilege of going out again for a very, very, very long time. I also took along small quiet activities for my children to do from the time they could sit up and hold a toy/book/crayon.

    So why was I called mean ol mom? Because some of my friends and a lot of our family were too lazy to actually parent their children so it was easier to say that I was cruel and mean to my own children to expect them to behave, rather than letting them run like wild animals through every restaurant, store, mall, park, zoo, or wherever we were. Why do the work of teaching your children manners, when you can just say that the ones who did, were mean and stifling their child’s individuality/creativity/ego/etc. Flimsy excuses for poor parenting. Of course, my children are grown, now, and they don’t seem to remember me being mean at all. They remember all the compliments and how that made them feel so proud of themselves for being good enough to get strangers to notice.

    While I believe it is up to a restaurant owner to make up his own rules, I do tend to think a total ban is a bit extreme. There are *some* well behaved children. The alternative would be to have signs posted that unruly children and their parents will be asked to leave. Of course, getting the staff to follow through and determine what “unruly” is would be the hard part. Although, I have to admit, now that my DH and I eat out alone, more often, having a child free zone would be so nice for those nights we just want a peaceful meal without someone screaming, throwing food, and being obnoxious while mommy and daddy try to pretend their little angel isn’t acting rude.

  • behindbj August 22, 2011, 2:45 pm

    There’s a difference between a child acting up with the parents not doing anything about it and an attentive parent. I have been on planes, in restaurants and out and about around both types.

    On airplanes (and generally everywhere else), I have infinite patience with parents doing their level best to settle a child. I have even offered assistance to those having issues, because they are trying and are doing their level best. I have found this to be generally true – most folks are understanding if the parent is trying their best. And the ones who aren’t are usually told to stuff it (politely, of course).

    It’s the parents who don’t do anything who are the subejct of the ban here. As for the argument “what about well-behaved kids? They get punished!” Well, I get punished every day for those who could not own and carry a gun without doing something foolish. I have had to surrender several pocketknives because folks can keep them without being foolish. Many, many things that a reasonable person with a brain in their head should be able to handle as an adult are off-limits because people were stupid, ignorant or just plain wrong in dealing with them. This is one of those things.

    • Redblues March 25, 2014, 2:07 pm

      I do not always have patience with people ‘doing their level best to settle a child’ who does not belong in a place where s/he will disrupt other people. A parent cannot take a child off of an airplane, but a parent *can* take a loud messy disruptive child out of a restaurant & *should* do so *immediately* if the child becomes noisy. The parent shouldn’t ‘give the child a chance to calm down’, at least not inside the restaurant. ( And no. I don’t care if it’s 35 degrees and pouring out. You can always choose to just go home. Or stay there in the first place.) The child can calm down outside and then be brought back in. The entire restaurant is not tasked with teaching a child anything. That is the parent’s job, and should be done outside away from other diners. Too bad if that is less than convenient for parent or child. I am paying for a meal in a restaurant for my own pleasure, not as a learning experience for other people’s children. I hope more restaurant owners follow suit. I’m sick of having expensive, or even inexpensive, meals ruined by ingrates. As for the people who insist that *their* children do know how to behave in public, well, I’ll believe that when I see it. And I rarely see it. Anyone huffy enough not to patronize an establishment that doesn’t fawn over the customers who reproduce has, in all likelyhood produced *exactly* the kind of brats that lead business owners to conclude that they can either ban children or lose well behaved, paying, adult customers.

  • Lisa August 22, 2011, 2:54 pm

    As someone who has no children, and generally has a low tolerance for unruly ones, I do think that the restaurant policy is a bit OTT. I would patron a place like that for my own selfish convenience, but I do think it is making an unfair assumption that all kids are unruly. Like someone mentioned above, simply having a policy in place that asks unruly patrons of all ages to leave is more than sufficient, and targets more potential problems without offending a segment of the population.

    As for offering child-free flights, I think this is great. Flying is a stressful activity, I for one, hate it and I am a grownup. I don’t generally blame parents when children scream during flights bc I have had that horrible earache before myself. However, it is unpleasant to be trapped with screaming children, so offering a child-free flight or two as an option is something I would pay extra for. Honestly, I don’t see that it forces those with children not to travel. I didn’t see where airlines have mentioned that children wouldn’t be allowed to travel on any flights, or even where the majority of flights would be offered child-free. At the most I figured it would be just one or two flights a day to select places, most likely metro areas that have many choices for flights.

  • Kovitlac August 22, 2011, 2:56 pm

    I have given my 2c on this before, and my answer is still the same – this is absolutely fair. The owner of the establishment has every right to bar anyone from entering, and last I checked, that includes children. Think of it this way – there are very child-friendly places, such as McDonalds and most other fast-food joints. There are ones that cater right TO children, like Chuck E. Cheese. Why can’t there be places that do not allow them?

    I was raised similarly to how the Admin seems to have raised her children. I remember one instance where my parents took my brother and I to Outback to eat. There was a 20 minute or so wait, that they decided to wait out. My brother and I were given paper books and crayons to draw on them with (provided at the restaraunt). We were quiet and well-mannered. When our table was called, an elderly couple pulled my dad aside and told him that when we initially came in, they were dreading having to put up with two very young kids running around, shrieking, etc. They were delighted by our model behavior, and told my parents they did a wonderful job raising us.

    Unfortunately, this isn’t the norm. Maybe these new rules, which are by no means widespread, will act as a wake-up call for poor parents to get their act together.

  • LS August 22, 2011, 3:14 pm

    As others have said, ban the behavior, not the person.

  • bettyedit August 22, 2011, 3:37 pm

    Claire, your story made me laugh. I have actually done similar things. Once, when I was 13, I saw another student at my school drop a gum wrapper. I picked it up and ran after her, saying, “Excuse me, you dropped this.” I think she was too dumbfounded to reply.

    I also recently saw a mother and her 4-year-old daughter in a health-foods grocery store, just finishing up a bowl of ice cream as they did their shopping. The mother put the little styrofoam cups of trash on the ledge of a refrigerated aisle, and when the girl asked why they weren’t throwing it away, the mother said, “Because there’s no trash can.” There actually was a trash can not 10 feet away, at the end of the aisle, but knowing that would have required the effort of looking around and trying to find a trash can, which apparently this woman couldn’t do. How sad to see the adult quashing the good manners of the child.

    In that instance, I didn’t run after the mother to hand her the trash, as she was far down the aisle, I was right by the trash can, and she probably would’ve just given me a tongue lashing and left the trash somewhere else anyway. Instead, I just threw the trash away myself.

    In another case, when I saw someone throw a large amount of trash–the remains of a fast-food meal, packaging included–out their window into the creek under the overpass, I called the law enforcement and gave them the license plate number. I was gratified to see, as I exited a grocery store a few minutes later, that the litterer was receiving a ticket for his action.

    Sometimes running after a person can be ok. Sometimes it’s easier to just pick up the trash yourself. Sometimes you can’t do anything. I know others’ opinions would certainly differ on this matter, but in my opinion, Claire, I think what you did was just fine.

    “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” -Edmund Burke

  • BeachMum August 22, 2011, 3:46 pm

    What’s worse is that those children who are misbehaving make it that much more difficult for those of us who have children who are behaving. We take our children (ages six and eight) to relatively nice places often. However, they know what the expectations are. It’s hard for them, sometimes, when another table is allowing the children to act like monsters and yet mine are expected to act appropriately.

    However, I think that places shouldn’t ban children. Instead, they should just ask people to leave when they behave badly. They do this with adults who are drunk, why not children who are behaving badly. I’d be thrilled to go to a restaurant that kicked people out for bad behaviour and would encourage others to do so too.

    My joke is that one must only tell one’s children 30 or 40-thousand times to say “Thank You” before they remember on their own. It is, however, well worth it.

  • --E August 22, 2011, 3:48 pm

    To those suggesting that restaurants and airplanes have the right to ban anyone they choose: You are wrong. (If you are in the USA, Canada, or the UK. I can’t speak for other parts of the world.)

    Public businesses–that is, businesses open to the general public, not private clubs to which one must acquire membership–are required under anti-discrimination acts to be open to, and conduct business with, everyone.

    There are certain categories of people who are not protected by such laws, mostly because they are overridden by other laws. The most obvious is “disruptive” people, be they adult or child, because of the hazard they present for others. (This is the usual loophole for the exclusion of persons who have not bathed in some while.)

    Children are a special case. While they may not be disruptive in individual cases, there are many places they are banned from already on the basis of their age. Bars, porno clubs, R-rated movies (without parent), many amusement park rides (while height is the main point, that translates primarily to children, with adult little people as a smaller (pun unintentional) excluded group).

    The point is, we have lots of places where children aren’t permitted. This makes it fairly easy for a place to decide it is child-free, at least at certain times.

    While it may be unfair to decide a priori that children will be disruptive and ban them all, is it more fair to expect a restaurant to do active policing and public shaming of the parents of disruptive children? If you owned a restaurant, how would you fairly enforce such a policy? How many minutes of screaming is too many? What level of crumb-making is too much? Is a child who talks too loudly as bad as a child who screams? What do you do when the parent gets huffy and starts making a scene him or herself–because people who are insensitive to their child’s bad behavior are NOT going to go quietly!–and perhaps refuses to leave?

    How many meals will you serve and not be paid for, because you insisted the parents leave with their disruptive children, and the parents in turn stormed out and refused to pay? Will you pass that cost along to your other, non-disruptive guests in the form of higher prices?

    Child-bans may not be fair, but they are a lot less arbitrary than selective policing. This makes them a good deal safer, from a legal viewpoint, for any restaurant that wishes to maintain an undisrupted atmosphere.

  • Wink-n-Smile August 22, 2011, 3:52 pm

    Regarding the “can’t stand to watch fat people eat” complaint – the simple solution is just not to look.

    It’s rather more complicated with rowdy children, who scream in ear-piercingly high tones, throw food and other items, run around, crawl under tables, and bite your ankles.

    If a patron complains about watching a fat person eat, the server can tell them not to look. Fat people have as much right to eat, politely, as thin people.

    Children, on the other hand, need to be taught manners. And the people who complain about seeing fat people also need to be taught manners, IMHO.

    As for plane travel – it would be very painful for the society at large, if no one with a child in tow could travel. Perhaps, instead of banning children from flights, they could reconfigure the plane and have a more kid-friendly section? To the rear of coach, perhaps. I’d recommend having regular seats and smaller seats, and you state the seat size needed for the passengers, at the time of booking. The guardians have to be there with them, and suffer through the noise and whatnot, but at least all the noise and whatnot is confined to one area, and the rest of the plane has peace.

    And another thing – some children ARE well behaved, and deserve to travel first class. In fact, I have known some children who are better behaved than some adult first-class passengers. Assuming the people who have money to travel first class, and want to take their angels with them in that compartment, are willing to pay a premium to do so, there’s a solution. The parents buy seats in First Class AND in the children’s section. The children and their guardians are allowed to remain in First Class for only so long as they all behave. As soon as they cause a disruption, they are moved to the children’s section. If they make it all the way through the flight in First Class, they get a refund for the children’s section. Not a full refund, because the plane needs to make their fair money, but perhaps half back. That way, for those willing to pay for first class, they can travel in first class with their children, and everyone in first class would be comfortable.

    Coach is designed for suffering, anyway, so I doubt the double-ticket/partial refund thing would work for that.

  • Iris August 22, 2011, 4:21 pm

    As the admin points out, her children were taught manners through consistent reinforcement of the rules. Just think how difficult it would become to teach those manners if the only places they were ever allowed to eat were fast food joints geared at children. I have already struggled with teaching my children manners as they see other children acting up in nice restaurants and say “Why can’t I do that?” Imagine if every other child was running out to play equipment or yelling.

    Manners don’t develop in a vaccuum – to extend the analogy above, we have worked hard to train our dog not to get too excited when people come and jump on them. However, that DID require people to actually come and visit. There is no way to train a dog not to jump on visitors if you never HAVE any visitors.

  • Bint August 22, 2011, 4:28 pm

    “A business that tells me my daughter is unwelcome won’t have my business when she’s old enough to be welcome.”

    Riiiight. So you’ll never go into a pub in your life then, assuming you like going to pubs. Or a Michelin starred restaurant. Or a Turkish bath. Or any other business that caters solely for adults.

    All the righteous outrage about ‘telling me my child is unwelcome’ and ‘tarring us all with the same brush’ – get over it, for goodness’ sake. You’re choosing to take offence and planning to hold a grudge for years against a business just for turning adults-only? Quel massive over-reaction and seeking to be affronted. Save your outrage for all those rubbish parents that made the businesses take a step either that desperate, or that worthwhile because *so many people* are sick of badly behaved children.

    And nobody has to keep telling us that their kids are well-behaved etc That’s not the issue here. There are enough horrendous parents out there that has led to this, and nobody here is going to say, ‘yeah, my kids behave like scum and hey! I don’t care!’ anyway.

    I don’t see the problem with this. You can teach your children manners at home until they are past the age of behaving badly, and if they can’t eat somewhere because it’s adults only, they will be able to go somewhere else. I hardly see this impinging on our lives as parents beyond some mild inconvenience, and the flying one is for the first class section anyway. Yeah, I’m sure we’re all so affected by that.

  • Amanda August 22, 2011, 4:37 pm

    I agree with Chocobo. It’s not the policy to keep out children so that they never have the opportunity to annoy adult diners that’s needed , but more consequences. If the children are behaving well, let them be. If the children are disturbing others and/or running amok and creating a safety hazard, ask the party to either get things under control or leave. I’ve seen it done numerous times with drunken patrons, yet I’ve not heard of any restaurant performing sobriety tests at the door to keep intoxicated customers out. Either the parents will learn and abide by what they should already know (acceptable behavior in a restaurant) or they will never come back (good riddance).

  • Maitri August 22, 2011, 4:37 pm

    I have a 4 year old and a 2 year old and I’m all for restaurant owners’ rights to ban children if they wish.

    I remember going to a Red Lobster once with my family – DH and I very rarely can afford to eat out, and so it is a treat when we do – and my children were very well behaved. The children (roughly the same ages) in the next booth, however, were NOT. Their parents sat and chatted with each other and the waiter, who apparently was a family friend, while their children climbed up on adjacent empty tables and dumped sugar packets on the floor/chairs, ran around like howler monkeys, climbed under the bench seats, etc. It was awful. Our meal was ruined; even my older son was disgusted with those children’s behavior.

  • Louise August 22, 2011, 4:41 pm


    “How would you feel if you had gone to a nice restaurant only to have your parents be told, “Sorry, we don’t allow little kids, no matter how well-behaved they are?” Would that inspire you to continue behaving nicely in public places, or would that just send the message that no matter how good you are, some people just don’t want you around?”
    — At 6? I wouldn’t have cared, to be honest. As long as the staff said it quietly to my parents and didn’t declare it loudly to my face, it likely would have rolled off my back. I certainly wouldn’t have thought, “Well, that’s it, there’s no clearly no point in behaving well ever and I am unwanted everywhere.”

  • Zhoen August 22, 2011, 4:52 pm

    The owner is also protecting his employees from the wrath of entitled, irresponsible parents, who would make a huge fuss being asked to leave because of their unruly children. Wait-staff do amazingly well most of the time, and yes, they should kick out *any* unruly person. But when you add into that lazy parents being confronted with the unacceptability of their own little darlings, it can get out of hand.

    I find random screeches of young children to be physically painful, and my spouse has been known to go into a panic attack. I will avoid places frequented by unpleasant children, and will absolutely patronize anyplace that deals with them well, in whatever way. We go to one place that has very experienced waitstaff that are given sufficient authority, and have only very rarely had to deal with somewhat loud children for a short while, until they are quieted.

    There really is a difference between the noise of a child in distress, and a child running riot because there are no grown-ups teaching them better.

  • Louise August 22, 2011, 4:55 pm

    A few airlines are thinking about making sections of planes, or certain flights, child-free. Should this comes to pass, it’s not as though no parents and children will be unable to fly anywhere ever. It doesn’t mean you won’t be able to immigrate or visit your family. It means you’ll have to take a different flight or sit in a different seat. If that inconveniences you in some way, you deal with it. Reschedule your flight, use a different airline, shell out a bit more for whatever option you want, whatever you have to do.

    Why does it matter if a few restaurants ban children under 6? The supermajority of restaurants in the United States at least are child-friendly. If you walk into a restaurant, odds are it will welcome your well-behaved toddler. Odds are it will put up with your badly behaved toddler. Restaurants cater to families with young children all. The. Time. So when a few decide they would rather cater to people who don’t want to eat around children, why the uproar?

    And yes, it’s too bad that well-behaved children get caught up in the ban. But them’s the breaks. My dog — yes, I know a dog isn’t the same as a child, but bear with me here — is very obedient, comes when he calls and won’t approach people or animals if I command him not to. But the ban on dogs running freely in the park applies to him. The city doesn’t care how well behaved he is, all it knows is that dogs running free in the park cause problems, therefore no dogs will run free. At least parents have the option of going to a different restaurant, I can’t go to another park!

  • many bells down August 22, 2011, 5:32 pm

    @ –E – An excellent point. I have lost track of the number of movies where there’s been a toddler kicking my seat or a baby fussing in the front. My kids are 11 and 14, so we’re not sitting through Disney movies anymore, either.

  • Amber August 22, 2011, 5:37 pm

    I noticed at a local movie theater that they now prohibit children under 6 at R-rated movies after 6pm. I thought it was a fabulous idea. I realize it’s sometimes necessary to take your child(ren) with you, like to the grocery store, but some places are not suitable for children.

    This kind of reminds me of weddings where children under a certain age are not invited. It typically rubs some people the wrong way.

  • The Elf August 22, 2011, 5:56 pm

    Re: Banning children on flights/childfree sections on planes

    Perhaps instead of thinking of this as a ban, parents should think of this as an opportunity. With the institution of a childfree zones or childfree flights, it would then follow that the sections where children are allowed will be more child friendly. In fact, airlines could take this a step farther and make sure that family-friendly movies are shown, that snacks are geared towards kids, maybe even offer a changing area or bottle warming service. And if your kids melt down, you won’t get so many hairy eyeballs since most of your fellow passengers will be sympathetic. Really, it seems to me to be a win-win situation.

  • LauraBeth August 22, 2011, 9:59 pm

    Once a week I get allergy shots at my Docters office. A mother with a young son is almost always in the office at the same time I am there. She speaks in a normal voice, but when she reads to her son it becomes a Shakespearen production. I am guessing her son will never learn what an inside voice is.

  • Susan J August 22, 2011, 9:59 pm

    “We’ve been in for a while now and get back to raising kids who aren’t constantly told they’re the best thing since sliced bread just by virtue of existing”.

    Oh how true this statement is! There is a generation of kids being brought up to believe that they are the best thing since sliced bread, that they are SPECIAL and UNIQUE in the world. Not a good way to prepare a kid for the real world, one in which no one will find them special in any way unless they have truly earned it.

    These kids are going to be in for one hell of a shock when they go forth on their own into a world that mostly doesn’t give a damn about them and couldn’t care less what happens to them. They are going to discover the truth; that they are nothing special or unique through some very difficult and harsh life lessons. Letting kids face this unprepared is cruel, lazy and ignorant parenting

  • MidoriBird August 22, 2011, 9:59 pm

    I work in a food court situated in a large supermarket; consequently confrontation of families over disruptive children is not an option for me and only an option for management if the children begin to create utter chaos. Non-confrontation of customers is something highly prized where I work.

    I’ve had discussions with the kitchen manager as to methods to distract unruly children to create a minimum of noise. Places like the Deli will offer free pieces of cheese to children and the bakery offers a free cookie. There are “sample stations” all over the place. In general, it does keep chaos to a minimum. But in a dining area, it is a harder matter to confront.

    The other day I had a family come in with two little boys; one appeared to be around three years old and the other maybe just under two years. The older one was squealing, running about aimlessly, but I saw his eyes settled on nothing and no one. I had a funny feeling in my stomach but, just in case I was somehow mistaken in my guess, I went to the table and offered the adults crayons and coloring paper for the children. (I now keep these available at all times and children may keep the crayon packets they are given.)

    They accepted the offer for the younger child, but declined it for the older one–I was right in my guess; he was autistic. (I have Asperger’s myself….maybe that is why I noticed? Not sure….) They said it apologetically, which made me feel sad.

    Fortunately, he wasn’t too loud. At one point when he did become disruptive, his mother picked him up and took him towards the restrooms. The younger child happily made a mess with his food (still in high-chair stage) and stayed quiet otherwise, coloring.

    I admired this family, for being able to remain aware of not disturbing other customers, while indulging in the need to eat out once in a while. Sooo much better than my customers who let their infants shriek their heads off.