Banning Kids Is Really About Banning Bad Parents

by admin on August 22, 2011

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.

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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

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