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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.

  • Erin August 22, 2011, 10:09 pm

    @ Bint, you know I wasn’t talking about places where children legally aren’t allowed to go. You’re making a straw argument. Do you like being judged? My guess is no, because I don’t know anyone who does. However, banning all kids is judging all parents as bad and all kids as poorly behaved. It’s extreme and rude, much like your comment.

  • AC August 22, 2011, 10:13 pm

    When my sister’s daughters were younger at least once a month we would take them out for a “girl’s day”.

    The first stop would be going to pick up a gift for my aunt in a nursing home. One niece would get to come with me to pick the flowers or plant. The other would wait with her mom.

    The next stop was to visit our aunt in a nursing home. They were adorable but got bored. The solution was to keep a few quiet toys there that kept them busy. We would also take them for walks so they could greet the other residents who were in the hallway. It taught them to be compasionate.

    The second stop was late lunch. If the girls were good in the nursing home they would get to pick where we were going to eat (as in would you like Mexican or Chinese?). We ended up there between lunch and dinner, so it was fairly empty. They were usually well behaved. If they acted up, lunch was packed to go.

    The final stop was something fun for them. It was always a surprise. It coud be heading to the beach, going to see the ducks, a playground, etc. I kept things like bubbles in my bag for them. Allowed them to use my camera. It was all about having fun.

    The key was they knew what was expected of them. They usually acted accordingly. If they didn’t, the day was over. It helped to have things to keep them busy when they were geting bored. Giving them a say in where we ate was a good reward. Having a fun suprise at the end gave us some great memories.

  • acr August 22, 2011, 10:34 pm

    @Elizabeth – what about NooraK’s other question – “Would we keep people from being able to visit their families until their children are of a certain age?”

    It’s a lousy situation for them. But yes, I’m totally okay with that. Air travel is already brutally uncomfortable and miserable, and adding a screaming child is just unthinkable.

  • traciek August 22, 2011, 10:35 pm

    Maybe it’s not common, but my husband has a disorder with his ear. Loud, high pitched noises that would be annoying to me, are actually extremely painful to him. We don’t have kids and we don’t frequent places geared towards kids. When we go to a restaurant and sit down to eat and a child is screaming, he can take it for a couple of minutes (long enough for the parent to step out with the child) but much more than that and we have to talk about leaving. It’s really frustrating when it’s not just annoying, but actually painful. I wonder if there are other cases where a child-free zone would be more than just a convenience.

  • Hemi Halliwell August 22, 2011, 10:43 pm

    As mentioned in my earlier comment, *in my opinion*, child-free restaurants and child-free flights are great ideas. Not every restaurant or airline will become child-free.
    There is nothing wrong with adults wanting adults-only dining or a quiet flight. It is unfortunate that parents will well-behaved children get “punished” for other people’s children or rather, other people’s lack of parenting. But as a parent of two, I know there are times ALL parents/adults NEED time away from their children. If you got a sitter for your children, went out to an upscale restaurant expecting a nice meal and an adult conversation, only to have it disturbed or ruined by screaming, unruly children, you would be upset. Or if you got trapped on a 12 hour flight with children who were unruly or disruptive or an infant with ear pain so bad they scream the ENTIRE flight, you would probably be praying for a “no-children” flight, area, etc. Maybe the adult has a migraine or is sensitive to sounds, uneasy on flights, etc; the screaming & running up and down the aisle would not help.
    As bad as this sounds, being a parent, I think I have a right to say it: Other people should not have to suffer your children. I KNOW there are times when you have done everything under the sun and it doesn’t help (especially if the child is sick or over-tired), so unless you are on a plane, it’s time to get pack it up and go.
    Remember, it just *my* opinion. You have every right to disagree.

  • PinkWildRose August 22, 2011, 11:38 pm

    I don’t understand why people are offended at the idea of an adults-only restaurant. There’s hundreds of other nice places to go that welcome kids, why not just go to one of them?

  • Ange August 22, 2011, 11:51 pm

    –E and Bint I couldn’t have said it better myself. As a single adult with no children I find my special places (pubs, movies directed at older patrons, concerts etc) are becoming increasingly overtaken with kids. That parents could complain that their special snowflake is going to suffer because of the odd ban here and there is ludicrous. I find SO MUCH these days is either geared towards families or just happens to have them there anyway (whether or not it’s appropriate) that I can never just relax and be an adult.

  • The Other Amber August 23, 2011, 12:12 am

    Hey even Disney has adult-only areas. There are adult-only restaurants in their resorts, and adult-only areas on their cruise ships.

  • David August 23, 2011, 12:31 am

    I am another person who has physical pain with loud, high-pitched noises. Because of this I avoid children as much as I can, even though I like them.

    But the truth is, the restaurant isn’t banning children, it is banning children under a certain age (expecting children above the age to be better prepared to act appropriately). When I was a child, I would have been looking forward to the day when I was old enough to go there, rather than bemoaning the fact I wasn’t old enough yet.

  • Margaret August 23, 2011, 12:56 am

    @Dark Magdalena — I am affronted because my kids are the age of the ban, so it implies that my kids are too ill behaved for his restaurant, and I don’t think my kids are that bad.

    I am aware that me thinking that my kids aren’t that bad is probably exactly the reason that he has implemented the ban.

    However, from what I’ve read, it doesn’t sound like it was the kind of restaurant I would have chosen anyway. We are a row-of-highchairs-restaurant kind of family.

  • geoff August 23, 2011, 1:30 am

    The problem with this whole situation is it all boils down to opinion. One persons wildly unruly child is another persons well-behaved little angel. Ok. maybe that’s a stretch, but maybe you get my point.

    I have children, and if I were banned from my favorite restaurant or not allowed to visit family and friends who live far enough away to have to fly there, just because some childless person complained (and it’s usually only people who don’t have kids who complain), I’d be a little upset about it.

    Understand that you may have to suffer the 12-hour flight with my unruly child (which I would deeply apologize for), but I had to deal with packing the bags, the cab ride to the airport, the entire check-in process, waiting at the terminal, boarding, stress through the entire flight knowing that my child was causing distress to the other passengers, waiting to exit the plane last because the amount of baggage that comes with a child is now strewn across the entire row, waiting for the bags, and the car ride home with that same child. I can only offer so many apologies, but I had to do it, how else am I supposed to travel? If you want a child-free plane ride, buy your own jet.

    Granted, I’ve never actually been in this level of a bad situation on a plane, but having traveled across the pond twice with a toddler, it was stressful enough even though there were only minor incidences, and I have nothing but compassion for parents who might suffer a worse fate than I had to deal with.

    So if you don’t have kids, try imagining the stress of your life with kids… now multiply that by a million, because you’re not even close. And if you do have kids… shame on you, you know better.

    • Redblues March 25, 2014, 4:31 pm

      Last I heard, having children is a choice, not an obligation. I don’t care what inconveniences you may have to suffer as a result of your own choice. The rest of the world does not exist to offer you sympathy or service, no matter how difficult your life is as a result of your decisions. ‘I have it worse than you do so you are not allowed to complain.’ is exactly the kind of arrogant entitlement that causes the inappropriate public behavior in the first place. Shame on *you* for raising children who will inevitably grow up to lack manners and boundaries, and then complain about how intolerant other people are.

  • Sandmouse August 23, 2011, 1:50 am

    With regard to the restaurant banning children under 6, since no business would ever undertake such a ban without considerable deliberation first, one has to wonder how much bad behavior and complaining about it from other customers they endured before making their decision.

    These decisions are not lightly made, or made without tremendous provocation.

  • YWalkalone August 23, 2011, 2:24 am

    If we were talking about a federal law that banned all children under a certain age from all restaurants, I would not agree. However, individual businesses that aren’t marketed toward children IMO have every right to ban them. It’s their prerogative, and I would be much more inclined to patronize that kind of business specifically because I don’t want my experience ruined by other people’s laziness or lack of discipline. If I stop into McDonald’s I fully expect children there to run around and play, but if I’m going to Chez Nous after 8pm and a child starts throwing a tantrum, you can be sure I’ll be calling the manager over.

    On another site I belong to, one woman wrote an article explicitly likening McDain’s ban on children to racism and (I wish I were joking, it was that unbelievable) Jim Crow laws. This particular site normally has less than ten comments per article, and this one article so enraged people that it got 100 comments within one day exclaiming how offensive, inappropriate, and misguided that comparison was.

    My ex had a great story about his mother that he loved to tell, and he always relayed it admiringly: it seems one day she had taken him to McDonald’s for lunch and bought him a happy meal. He insisted on playing with the toy that came with it instead of eating. She calmly told him that he needed to eat first, then play. He refused, she took his toy away until after he was done, he threw a tantrum. Without one more word, she got up, took both of their lunches and his toy, threw them in the trash, took him home and made him a sandwich, simply (and calmly) telling him, “We do not throw tantrums.” He was four years old and that one afternoon made such an impact on him that he never threw a tantrum again. Perhaps if more parents were willing to follow her example, restaurants wouldn’t need to resort to an outright ban.

    • admin August 23, 2011, 7:11 am


      This is exactly what we did as parents when a child threw a tantrum. Whatever it was they were having a fit over, they promptly lost it. Tantrums in grocery stores were non-existent because they knew they had no hope of ever getting what they wanted. Tantrum equated to an automatic “No” regardless of what it was.

  • Chicken August 23, 2011, 4:18 am

    I’m all for this ban. I was take the red eye from Hawaii to California every few months and I’m getting sick of having to deal with screaming kids when I’m trying to sleep. There was one particularly bad family directly behind me once and their three year old was out of this world. This was a child who had never heard the word no, and it showed. She screamed, kicked, threw things, laid in the isle- you name it she did it. And despite the flight attendants telling the parents they needed to control her (for obvious safety reasons) they never once told her to stop. In fact they largely ignored her while she ran up and down the isles and when the father picked her up to bring her back to their seat the kid was kicking people in the head and the father never even said sorry! I thought it was priceless the infant they also had with them was silent through the whole flight, but I’m sure time will change that little angel.

    This is just one of the many instances that has made me vow to NEVER forget what it was like to be a childless adult.

  • The Elf August 23, 2011, 6:15 am

    Chocobo: “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.”

    You’d teach the children nice restaurant behavior the same way you prepare the children for any other situation. You practice good table manners at home, you practice polite dining at a family-friendly place, then when they do eat a nice place, they’ll know how to act. After all, the basic sequence of events is the same. Everyone is just dressed nicer and there are more forks, that’s all.

  • Nicole Draper August 23, 2011, 7:11 am

    (Amber August 22, 2011 at 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.)

    Erm….what? Children under 6 should not be at a PG movie let alone R- am I missing something?

  • Chocobo August 23, 2011, 8:32 am

    The Elf:

    That’s true, but it precludes the reason why children are being banned from nice restaurants in the first place. Certainly it’s not the children who know how to behave in a restaurant (or will, when they’re old enough not to poop their pants) and are taught decent manners at home who will have trouble in a nice restaurant. It’s the children whose self-control is so awful they necessitate these policies — obviously they aren’t being taught these things at home, and they’re not going to get any better just by aging. To me, it’s just putting off the issue for ten, twenty years, until the misbehavers are old enough not to be discriminated against anymore by any policy. Then what can we do? That’s what I mean by policy taking the place of propriety.

  • Just Laura August 23, 2011, 8:33 am

    Nicole Draper –
    Erm….what? Children under 6 should not be at a PG movie let alone R- am I missing something?

    Apparently you’re missing the point that many people have been trying to make. There are places and times that are appropriate for children. Some people feel the need to take their kids EVERYWHERE whether or not the event is appropriate, or whether the kids are able to behave properly. We don’t know why they do this. So now the venues are forced to have a ban in place, due to parents’ not realizing the inappropriateness of it themselves, or because they feel entitled to do whatever they want at the expense of others.

  • Kara August 23, 2011, 11:08 am

    “Please let me add: I know some children really can’t help it. Autism spectrum disorders come to mind, as does ADHD, etc. I’m talking about the kids who can control certain actions and don’t because mom/dad/grandma/grandpa don’t care.”

    About the above… why should it matter if a child is ADHD, autistic, or whatever? “They can’t help it” is not an excuse for the parents not acting appropriately to manage the child and stop the disruption.

    Really, if your autistic (or ADHD or whatever) child is screaming and banging on the table in a restaurant, do you think that the people in the next table care at all about what your child’s medical condition is? The fact that your child is autistic (or ADHD or whatever) does not magically make the screaming and banging any less disruptive.

  • Louise August 23, 2011, 11:42 am


    “I have children, and if I were banned from my favorite restaurant or not allowed to visit family and friends who live far enough away to have to fly there, just because some childless person complained (and it’s usually only people who don’t have kids who complain), I’d be a little upset about it.”
    — It’s not “some childless person,” it’s a lot of child-free people and possibly some parents. Why would you be upset? Am I, a child-free person, not allowed to want to minimize my exposure to children in restaurants and planes?

    “Understand that you may have to suffer the 12-hour flight with my unruly child (which I would deeply apologize for), but I had to deal with packing the bags, the cab ride to the airport, the entire check-in process, waiting at the terminal, boarding, stress through the entire flight knowing that my child was causing distress to the other passengers, waiting to exit the plane last because the amount of baggage that comes with a child is now strewn across the entire row, waiting for the bags, and the car ride home with that same child. I can only offer so many apologies, but I had to do it, how else am I supposed to travel?”
    — Interesting you admit your child is unruly but somehow you expect everyone to put up with him or her anyway. Am I supposed to feel sympathy for you having to pack bags and go through the terminal with your unruly child? I don’t. You signed up for that when you became a parent. You chose to do all that when you decided to fly with your child. Ultimately you allowed your child to become unruly and disturb me and others. You don’t get my sympathy for your failure to keep your child in line, but you do get a lot of annoyed looks and make the idea of a child-free flight become more and more attractive.

    “If you want a child-free plane ride, buy your own jet.”
    — And it’s this attitude that makes people dislike parents. If you don’t want to keep your unruly child in line, why don’t you buy the jet? Or better yet, teach your unruly child some manners?

  • Invalidcharactr August 23, 2011, 11:53 am

    @starstruck- Your argument is a case of reductio ad absurdum. There’s no reason to be “scared” of an adult-oriented business denying patronage to children. Their age is not a disability, it’s a transient status. When they’re older than six or ten or eighteen, they will no longer be banned from places that are not meant for children.

    As an adult, I patronize child-free resorts, and would gladly book flights with child-restricted airlines. I would gladly opt, every time, for a meal at a child-free restaurant, if that were an option in my area.

    The reason that these bans are necessary is because parents are now taking their children everywhere. Historically, parents would hire a sitter and have an adult-oriented evening if they were going out to a decent restaurant. It’s only recently that some parents have taken to including their children in everything, regardless as to the appropriateness of the venue (and enjoyment of the child, frankly.) I remember a quote that I read in a joke book when I was a child, and it really struck me as being true; “Eternity is when the waitress asks your parents if they’d like another cup of coffee and they say ‘yes’.”

    You and your babies can learn proper restaurant behavior at Applebee’s and Denny’s. I’m fairly certain places like that won’t be banning children.

    Nice restaurants aren’t really limiting their clientele at all. There are many, many child-free individuals who would welcome a quiet evening with murmured conversations over expensive wine that aren’t punctuated by “Snookums, why aren’t you eating your ‘tatoes? You gotta eat your ‘tatoes, punkin! Can we get another napkin, please? Can we get Little Precious’ milk in a sippy cup? What do you mean, you don’t have sippy cups!?”

    Personally, I think that children should be disallowed from any place that serves alcohol (especially since so many children have been sent to emergency rooms recently because they’ve picked up the wrong drink and given themselves alcohol poisoning while their parents blithely and inattentively sat by).

    I don’t dislike children, but they are by their very nature ignorant. They’ve had limited experiences, and until they’re about seven years old, most haven’t even mastered all of the grammatical intricacies of human speech. They don’t have anything interesting or insightful to contribute to a conversation, unless they’re extraordinarily precocious, and cuteness alone isn’t enough to make a conversation with an average child anything but tedious. I don’t care about cartoons or whatever sport they’re playing or whatever gaming cards they collect. I have nothing in common with children, and anything that I would find interesting as a topic of conversation would be completely incomprehensible to most children (I have met a few children who were stunningly intelligent, and it was a pleasure to converse with them, as with any stunningly intelligent human.)

    I do tolerate children. I tolerate children in appropriate, child-friendly venues. Whenever a badly-trained child says something inappropriate to me, or asks a rude question, I am always calm and polite when I explain to him or her that he or she shouldn’t say such things to adults.

    But I don’t want to spend seventy dollars a plate for the pleasure of “tolerating” your child.

  • Mike Johnson August 23, 2011, 1:02 pm

    My wife and I dealt with this in a church setting. Our two sons are a year and a day apart so both when about 1 and 2 would make some noise or the other in church (nothing out of line just questions or dropping a hymnal, that kind of thing) and we would be just mortified. Finally the pastor came to us and told us that our kids were actually very well behaved and that he actually had a list of older attendants that wanted to give us a break by having the boys sit with them during services. I just wanted to give some of the parents out there hope that even by doing everything right children will make more noise than (some) adults but that it quite often is not nearly as bad as you may think it is.
    That being said I have also endured many a flight and meal that was made completely miserable by children that were allowed free reign to do what they wanted up to and including a drink dumped down the back of my shirt on a flight and stray food flung onto my table at a restaurant.

  • gramma dishes August 23, 2011, 3:46 pm

    Louise ~~ I think his comment “If you want a child-free plane ride, buy your own jet” was in direct response to the comment by *Zeroentitlement*, #21 page 2, Aug. 22, 2011 at 1:23pm, which reads:
    ” … 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.”

    There the suggestion is clearly being made that people traveling WITH children should buy their own planes .

  • many bells down August 23, 2011, 6:18 pm

    @ Invalidcharactr – “Personally, I think that children should be disallowed from any place that serves alcohol (especially since so many children have been sent to emergency rooms recently because they’ve picked up the wrong drink and given themselves alcohol poisoning while their parents blithely and inattentively sat by). ”

    Not that you don’t make some good points, but there have been several of those incidents at places like Applebee’s, where the child was *served* the beverage in the child’s cup. That’s not inattention on the part of the parents, as I would have a reasonable expectation that the juice I ordered for my child was not a Long Island Iced Tea.

  • Mia August 23, 2011, 6:39 pm

    As I flip through the comments and read I keep seeing ‘this punishes me and my well-behaved son/daughter’. I can’t help but think that if every parent had children as well behaved as they claim then we wouldn’t have this problem in the first place. I have never seen a parent take their child out of a place they were being unruly, I have never even met a parent who had considered it. Except when being accused of not doing it. I understand this is an offensive view to take but it is the elephant in the room with these discussions.

    Business owners have the right to determine what they are going to do in their own establishment. If that means no children under 18? Guess what? That means no children under 18. It isn’t discrimination because children grow out of it. They are not stuck being a child forever. It also means that having these places means the people who are not willing to help you raise your child (or forgive them for screeching) will be there. And not in your family establishment. Meaning those who are in your family establishment are more likely to be sympathetic to you and your child.

    Do I have children? No. I however have siblings and cousins young enough to be mine and have watched them on enough occasions to understand what parents go through. I’ve taken three children under 10 out to lunch, I’ve taken an infant to a college graduation, I’ve flown with a 3 year old and I’ve taken a 10 hour drive with a 6 month old. I know how hard it is. But guess what? You signed up for that by having children in the first place. By having a baby you took on the responsibility of ensuring that human life would be nurtured, protected, cared for, and yes taught what is and is not socially acceptable. If you can’t handle that, or think your precious son or daughter is going to be perfectly behaved from the day it comes out, or have the mentality that others are just going to have to deal when they’re not? Please do us all a favor and get a dog or a cat. Or even volunteer to work with kids instead of having one of your own.

  • Amy August 23, 2011, 7:50 pm

    “So if you don’t have kids, try imagining the stress of your life with kids… now multiply that by a million, because you’re not even close. And if you do have kids… shame on you, you know better.”

    Why do you think some of us chose not to have children? We saw very clearly the stress, expense and effort associated with child-raising and decided not to undertake that burden. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to continue to refuse that burden while dining out, flying, shopping, etc.

  • Sara August 23, 2011, 8:01 pm

    I absolutely agree that restaurants should be able to ban families with unruly children (or, for that matter, anyone–child or adult–who is being disruptive and ruining other patrons’ experience). When you become a parent, you are agreeing to give up certain things. One of those things is the right to go wherever you want, wherever you want, for a little while. Inconvenient? Yes, but it comes with the territory. If you’re not willing to parent your children or deal with the inconvenience, then don’t have kids.

    However, as someone who is expecting my first child in about a month, I think airplanes present a different challenge. My entire family lives across the country, and unless I’m willing to not see them for several years, I don’t see how I can possibly not bring our baby on the plane with us. I’ll do everything I can to keep her fed, dry, soothed and to prevent her from crying, but I know that the day will come when she’ll cry, there won’t be anything I can do about it, and we’ll be the dreaded parents on the plane with the crying baby that’s ruining everyone else’s flight. That’s going to suck, but sorry–it’s not going to keep me from seeing my aging parents or letting them have a relationship with their only grandchild.

    Note that I said BABIES cry and there’s not much you can do about it–you’d better believe that once this kid is a toddler and is old enough to control her actions, she’ll be expected to behave in public, just as my sisters and I were when we were kids. And we have absolutely no intention of taking her out to restaurants until she’s old enough to know what’s expected of her and behave appropriately, and if she fails to do so she’ll lose the privilege. But in the case of an infant on a plane, unless you’re going to ask parents to simply not see their families, I really don’t see any way around it.

  • Gracie C. August 23, 2011, 8:49 pm

    I love children, and I completely favor this, and would absolutely frequent this restaurant, just as I would frequent family restaurants as well, depending on the atmosphere I was searching for at the time.

    @ 8daysaweek re: “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.”

    Unfortunately – your solution means not only do people have to listen to the initial problem (child screaming or whatever), they now have to listen to the manager try to remove the offending parties from the restaurant, and in the case of parents who do nothing to control their child, well, likely the other diners would then be listening to a string of “how dare you” and “my money is just as good as anyone else’s” and “you can’t discriminate against my precious child!” I’m quite certain most people would rather deal with the initial affront than what comes after. So, no, allowing kids and then asking the unruly ones to leave is not a better option. And I don’t think having the policy indicates a belief that all parents are bad (though that is certainly sometimes the case). As many others have pointed out, children, even the most well behaved, have bad days and are unpredictable. You don’t necessarily know they are going to have a meltdown until they do.

    @starstruck – they aren’t screwing themselves out of business. They are trading one type of customer for another.

    @Clare – thank you! For all those saying, “how are they supposed to learn how to behave in public?” Well, you can teach your kid good public manners in family friendly restaurants (in fact – I’d say it’s a better learning experience – try teaching a kid good manners with hundreds of bad mannered kids around them, much more of a challenge, lol). You don’t have to be in a candlelit, $100 a plate, fancy restaurant to teach your kid good manners. And I’m not saying that the restaurant in question is that type of restaurant, but there seems to be an argument that there isn’t a restaurant anywhere that should be a kid free zone.

    @Erin – banning kids is NOT passing judgment on all kids and parents. It’s passing judgment on some, and recognizing the limitations of others. No matter how good a parent you are, I sincerely doubt you’ve been able to predict every meltdown and tantrum your child has ever had. I’m sure your child has misbehaved. And even if you’ve corrected the behavior quickly, some people would prefer to not have to listen to the outburst or the correction. As others have said, if we can have restaurants that cater to kids, having some that cater to adults shouldn’t be a problem.

    Further thoughts:

    Travel as a right vs. a privilege – quite frankly, it’s neither. It’s strictly commerce. Buying a plane ticket is no more a right or privilege as buying a bar of soap. You have money – you make a purchase. Airlines can set the price, and the rules, so long as they don’t break the law. It’s the same way they can charge you $5 for a bag of M&Ms. And while travel is not a right for parents/children, a stress free/quiet flight is not a right either. It’s what everyone prays for, but it’s not a right. That said, I’d be fine with airlines having limited child-free flights, or zones.

    Finally – the concept (in this type of circumstance) of children as a protected class (for those arguing race issues, etc) is just silly. If the restaurant bans an ethnic group – well, that ethnic group will always be banned (and that is illegal, and rightfully so). If children under 6 are banned, well, kids eventually turn 7, so problem solved. And thus not a protected class.

  • TheCakeBaker August 23, 2011, 10:25 pm

    As a former worker at a family-friendly tavern, I would absolutely patronize child-free establishments. Im my 9 months working there as a hostess and server, I cannot begin to remember how many patrons turned and left or just requested a different section when they were shown to a section with an unruly child acting up. It was a very small 2-room restaurant, and a crying baby/unruly child seated in the far corner of the back room could still be heard all the way in the bar. Only once did I ever have a parent escort a child out for being loud and disruptive to everyone in the resaurant, and I wanted to applaud her. She asked for take out boxes of their food to be delivered to their table, which would be brought home by the well-behaved remainder of the party. It stuck out because she was so classy about it and handled it so well, and because it was the first and only time I ever observed it.

  • Rachael August 23, 2011, 11:56 pm


    This article popped up on by facebook newsfeed today and I thought it was quite interesting. Especially the ending:

    “…anyone who refuses to visit a specific restaurant because it’s full of bankers or yummy mummies or Nathan Barley types or children or the working class says more about their own empty snobberies and prejudices than they do about the other diners. Everyone goes there for the same reason.”

  • Maryann August 24, 2011, 2:46 am

    I don’t know whether I love or hate this development. On the one hand, there have been moments I’d have gladly paid double just to be rid of one single annoying child (or, as pointed out, their outrageously permissive parents), so I’d certainly be delighted to patronize such establishments.

    On the other hand, what does this say about our society that businesses are having to resort to this? That they feel they basically have to assume that any given child could be a heathen? (And, yeah, exclude innocent parents and their well-behaved kids.) And, in my experience, the worst offenses occur in places where parents know they won’t be confronted and where they’d never ban children. (The single worst experience I’ve ever had was in a McDonald’s.)

    The exception to all of this is airlines. Adults-only flights and cabins are innovations that have been a long time coming. Obviously there’s not much a parent can do on an enclosed airplane with an uncomfortable or cranky baby, and sometimes their travel options are limited, so annoying as it is, I give those parents a pass. (I’m not a parent, by the way.) None the less, noise-reducing headphones are a godsend and the situation merits further improvement by way of segregation.

  • Chocobo August 24, 2011, 8:47 am

    There’s something that’s always irked me about the term “child-free”. It’s an ugly term, filled with bias. I don’t have children, no plans for them either. Count me in as one of those who has a very hard time connecting with most children and doesn’t automatically coo over every one I find. But I know that other people do, and see children differently, and I’m not about to go around pretending I’m better than them because of it.

    For me, the term “child-free” drips with the implication that people or places without children are liberated. The alternative being, of course, that people or establishments with children (like our parents?) are burdened. The only other time “___-free” seems to come into use is to describe the lack of something undesirable. E.g. smoke-free, drug-free, sugar-free, fat-free, germ-free. I’m not sure what was so wrong with the much more innocuous “adults only” that I remember growing up. Everything has to be a statement, I guess.

    I like what Miss Manners has to say on this:
    “[Now] People are stating outright their dislike of children and their unwillingness to be anywhere in their vicinity. In general desirability, a child-free environment is considered somewhere between smoke-free and germ-free. Miss Manners finds this ugly, and would like to remove child-bashing once more from positions that can be safely uttered in public… She thought we were past permitting whole categories of people to be insulted for the sake of efficiency… Airing prejudice should be socially unacceptable. If it is wrong to make cracks about the elderly,, and an aging population is working hard on that, then it should be wrong to make cracks about the young.”

    Rachael: Nice quote to remember for BOTH sides of this argument. Hear hear!

  • Politrix August 24, 2011, 10:18 am

    Hey Chocobo,
    You sound just like my best friend with your big heart and your open-mindedness — and that’s one of the reasons she’s my best friend. I think you’re great! 😉
    I’m a parent myself, but that doesn’t mean I love every other child unconditionally as well; in fact, to be perfectly honest I don’t really care much for children either. However, being a parent, I can empathize with the unconditional love other parents have for their own children, as well as the challenges they face every day trying to be an effective teacher and role-model. It’s essential to teach children good manners early and often (I came under fire from other parents for teaching my child to say “please” and “thank you” as soon as she was old enough to talk — “I think she’s a little young for that, don’t you?”
    To which I simply replied, “No, she’s not.”)
    I’m seeing a lot of intolerance on both sides of this issue, and a lot of straw-man arguments. No, I would never take my two-year-old to a seventy-dollar-a-plate restaurant, and on the rare occasions I’ve gone to such a place, I never saw a family that did. But anyone who thinks McDain’s is such a place obviously didn’t bother to read the original article. The issue at hand is whether or not a “nice” restaurant (i.e., someplace that’s not Chuck E. Cheese or McDonald’s) should ban any child under 6 from the entire establishment. And while I’m not “outraged” at the ban — nor will I be protesting the establishment in question — I do think it’s pretty ridiculous, for all the reasons I outlined in my previous comment.
    The title of this entry is, “Banning Kids Is Really About Banning Bad Parents.” Well, then, ban the bad parents! It’s already been suggested by many posters that moms & dads who aren’t willing to control their kids should be asked to leave. People have countered that this wouldn’t be practical, as it would put the management in an “awkward situation.” Really? Do you mean to say that management has never had to deal with unruly patrons in the past? I don’t get it.
    It seems as though each side is telling the other to “just suck it up” to accommodate themselves, and this seems to be the exact opposite of what Etiquette really means. Manners, etiquette, and common courtesy is all about “doing unto others,” even if you are slightly inconvenienced. I’d never expect my fellow diners to have to listen to a rowdy, screaming child throwing food, which is why I’d never allow my child to do that in the first place (and if she did, I’d promptly leave the premises). By the same token, I’d never banish a family with a well-behaved kid to have to spend a special evening out at a fast-food joint, simply because I was too afraid of having my dining experience ruined (which could never happen with a rowdy adult, or a drunk, or a rude obnoxious waiter, apparently).
    And to those who would broadly write us all parents off as someone who has enough money t0 hire a sitter, or sees our children as “precious snowflakes” who MUST eat at a nice restaurant, or doesn’t bother to teach our kids good table manners at home, I will simply reply:
    “What an interesting assumption.”

  • LovleAnjel August 24, 2011, 11:50 am


    As opposed to the term “childless” which implies that those of us who do not have children are suffering a terrible loss (akin to “motherless” or “fatherless”) and should be pitied by those lucky sots who successfully reproduced. Which also implies that if one chooses to not reproduce, there must be something wrong with you.

  • Chocobo August 24, 2011, 1:09 pm

    LovleAnjel: No need to get defensive. I don’t like the term “childless” either. After all, I am a self-confessed “childless” married woman myself, and I’d feel more than a little put-out by someone’s misplaced pity over my lack of children. But only one or two persons here has used that term, by my count. Many more posters, however, seem to be using “child-free” like it’s a neutral term, which it isn’t, and I wanted to point that out. Still others seem to be using “child-free” derisively, but that’s for another post.

    Shouldn’t whether or not someone is rude determine our judgement and acceptance of others, and not age restrictions? Despite not having any warm-and-fuzzies at the sight of babies and children, at many a family party I have found the company of the children preferable to that of the adults for that very reason.

    Politrix: Aw shucks, you’re making me blush!

  • jdmbamom August 24, 2011, 10:43 pm

    Where do you all go out to dinner? I live in NYC, I have a toddler, and I take her everywhere – from the neighborhood diner to the $30+ a plate restaurant (which, admittedly, in NYC is not necessarily high end). I guess the only types of places we don’t go to are McD’s, Chuck-E-Cheese or Applebee’s and the like… Neither she, nor any child I have ever observed in a restaurant in New York ever behaves like the descriptions I’ve seen on this thread! We’ve had to leave a place once or twice and get food to go, or one of us would step out with her while we’re waiting for the food and come back when food is served because our hungry child was getting antsy waiting for food to arrive, but she’s usually very well behaved and she loves good food and is a very adventurous eater.

    As for the ban, I have seen some restaurants that actively discourage babies/toddlers and young children at late sittings – so any time after 8 or so. They dim the lights, put out a lot of candles, stop offering the kids menu, and don’t make high chairs available. Same places are perfectly child-friendly at around 6pm dinner sitting. I think that’s a really good way to go about it – they welcome the young families and get the parents’ business for many years coming, including when the same parents go out without the kids.

  • Emily August 25, 2011, 1:25 pm

    I think it is a great idea to have child-free areas.
    I went to a late movie and a mother brought a young child with her (about 2). She set up a blanket and toys in the isle and stood next to her daughter and watched the movie. I tried to ignore her but the little was making a lot of noise. I did go and complain but the movie theater just told her to keep the child quiet and walked away. The mother did not quiet the child.
    I think that children should be banned from late movie too.

  • Kate August 26, 2011, 11:10 am

    Just FYI, Malaysian airline ban is only infants in first class, motivated in large part because their new planes don’t have bassinets in first class, only in business and economy. Not really about unruly children, who are still permitted, at all.

  • Baby August 30, 2011, 9:48 am

    I have two children, and we recently traveled to see my mother-in-law. We had a great time with her, and the kids loved the beach, but the travel home was a nightmare. We had to tell MIL that there’s no way we can fly out to visit her next year. I know it’s normal for a baby (1 year old) to have trouble on a plane, and he wasn’t the worst I ever heard, but I felt awful for the other passengers.
    We’re not getting on a plane again until he’s 3.

  • Kendo_Bunny September 1, 2011, 5:04 pm

    Honestly, for the life of me, I can’t understand why someone would want to take a child under 6 to a high-end restaurant. They almost certainly will not have a children’s menu, the meals can run very expensive very quickly, plus there are candles and fragile stemware glasses. An average child would probably find it boring and not be able to find much they wanted to eat on the menu. I’m sure there are children under 6 who absolutely love foie gras and have beautiful table manners, but they are the exception, not the rule. This is not a federal law: this is a private business owner deciding what best suits his private business.

    I was raised to have good table manners – did charm school and everything. The highlight was that one day I would be able to go to a beautiful, high-end restaurant and behave in a charming, polite manner. Not being able to go until I finished learning did not damage my ego, and my parents leaving me with a sitter so that they could go out just by themselves did not make me feel neglected or unwanted. Heck, after my mother passed away and my father began dating again, it didn’t hurt my feelings that my 6-year-old self was left at home when Daddy and his lady friend were not going on a family outing. There are millions of places that cater to children and families, and there are a few places that are simply not appropriate for them. Not saying that kids and parents should have to eat only fast food, or only go to places that offer balloons and singing on birthdays, but there are also plenty of non-chain places that have a more family, less adult-oriented atmosphere.

  • Javin September 21, 2011, 11:59 am

    I really don’t understand the mentality of a lot of people on this particular comment thread. I think Geoff summed it up beautifully:

    “Understand that you may have to suffer the 12-hour flight with my unruly child (which I would deeply apologize for), but I had to deal with packing the bags, the cab ride to the airport, the entire check-in process, waiting at the terminal, boarding, stress through the entire flight knowing that my child was causing distress to the other passengers, waiting to exit the plane last because the amount of baggage that comes with a child is now strewn across the entire row, waiting for the bags, and the car ride home with that same child. I can only offer so many apologies, but I had to do it, how else am I supposed to travel? If you want a child-free plane ride, buy your own jet.”

    This sort of “entitlement” mentality is PRECISELY why adult-only venues are becoming more and more popular. Geoff has a child that apparently he can’t control, and thinks that because he chooses not to teach his child proper manners, that the onus is on EVERYONE ELSE who’s affected to “buy [their] own jet.” From a financial perspective alone, it would make far more sense that Geoff would have to buy HIS own jet.

    I don’t go to Chuck-E-Cheese expecting a fantastic lobster bisque. I also don’t go to a 5 star, $60 a plate restaurant expecting to put up with screaming children, and brats running up and down the aisles.

    Of my 8 nieces and nephews, not a single one has been so much as a minor annoyance at a restaurant. My siblings raised them the same way I was raised, which means to have respect when in public, to sit quietly, eat what’s put in front of you without fuss, and food belongs either in your mouth, or on the plate. Not smeared on the table, not thrown on the floor. I GOOD parent will see the warning signs of a child about to become fussy enough to become an annoyance to the neighbors and quietly remove them from the restaurant before it can happen.

  • BJ Survivor September 22, 2011, 6:32 pm

    It’s NOT just the child-free who complain.

    Most of the people who I hear complaining about the unruly hellions and the clueless sloths who created them are PARENTS. This is because MOST people choose to have children and because I live in a part of the world where MOST parents believe in actually, you know, PARENTING their children.

    What a concept, huh?

  • Mabel October 4, 2011, 11:24 pm

    “But restaurant manners are taught at home first. ”

    THIS. Parents, teach your children to be the kind of people others want to be around, or you will be the only ones who can stand them.

  • D'Angelis October 25, 2011, 4:46 pm

    Here, here, the restaurant owner has every right to take the necessary action if the parents refuse to. Perhaps I’am biased because I have no children, but far too many situations to where I have been caught in the middle of unruly children, with the parents or guardian sitting next to them while they misbehave and do nothing about it.
    The restaurant owner made a sound business decision and I applaud them on that decision.
    My sister came to visit me and we went to a restaurant, a man with two boys was also there, the parent’s attention was not on his boys that ere running all over the restaurant with plastic toys and screaming, but on his electronic device, to which he search the place for a table that had a nearby electrical outlet.
    Another incident of taking the train from NM to IL, I had just worked 10 hours and figured that I would sleep on the train ride, I wore ear plugs, but ear plugs do little when the child is kicking your seat, I turned around to see his mother sitting next to him, I looked at him and leered at her to which she made him stop. I never took the train again.
    Today, I take the necessary per-cautions to avoid those events and activities that invite such situations.
    The article here says it best, “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”.

  • Erin March 1, 2012, 10:23 pm

    “…because they’ve picked up the wrong drink and given themselves alcohol poisoning while their parents blithely and inattentively sat by…”

    Several years ago I was at an Applebees restaurant with my oldest son when he ordered an orange juice. The server brought him some sort of mixed drink with orange juice which he took a big enough swig of to become tipsy. He told me immediately. I immediately spoke to management. He did not pick up the wrong drink and I wasn’t inattentive. I think there are two distinct groups at fault with regard to this issue: Entitled parents who take kids everywhere and let them misbehave spoil things for all families. Child-free people who indulge themselves in knee-jerk judgements and name calling engender a lot of bad will toward perfectly lovely child-free people.

    I have a couple things to add here. I have a gaggle of children (Yes, a gagle.) and I have NO problem with any nice restaurant banning young children. My husband and I very much appreciate a child-free evening now and then. In fact, even our seventeen-year-old hasn’t even been to our favorite restaurant for a night out without the kids. To tell you the truth I’ve occasionally seen well-behaved children there and I’ve been charmed by them but I would be absolutely put out by kids who were allowed to run wild.

    I’m a little more skeptical about excluding children from first class. I have a friend who always flies her family first class because it provides the best opportunities for her to keep her children under control. I don’t think having the cash to fly high, so to speak, necessarily gives you the right to excuse yourself from the inconvenient realities of life. I suppose it’s unfortunate for the wealthy folks when other wealthy people have irritating children but maybe they should just content themselves with the fact that they’re dealing with well dressed little imps. All in all when people of any stripe encounter crying children on a long flight it sure can be annoying but it’s probably the height of rudeness when the decision is made to glare and huff and puff at a parent who’s doing the best they can to keep things under control without success. I do realize that some parents don’t do a thing to keep their kids in check but if it’s a child on a plane who can’t make a rational decision (say a two-year-old) and a parent who’s suffering the stress and humiliation of trying to bring things around, the person in the wrong is the one who makes eye contact and rolls their eyes.

  • ShellyLynne March 22, 2012, 1:17 am

    I just had to comment on this. I have no problem with banning children under a certain from certain restaurants, but two issues I’m surprised no one has mentioned (at least that I read):

    1. How are they going to verify the children’s ages? Are you going to have to carry your seven year old’s birth certificate with you when you go to dinner?

    2. There’s been a lot of talk about fancy vs family restaurants. I don’t think it matters what kind of restaurant is in question, no one should have to put up with ridiculously unruly children. I frequent family style places often: Denny’s, Red Lobster, etc. Does this mean I should have to endure your child screaming or throwing things at me? Not a chance. Not even if I’m at Chuck E Cheese.

    I may be out of line, but I will ask management to handle consistently or extremely loud children, but if the child is physically disturbing me (ex: throwing things, bumping into me repeatedly, kicking my seat) I will ask the child to stop or ask the parents to get the child to stop.

    I also don’t see any problem whatsoever with asking a family to leave a restaurant. You wouldn’t let a belligerent drunk tear up your place, why would you let a child? Just because their parents don’t teach them responsibility doesn’t mean that society shouldn’t still hold them responsible.

  • girl_with_all_the_yarn April 30, 2012, 1:06 am

    I have no problem with the occasional child-free restaurant, or even restaurants that explicitly state that children must be well-behaved or they will be asked to leave. I used to work in a restaurant where the owner(s) had little to no problem allowing whoever came in to do what they liked, regardless of the other patrons or their staff. We lost so many customers that way.

    We had a family that would come in regularly and all of the waitstaff wished the managers would just ban them permanently. Namely because they had five ultra entitled kids (it’s a very long story that ends in me getting second degree burns on my right leg) who they openly refused to control or teach manners to. These kids would run around the restaurant, screaming like it was a playground and stealing food off of other patrons’ plates. No, I am not kidding. Feel free to read that again if you don’t believe me.

    Every time they came in every server got complaints about them. If we told the kids to please go back to their table, they would cry to their parents who in turn cried to our boss and our jobs would be threatened or even terminated.

    One day (the day I was fired from my job for doing what you are about to read) I got a complaint from a customer about the screaming banshee jumping up and down and – you guessed it – stealing food off of said customer’s plate. He’d swat him away and the kid would spit at him. I finally realized that I couldn’t say anything so I asked the customer “Would you like me to get the manager? I’m not allowed to do anything about this.” The customer agreed. The manager came and had to explain exactly why he had no problem keeping these horrible children away. It was almost laughable. He had no excuse other than not wanting to lose their business. The manager fired me for getting him. And before there are any comments about that being illegal, this was in a state with “hire at will” laws, meaning that with very few exceptions I could be fired for any reason.

    I have no problem with a few child-free restaurants. I have even fewer problems with managers asking patrons with overly rowdy children to leave. I have battle scars on my leg from managers who refuse to do so.

  • Clare October 22, 2012, 5:24 am

    Well said. Actually my son is ADHD. Yes, he needs to learn – but not in an environment where the enjoyment of others will be disturbed.

    One one short flight my then infant son cried a lot. When we landed my husband stood up and apologized to the cabin. It was well received.

    I think I would be very annoyed if I paid 7,000 dollars for a long haul business class ticket only to find a noisy child there (I guess I’ll never find out anyway)

    Travel economy – children should be well behaved and able to fly.
    Bus/first class – totally unsuitable

  • Clare October 22, 2012, 5:39 am

    57 8daysaweek

    It’s a business decision based on feedback from customers. Also, your child at 15 months can cause disruption at any time no matter how good the child is. However, surely it is only those restaurants in the high end that have made such a decision. A small town with a limited choice of places to eat would find it difficult to operate such a strategy.

    Your daughter sounds delightful though – I wish you all the best

  • Clare October 22, 2012, 5:46 am

    “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”.

    A bit harsh, but then again my child is perfect:)