What Would You Do? – Unruly Children In Diner

by admin on September 4, 2012

Today starts a new series of posts using the ABC News episodes of “What Would You Do?”

If a warning appears that this video is not permitted to be viewed on this web site, please disregard. I obtained the embed code directly from ABC News Youtube video for this using the “embed” link provided. Embedding was not disabled for this. Admin

{ 56 comments… read them below or add one }

--Lia September 4, 2012 at 6:27 am

The choices are:

1. Try to control the unruly children’s behavior by appealing directly to them.
2. Say something to the vacant parent.
3. Explain to the restaurant management that you want a quiet, non-disruptive place to eat and leave it to them to solve the problem. (They do have the right to refuse service to anyone who’s being disruptive.)

I vote for option #3.

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Carol September 4, 2012 at 8:16 am

If I go to a fancy, not really kid friendly resturant, I will be much more annoyed at crying/misbehaving children, because they aren’t supposed to be there anyway. I might be more apt to complain or ask to be moved if that were the situation. (Although I don’t recall ever seeing children misbehave like the actors were in that clip!)

However, iIf I go to a family friendly place, I really don’t worry about it as much, because kids are supposed to be there, and it comes with the territory. There’s a resturant in Collingswood, NJ called The Pop Shop. It’s a great place, kind of a vaguely upscale diner, very much geared towards children. I would take my son there when he was younger, because he liked it – there’s balloons and ice cream and kid friendly menus, etc, but he’s outgrown it, so I don’t tend to go there much anymore, since bloody noisy and full of children being boisterous. I don’t have to put myself in that sort of situation anymore, so I don’t! (Still a great restuarant though. I do recommend it. If you HAVE children!)

In a diner like in the clip, I’m not sure what I would do. It’s a family kind of place, so I’d expect the occasional crying child, but that kind of ruckus, I might find myself moved to complain.

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Aje September 4, 2012 at 8:38 am

I remember my mom admitting sheepishly that one time my brother, as a toddler, threw a terrible tantrum in a restaurant. They left quickly and never went back- out of pure embarassment. Funny how most parents arenĀ“t embarassed like that anymore…

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NotCinderell September 4, 2012 at 8:42 am

I would likely say something to the manager. I wouldn’t want to start an argument with another parent, though.

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Cheryl Sublett September 4, 2012 at 8:43 am

When it comes to kids and going out to eat or even just to target, I have noticed in the past decade is that the behavior has become steadily worse, not by all kids but by the majority. Parents do not want to dicipline their kids because it will “destroy/discourage their creativness”, it doesn’t matter if it is a single parent invovled, you had the kids, raised them and now it is your job to enforce good behavior in any public setting. If this seems to be unobtainable then you should be requested to leave the premsis so that others who have worked hard for their money can enjoy peace and quiet in a public setting. The ways of good manners and kids learning to behave at a young age has fallen by the way side, most parents now a days expect tolerance of a child’s behavior because they are a child but tolerance can only go so far and what about those who have to expereince the child’s behavior, where is the respect for them? Restaurants who are prohibiting kids under a certain age is not descrimination but a recongition for their other patrons and the money that they spend at their establishment. For parents who are offended by this need to take a hard look at their kids and recongize that they are not perfect and that tolerance and understanding by others will go so far and to recongize that a change in behavior is needed.

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Serenity S. September 4, 2012 at 9:00 am

I think I would also ask to be moved as far away as possible. I would also be so happy that my children have good manners.

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lalaland September 4, 2012 at 9:11 am

Children should behave in these types of public venues.

I do have a child that is highly hyperactive, full of energy, always moving, always going, in and out, under and over tables, etc. I do not sequester his energy except for safety reasons and if he’s bothering others. It has nothing to do with “discipline” but the way this child is wired. And yes, punishing him with spankings, etc. will break his spirit and I won’t do it just because he is an active child.

I however, do not take him out in public often because others have a right to peace and quiet and comfort too.

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inNM September 4, 2012 at 9:39 am

In a civilised world, a quick conversation between two adults would result in the crying child situation solved. Of course we know that’s not the case here. I don’t know if it’s parents who are so stressed out they tune out their child’s behaviour, or what other reason, but the result is, at best, you get a parent saying “Kids will be kids.” and a shrug; most times, it’s accompanied by foul language.
It depends on the situation. You can sometimes just look at the mother to see if the private discussion will or will not help matters. Sometimes it helps to go directly to the manager, who, if necessary, can call security to deal with the matter.
I recall an incident last month in a dressing room of a discount clothing store. I was in one stall, which was next to another one soon inhabited by a mother and her three children. One of the stuck his head under the partition, and even after I squeaked in alarm and asked (over the wall) for the mother to stop her child, he kept sticking his head under the partition as I was changing. I quickly threw on my clothes, went to the dressing room attendant, and explained the situation. The mother came out a few minutes later, dragging her children behind her.

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Rug Pilot September 4, 2012 at 9:59 am

I have asked for my food to be packed up to go when the noise level in a restaurant became too painful to bear. I avoid that restaurant on Saturday nights. I have also asked to be moved when the obscenity being used at a nearby table was intolerable, and this was the parents of young children.Then there was the 3 year old girl at a very fine white table cloth restaurant who behaved herself so well that I had to mention it to her family. I gave her an angel pin.

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Raven September 4, 2012 at 10:16 am

The video won’t play for me, but I’ll weigh in anyway.

In a place where one reasonably expects to see kids (McDonald’s, for example), I would be a bit more understanding. However, simply because a place is kid-friendly doesn’t mean it has to be kid-temper-tantrum-friendly. It’s a free-for-all. I’m not bothered by crying babies, but temper tantrums, running around screaming, jumping on seats, etc really bothers me.

In a place where one doesn’t really expect to see kids (restaurants late at night, restaurants that are definitely not kid-friendly, late-showing movies, theatrical performances geared toward adults) my patiences wears out quickly. Speaking directly to the parent *seems* like a good idea, in theory, but many parents today seem unwilling to hear that their little snowflakes are misbehaving – so I’d go right for an employee/manager.

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Roslyn September 4, 2012 at 10:21 am

I think I agree that it is the responsibility of the establishment to deal with the problems. Whether it’s to move the noisy kids/parents or to allow people to be moved to a more quiet place in the restaurant. They are providing a service for payment, not just a plate of food.

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BethRD September 4, 2012 at 10:24 am

I probably would content myself with rolling my eyes and complimenting my own kids on their superior behavior. Honestly, if anyone is that clueless (and not acting!) you’re not going to make them less clueless by reprimanding them in a restaurant. Anyone with kids that age who are that badly behaved has already proved themselves impervious to the judgement of strangers many, many, many times over. Or has kids with special needs. I do try to remember that not all atypically-behaving children are spoiled; some of them have invisible disabilities, and even if that leads them to behave in ways that are annoying, I don’t think disabled kids or adults should have to spend their lives confined to their houses just so no one else is ever annoyed. Those parents also are unlikely to be moved by the complaints of strangers, although with more justification, so again, speaking up isn’t going to do much but potentially spark a fight.

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PM September 4, 2012 at 10:26 am

1) Politely ask the parents to intervene.
2) When that fails, ask the management to intervene or move us to a different table.
3) Use the badly behaved children as a cautionary tale. Warn our children that if they ever behave that way in a restaurant, it will be a long time before we took them out to eat again.

We have only asked the management to intervene due to (other diners’) unruly children once and it
was because the kids (one around 3-4 and one around 6-7) were flinging food over their booth walls toward the other tables. We kept waiting for the parents to say something, but all they said, was “Bobby… DON’T.” Bobby and his sister just ignored the parents. I got nailed in the chest with spaghetti, leaving a nice big tomato sauce blotch on my blouse. DH turned to say something to the parents, and ducked just in time to avoid a glob of mashed potatoes.

We hadn’t been served our food yet, and asked the manager if we could either move to another table, out of range, or get our order to go. The parents overheard us and were HIGHLY INSULTED that we were accusing their poor darlings of misbehaving and insinuated that I’d dropped spaghetti on my own shirt to frame their kids and get free food. The manager apologized for not stepping in sooner and moved us to a different table near the bar. As we walked away, we heard the parents berating the poor manager with the mom huffing, “We THOUGHT that this was a FAMILY-friend restaurant, but I guess not!”

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Katy September 4, 2012 at 10:55 am

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve taken my unruly child out of a restaurant until they get whatever is setting them off out of their system and have calmed down. Occasionally I know when it’s a lost cause, and wait for the check so I can pay and leave. But I know my children well enough to know when something is going to set them off. Long car rides- I’ll always stop somewhere with a playplace for lunch just to let them get their energy out, even if I hate the food. I think most parents are like that. There’s a fast-food place between my house and my in-laws (6 hours away, off a major interstate, not really close to any town) that has a playplace and is ALWAYS packed with travelers and their kids, and they’ve never gotten a full order right. If I’m traveling without kids through there, there are four other restaurants with better food and service, but most of the parents with the unruly kids go with the playplace to trek the two miles to the nearest town and find the playground.
If I had my kids and saw that, I’d try to use it as a teachable moment. If I didn’t have them, I’d talk to the manager. I’ve asked to be moved away from kids, mostly in local chain restaurants that have a bar area that doesn’t allow kids. I’ve worked in daycare, and I have, on occasion, spoken up and asked a parent or parents if they need a little help setting up a child-friendly activity that can be done at the table (restaurant bingo or a joint story-drawing session). I would never, ever, ever allow a parent to walk away from a table to make a phone call or accept responsibility for the children, if something happens there may be trouble. What I’ve found most often happens is that if there are enough complaints about a family (or sometimes if they get to the really disruptive points) managers don’t hesitate to ask families to leave. They have a business to run, and in this day and age where anyone can post a negative review for the world to see from the comfort of their booth there’s more pressure to please the many and risk losing one family’s business.
I’m a big advocate of busy bags, but the rule of thumb should be if you wouldn’t bring it into church, you shouldn’t bring it into a public space.

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essie September 4, 2012 at 11:09 am

If I read it correctly, these were child actors, not the actual children of the adult with them. So, here are my presumptions:
(1) The children were instructed to be as obnoxious as possible.
(2) The other diners were not forewarned about this.

Based on those presumptions, ABCNews should go to eHell for deliberately inflicting them on the innocent diners as should anyone else who deliberately offends strangers.

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Lisa S. September 4, 2012 at 11:15 am

Cheryl, I love you. I agree wholeheartedly.

Parents: if you’re not going to discipline your children, if you’re so worried about them becoming saddened and stifled by rules, don’t get offended or become surprised when strangers step up to the plate and reprimand your kids.

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Lesley B September 4, 2012 at 11:48 am

BethRD, thank you, and those like you, who realize that a misbehaving child might have special needs. My son has autism and sensory processing disorder. He does not enjoy the coloring books that most family restaurants give to kids. We want him to be a part of public life, enjoy time out and learn how to behave in public. We go early, when restaurants are not busy and he is not starving or tired (try to set him up for success), when he needs to move we walk with him around the restaurant, or outside for a few minutes if he is loud. If it is really bad, we will leave rather than annoy everyone else, and have a fight with him over everything. Same if we are in a store. Taking him out often has resulted in a fairly well behaved kid (he is only 4), who can shop beside us quietly without running off, taking stuff of store shelves or whining for treats. Some days are better than others though, and a kind look or word from someone can go a lot farther than advice to “spank the autism out” or “why don’t you just discipline him” (meaning smack him), which are still heard too often.

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Kirsten September 4, 2012 at 12:33 pm

I don’t care how “energetic” parents say their children are, unless they have a diagnosed medical condition, they can learn to sit still and quietly in a restaurant. They’ll have to do it at school, so they need to learn it. Family- and child-friendly doesn’t mean anyone should have to tolerate shrieking, screaming, running about (dangerous when staff are carrying glasses and hot food) or throwing of food.

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Elodie September 4, 2012 at 12:36 pm

Uh…Essie? The show is called “What Would You Do”…as in, putting strangers in moral dilemmas and watching their reactions. Like, say, there’s one where instead of unruly kids, it’s a waitress lecturing a couple for being gay (all actors). They’re not doing it to be annoying.

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Angela September 4, 2012 at 1:04 pm

I’m with essie. If this had been done by a psychologist rather than a TV network, there would have been hell to pay in terms of ethics issues. Inflicting these kids deliberately on unsuspecting diners in order to get a good story is really awful.

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Lisa Marie September 4, 2012 at 1:09 pm

I have a stone cold look that I give the child. If that doesn’t work (and it has in the past) I tell management. If my young grandchildren are with me I don’t hesitate to say loud enough to be overheard how well mine are behaving and they are NOT like those children over there. I do feel for some parents now because if you spank your child in public you could be arrested or investigated. On my one instance as a child I remember waiting hungry in the car at the restaurant after misbehaving and going to bed without dinner afterwards. Of course now, you can’t do that.

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Jessyy September 4, 2012 at 1:19 pm

This makes me understand more why when my brother and I were little, my parents were questioned and congratulated as we sat perfectly quietly and amused ourselves in a very upmarket restaurant in Paris.

I’m surprised more people didn’t reprimand the kids or talk to the parents.

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Katje September 4, 2012 at 1:25 pm

I know that if my fiance and I were at a restaurant where one of the fellow patrons had (an) unruly child(ren) with them, he would say something to the parent(s) about it. If the parents weren’t there he’d definitely say something to the unruly child(ren) about the bad behavior.

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sillyme September 4, 2012 at 1:29 pm

I have to say that wherever I take my kids, we get compliments from people on their behavior. I can leave them at the table for a minute or two at a fast-food place while I walk six feet away and get a drink refill or empty the rubbish into the trash bin. We can take them to any scale restaurant, and have. We are adopting our children and they have been with us for six months. On our first contact with one child, she was unruly. Now she is a little lady. The trick for us was this: at home during dinner (always family at the table), we have rules and expectations as if we were in a restaurant. You must wait until all are seated to eat; please and thank you; eat politely; you must ask to be excused before leaving the table. When seeing worse behaved children in public, I also make sure they know 1) they are behaving well and 2) there would be consequences from here until grad school if they behaved that way.

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Spuck September 4, 2012 at 1:37 pm

I don’t think children are any ruder now then they were ten, fifty, a hundred, or a thousand years ago. There is just a difference in where children are aloud to go and how parents react to them. My mother’s childhood was very free ranged. She walked herself to school from first grade on (normally with packs of other kids), and during an average day expect for the coldest winters her life revolved around her bedroom or the great out doors. Children were not involved in adult social situations. They were some were else (like the woods) where destruction and mayhem was okay as long as someone wasn’t seriously injured. It was my parents generation who started the weekly family dinners because restaurants were specifically selling to family or child discounts.

As for adults reactions to misbehaving children, my mother grew up in an era where it was okay to strike your children. She or nor her siblings nor any of the neighborhood tried anything in front of adults because punishment was immediate, painful, and often followed by something worse later on.

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twik September 4, 2012 at 1:37 pm

Elodie – The producers are not doing it *merely* to be annoying. They’re doing it because of ye olde profit motive. So, I’d say that they’re rude, even if they make it up to the bystanders afterwards. They are making the bystanders’ lives unpleasant just so that they can sell a TV show.

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Cat September 4, 2012 at 2:05 pm

I am fascinated by parents who refuse to “break a child’s spirit” by insisting that they behave in public places. My dear mother would not discipline my brother because “he would not feel like a man” if she did.
He grew from a rude, violent child into a rude, violent man. When mother learned she had terminal cancer, she was trying to decide if she should do as the doctor suggested and take chemo and radiation to prolong her life. My brother acted like the man he was and told her to just go on and die. She was going to die anyway, and she had no right to spend Dad’s money just so she could live longer.
When she died and we went to view her body in the funeral home, he marched up to the casket, grabbed her arm, waved it in the air above her body, and chortled, “Hey, look! She’s soft!” She would have been so proud that his manhood had not been damaged by her requiring him to behave like a human being.

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Erin September 4, 2012 at 3:26 pm

My mom used to own a bowling alley that a lot of local parents used as a free babysitting service. Most of the kids were good, but unattended kids have quite the potential for being obnoxious little bratlings, and there were occasional problems. One kid was being particularly bad one day, and kept running around almost tripping people and knocking stuff over, with his parents nowhere to be seen. My mom just yelled “Hey!” at him, gave him her best life-as-you-know-it-is-over look (the one that used to scare the socks off of me and my brother), and said “Stop running!” very firmly. The kid stood rooted to the spot for a good 5 minutes before he quietly went back into the arcade and didn’t cause any further problems that day.

We were very rarely spanked as kids because my mom can shoot you a Look, and you stop whatever you’re doing.

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Katy September 4, 2012 at 4:12 pm

I may catch flack for this, but I have worked with special needs children and will say this, while there are some behaviors that children with special-needs display, many of these can be minimized with some effort. I have seen kids who started out as ‘uncontrollable’ and ended up very well behaved in public settings. It’s the parents that use the disability as a crutch and refuse to attempt to teach their kids proper behaviors in different settings that bug me. I once saw a little autistic boy who was extremely well-behaved in school, even in the busy lunch room, breaking down in a restaurant. I went to help, and his mom said “I can’t do a thing about it, it’s the autism” and refused to learn the ‘spoon and fork game’ I had taught the boy to keep himself calm in that situation (even though it worked with me right there).

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Puzzled September 4, 2012 at 4:12 pm

Yep, it’s the “Look” for us as well. My daughter is 17, and she still shudders when the subject of the “Look” is brought up. :)

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Ywalkalone September 4, 2012 at 5:25 pm

This is very timely for me because I just met my sister and her children for dinner in their city. We went to a decently nice ($15-20 a plate) restaurant and she thought that her children were being slightly misbehaved. On the contrary, my fiance and I were very much impressed by how well-behaved they were. Fiance and I have both spent years in retail, and like to say that there is no birth control so effective as working retail/waiting tables. Compared to some of the children we have seen, her kids were angels! Fiance even said to me as we left, “If we ever have kids, I want her kids. Not kids like hers, THOSE particular kids! They were wonderful!” I made sure to pass on that compliment to my sister. =)

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Another Alice September 4, 2012 at 5:38 pm

A thought occurred to me the other day when I went shopping at a large chain store. I saw a mother come in with a child in a stroller (around 3, I think), and as soon as they crossed the threshold into the store, she handed him her iPhone to play with. I see it constantly, and I wonder if this is why parenting seems so lousy. Of course your child can’t behave when your response is to merely distract them. What happens if the iPhone breaks, or you need it for something? Tantrums. In addition to the child not learning anything, the parents aren’t learning to parent. Every kid is different, and you should know your child well enough to know what consequences work for them. It really is trial and error. The problem is that people think if their kid isn’t naturally quiet, there’s nothing they can do. Ridiculous.

I think people also take parenting much more personally these days. That every time their child does something, it’s their fault. But it’s repeated improper behavior that’s their fault, not the initial misstep. Nobody would bat an eye of a child misbehaved and the parent immediately had a consequence; it’s when it continues with not a word that makes people, including myself, absolutely batty. In essence, it isn’t a kid misbehaving that’s shocking; it’s that nothing is done about it!

As for what I’d do in this situation: I’d just talk to the waiter or manager and ask to be moved. There’s no point in getting into a confrontation with a parent. If kids are making that much of a raucous and they don’t care, what would a stranger saying to them do?

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Angel September 4, 2012 at 6:07 pm

Cat, your brother is just awful :( Sorry :(

Watching that video my insides were all in a knot. I would absolutely die right there on the spot if either of my girls behaved like that. When they were younger we would pack up the food to go if they got rammy. I refuse to subject other people to my kids if they are misbehaving.

Over the past year they have gotten older and much better in restaurants. They are quiet and sit still pretty much the whole meal. My little one (4) has a nasty habit of getting up and walking around our table when she is done. I get up and sit her back down and tell her she will wait until everyone at the table is finished. If she gets up again, either my husband or I will take her outside. If I am by myself I will generally hold her on my lap until we are done eating. My older one knows that getting up from the table is unacceptable unless you have to go to the restroom. And even then, I take them.

Nerf guns? Loud toys? Can you say clueless? I don’t even allow nerf guns in my house LOL. Generally I let the kids bring their DS’s and make them play the games on mute or low volume. Sometimes I bring books and stickers. Anything else is asking for trouble.

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Angel September 4, 2012 at 6:12 pm

To answer the original question, no I would never say anything to a parent of an unruly child. I wouldn’t even make eye contact with them if I could help it. And yes, we have gotten up and walked out of restaurant if we are seated next to kids who misbehaved like that (on one occasion). My theory is that 9 times out of 10 this behavior is made even worse by the parent. And that saying something to a parent who’s not inclined to put a stop to the behavior on their own, does nothing. Why waste my breath?

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RadManCF September 4, 2012 at 6:22 pm

I feel fortunate that I have never experienced anything like that in a resturaunt. After reading some of the stories here, I’m amazed that I haven’t. I tend to feel uncomfortable being confrontational with people if I’m not in a position of authority, so if I did encounter unruly kids in a resturaunt, I’d be complaining to management.
My primary hobby is High Power Rocketry. At my club’s launches, I usually volunteer as Range Safety Officer for an hour or two. The range safety officer, according to FAA regs has final say on any safety issue realated to the flight of a high power rocket, must inspect all high power rockets prior to flight, and is responsible for maintaining range discipline. Often, I spend more time telling off kids for unsafe behavior, than I do inspecting rockets. I haven’t seen any behavior as bad as the video showed; if I did, I’d send the kids packing.

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Kendo_Bunny September 4, 2012 at 7:58 pm

They did a WWYD on an autistic child in a diner, with another actor brought in to complain. The child repeated himself loudly, rocked, slammed some things, and acted in a way that would generally be considered disruptive. However, no one complained about him, but did complain about the guy loudly criticizing. I think some great leaps have been made in integrating those with disorders into the public eye, so people are getting better at telling the difference between misbehaving and disabled.

In this video, I don’t think there’s really an argument that the kids are in any way disabled. They are acting exactly like children who have absolutely no rules set in place, and in neither scenario does the parent do more than a faint “Oh, don’t do that”. A firm “When you are grown up enough to go out, you behave a certain way” is not stifling to any child’s creativity – it’s teaching them to get along in the world. It’s not the job of teachers or strangers to instill manners and discipline in your child.
For my part, I would ask to be moved to another table or to have my food to go. However, playing tag in a restaurant would cause me to speak up. Restaurants are full of servers carrying heavy loads of hot foods and drinks in glass dishes, trying to get everything out quickly, and they can not be looking out for forms hurtling around at their mid-sections. That’s just begging for an injury to occur.

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GroceryGirl September 4, 2012 at 8:49 pm

Too many years in retail have taught me to never, ever, ever, EVER try to tell a parent how to raise their child.

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KitKat September 5, 2012 at 12:15 am

I’m so so glad my parents taught me how to behave in a restaurant and that other family members are instilling proper restaurant etiquette in their children. I think I would be tempted to tell the father that left his kids that I was required to report it as child abandonment (my job gets lumped in with educators as a mandatory reporter).

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Mini Monster September 5, 2012 at 12:52 am

Even if it’s a family-friendly restaurant, there are limits. One time I was at Chili’s with two friends and we were sitting in a booth. There was a potted plant on top of the booth seat that was back-to-back with a little girl (about 6 or so–not a toddler) who was bouncing off the walls. Eventually she ended up knocking over said potted plant and it landed right on top of one of my friends.

The mother didn’t even do anything. We asked to be moved to another table. Luckily it was before the food arrived.

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Jai September 5, 2012 at 5:19 am

Can’t view the video, but…
I have a 3 year old (thankfully very well behaved). She obviously has her moments though – and when she does, she gets a warning, then I take her out. People are paying good money for a meal, not to listen to a child scream.

If I’m in a restaurant and disturbed by children, in the first place I would just sigh and put up with it – most of the time it isn’t worth getting drawn into an arguement. If it got really bad (the post above about getting hit by flying spaghetti for example!), then I would ask the manager to handle it.

A note to the person who wrote about a child playing on an iPad – my daughter is beautifully behaved about 95% of the time, but experience has taught me that she is more likely to play up when she’s bored. Waiting in the dentists, queuing in the bank, or waiting for a meal while the grown-ups talk – yep, it’s boring, and no matter how well they usually behave, is it any wonder they try to get some attention? So I always carry paper and colouring pencils, or a small quiet toy, so if we have an unexpected delay, my daughter has something to do. I carry a book for myself in case of train delays, it’s just the same as that. It’s not about not disciplining them, it’s about teaching them to entertain themselves quietly.

The one thing my daughter and I do need to work on is keeping our opinions to ourselves – because although I wouldn’t confront the parents, she would be sitting nicely but saying loudly “look at those naughty children Mummy! They should be sitting down shouldn’t they? They need to sit on the naughty step…” – I’m working on that!

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Damn Yankee September 5, 2012 at 6:33 am

Heh, let me tell you from experience. You can witch to the management as much as you want, but let’s face it, what are they going to do? Say something? All you’re doing is passing the ass-reaming that you’d get if you said something onto them, and that’s just not fair. It’s the coward’s way out. Now if you asked to be moved, that’s a perfectly acceptable alternative, and so long as there’s an available table, can usually be accommodated. Parents don’t teach their kids to behave at all. There’s a difference between “children” and “hellspawn”. Thank you to those who actually teach their kids.

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Chocobo September 5, 2012 at 9:30 am

Nothing irks me more than the old “boys will be boys” or other variant to excuse bad behavior from children. No, that’s not “boys” or “girls”, that’s just your badly behaved child!

A breakfast cafe I often go to on weekends attracts many families with children, and often I will see babies and toddlers that are better behaved than 7-year-olds. It’s just sad.

I honestly can’t understand the mentality that refuses to stifle creativity or the child’s “natural spirit” in exchange for teaching them how to behave properly. Don’t they see how difficult that is going to make life for their children in the future, when they realize they disgust and offend their bosses, or their potential dates? If they don’t learn it now, when will they?

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Jarrett September 5, 2012 at 1:24 pm

I understand occasional crying or a tantrum because they’re kids, but when parents do nothing about it, that’s when it really irks me. I think that most people feel the same way but don’t say anything.
It is the same with being on a plane. During a particularly long flight overseas, I had the pleasure of sitting in front of a mom and her two boys (5 & 7 roughly). After a few hours the boys started to get bored, understandable, and they started swinging their legs and kicking the seats in front of them, mine and a lady in her 60’s. After about 20 minutes of mom saying nothing to them I stood up and looked right at the two boys and politely said “could you please stop swinging your legs, you’re hitting the back of my seat and it’s making it hard to me to read, thank you”, they just stared at me with big eyes and their mouths open but they did stop. When I sat down the lady next to me was staring right at me, I thought she was going to reprimand me for confronting the kids but she just leaned over and whispered “Thank you”.

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Spuck September 5, 2012 at 2:16 pm

I really don’t think Ipads and other electronics are symptoms of any new problems in children today. Adults have always given something to distract kids in potentially boring situations. That’s why hair dressers have lolly pops and child friendly restaurants have coloring mats. The only problem I see with something like an Ipad is that it might make kids a little to over stimulated or hyper focused and when they crash they burn.

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Amanda H. September 5, 2012 at 3:51 pm

I always am boggled by the people who claim that displining their kids will “stifle their creativity” as an excuse to let their children run wild. I was disciplined as a child (spanked, even!) and taught how to behave in public, and if you ask my in-laws I’m one of the most creative people they know. My oldest daughter is a ridiculously creative child, despite my husband and myself disciplining her when necessary and teaching her how to behave. Discipline and creativity are not mutually exclusive, people!

And as to the mom in the video and her bag of noisy toys (yes, yes, I know they were supplied by ABC and all), that’s just asking for trouble. Nerf guns, toy instruments, and the like do not belong in a restaurant. With toys like the Barbie that the girls were fighting over, you make sure to bring enough, or that each child picks one (quiet!) toy to bring. But for the most part, the best entertainment to bring to a restaurant is a quiet handheld video game or, if you’re like me and don’t get handhelds for your kids, paper and crayons. And hey, not only do the crayons keep the kids quiet, they encourage creativity. It’s a win-win situation!

As to the main question, I probably wouldn’t directly confront the ineffective parents myself. I’m just a bystander, easy to dismiss. Management, on the other hand, is in a definite position of authority in the restaurant, and thus I would complain to them, either to have myself moved or to get the offending family removed if they’re unruly enough. Thing is, Damn Yankee, that’s management’s job. I can get yelled at by the parents and get nothing done, or I can take the “coward’s way out” by asking management to do their jobs and handle it, and while they’ll get yelled at, they at least have the authority to respond appropriately.

Sad to say, though, while watching the video and hearing the fake mom asking the people around her, “Are you saying there’s something wrong with my kids?” I’m not sure I would’ve been able to keep from snarking back at her a heartfelt “Yes!” Probably while loudly reminding my children that we do not act like that in public. Which is actually what I was doing with them while watching the video in the first place: quizzing them on whether or not that is appropriate behavior in public (I’m glad to say that they both told me it wasn’t and knew that they would get in trouble if they acted like that).

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Stepmomster September 5, 2012 at 5:21 pm

I find that people do not discipline their children in public now because they are afraid some bleeding heart is going to call CPS..that said, I would complain to management that dining was getting too loud or request to move tables. If parents truly don’t care, they have had many comments before you, and will after you.

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Chocobo September 5, 2012 at 9:46 pm

The issue I see with electronic games as a distraction for children is that it does not encourage the children to participate in conversation or social interaction. Sure, they stay quiet, but they aren’t interacting with anyone around them either. Not even coloring together with other children. To be honest, the children I know who use hand-held games and iPhones at the table are terribly socially stunted and seem unable to get through a meal without getting bored and are unable to articulate themselves or contribute to conversation even when they are much too old for it. I think it sets a bad precedent and bad habits that are very hard to break later.

It seems a short path from children who play with games at the table to adults who are constantly playing with their smart phones while you are trying to have a conversation with them.

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The Elf September 6, 2012 at 6:55 am

Crying babies (really wailing, not just a little fussy) and misbehaving kids are a pain in the butt for everyone else. Sorry parents, they might be your little darlings but I don’t see their charm when they’re running around a restaurant disrupting my dinner.

Unless the place is purposefully marketed towards kids, that sort of behavior doesn’t belong there. If the place is “family-friendly” (think your typical American chain restaurant) but not specifically for kids, some latitude is allowed but there’s still a line you don’t cross. And if it isn’t family friendly, then I have to wonder what your kids are doing there at all if they can’t behave themselves (or are too young to know how). I know the argument: where else are they supposed to learn? The answer is at home. If you teach good table manners at home, it is easier to transition those to a restaurant setting. And you start at the family friendly joints first. Once they’ve proven they can behave, you can move up to the fancy places. For younger kids, packing a “fun bag” is a good idea. They can color quietly or something without disturbing everyone else. There’s also a few other tricks – dining early so the kid isn’t overly hungry and cranky. Asking for bread or something up front so that the kid doesn’t have to wait a long time to eat. Sometimes a meltdown is just going to happen despite all effort otherwise, and then the parent needs to remove the child from the restaurant until the child calms down.

Wailing and misbehaving is not part of the atmosphere I’m paying for when I dine out. I really feel sorry for the parents who are on a night out without the kids. At least I get to home to quiet. They’re there to have some adult time and it is ruined. (And yes, adult patrons who are disruptive irritate the hell out of me too. Usually you find them in a bar, though, and a bar atmosphere is not the same as a restaurant atmosphere.)

But do I confront the parents? No – unless their kids actions actually get to the point of interacting with me, which has happened. If your kid throws a ball at my face (true story), I will say something. Mostly it is pointless to speak to the parents. They know their kid is acting up. They just don’t care. Bringing it up just makes them angry and now you’ve got an even bigger disruption. I just avoid the problem. If I see that I’m being set next to a family with already disruptive children, I ask to be seated elsewhere. If I’m close to finishing dinner, I’ll hurry up and get the check. A few times the disruption was so bad we just asked for our dinner to be packed and we took it out. We tell the manager why we’re leaving, perhaps it will be incentive for them to take action themselves next time.

It hasn’t happened as much in recent years – I wonder if something has changed with the parents, or if we are just getting better about dining out when the unruly kids aren’t.

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The Elf September 6, 2012 at 7:04 am

Lesley B, IMHO you’re doing all the right things. You’ve figured out what sets your special-needs son off and you avoid those triggers as much as possible. And if a meltdown happens, you leave. This is all anyone can really ask whether your child has special needs or not.

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Enna September 6, 2012 at 9:49 am

I do think complainging to the management can work – if they really care about their resturant they will do something about it. The risk of loosing future custom form the offending family would be considerably less then losing business from say 10 other tables – that could be 20+ people.

I competlely agree with Chocobo – the whole thing with “boys will be boys” does bother me, lets boys and men get away with so much rubbish. What parents need to learn to do is to channel their children’s cretiveness in a positive way. A child being disruptive is not a child being creative far from it.

Where I work at a Doctor’s surgery a newish colleague has brought in old toys for children. This is good because children are no longer disruptive as they have something to do. Sometimes they get a bit high spirated but they are no longer bored. One child was being really noisey and my colleague said to the child “why don’t you draw me a picture?” and the child did.

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