With all of the recent media attention focused on a North Carolina restaurant that has banned screaming kids, many people are talking about this uncommon business practice. Some parents may find themselves wondering if restaurants they frequent might start implementing the same types of rules. They may also be wondering if they would be one of the families targeted at such a place. Furthermore, with so much media attention, it is likely that more and more restaurant patrons will be paying closer attention to those parents who allow their children to disrupt others while eating out. If you are a parent who would like to avoid negative attention when you go out to eat with your family, here’s a quick course on the Do’s and Don’ts of Restaurant Etiquette with Kids!
DO: Keep your kids at your own table. There are very few things more annoying in a restaurant than having some strange kid toddle up to your party’s table. The other restaurant patrons are trying to eat a meal; the last thing they want is to stare at your little one’s face, smeared with food and snot, or to be slammed by the odor of a diaper that you should have changed half an hour ago. Allowing your kid to go wandering around a restaurant isn’t just bad etiquette; it’s also neglectful and inappropriate. It can also be dangerous.
Case in point, about a year ago my family and I were in a Mexican Restaurant having dinner. The family next to us was allowing their toddler-sized child to wander around freely (he chose to stand at our table and stare blankly at us while we asked him, “Where’s your grownup?”). About this time, a waitress had gone to his family’s table to deliver some drinks. The child took a step backward, and so did the waitress (who never even saw him because he was so tiny), and then she tripped and fell over him, nearly breaking her wrist trying to keep herself from crushing him as she fell. Did the parents take any responsibility for what happened? Of course not! Instead, they scolded the child. People like that shouldn’t even be allowed near children; let alone be responsible for them in a public place. If you can’t be bothered to supervise your own children in a restaurant, then don’t bring them into restaurants.
DO: Keep your kids quiet enough so that they don’t make other restaurant patrons miserable. Just yesterday while having lunch, my family (3 kids included, all of whom sat quietly in their seats during the entire meal), had to endure ten minutes of some little girl banging on the restaurant door, screaming at her mother, “I want to leave, Mommy! This place is stinky!” Her mother had conveniently tuned her child out, but the rest of us in the restaurant had to endure the noise. This is really one of those situations when the family should have been required to either get reasonable control of the child, or leave. If your child is incapable of not screaming over and over in a restaurant, or if you are unwilling to manage that type of situation appropriately, then don’t take them into restaurants. It’s not okay to make your kid everyone else’s problem.
DON’T: Let your kids make unreasonable messes. I’ve seen kids in restaurants do everything from spit food onto the floor, purposely pour their drinks completely out onto the floor and table, and even send dishes soaring through the air. If your kids are only capable of behaving like wild apes, and you are too unwilling to teach them any better, then keep them home. In a restaurant that is willing to ask patrons to leave, your family would likely be targeted.
DON’T: Allow your kids to climb all over tables and booths. Are you kidding me? This one is really a no-brainer but I’ve personally seen parents allow this type of behavior in a restaurant more times than I care to count. The worst family I’ve ever seen in a restaurant went so far as to allow their school aged children to actually stand on the table and climb over the back of the booth into adjoining booths. If you don’t want to be asked to leave a restaurant, then require your school-aged children to sit down properly in their seats, and keep any aged child from climbing on restaurant tables or over the backs of booths.
DON’T: Let your kid stand up and turn around to stare at your neighbors during the entire meal. These types of families are so annoying in restaurants. It’s one thing for your baby or toddler to sneak a peek at the diners in the next booth over, or wave hello and get a few smiles back. Here’s a tip, though: Anything more than that, and it stops being adorable really fast. I have four children of my own, and I’ve been a mom for nearly 20 years, so I know that babies and toddlers love to wave and smile at other people in restaurants. But I’ve also had kids on the other side of the booth stare at us through an entire meal while they pick their nose, and others who spit food at us, and still others who stuck their grubby hands in my hair, leaving bits of food behind. Boundaries, people. You’re doing your kids a favor when you teach them proper etiquette. They have to function in life someday, and if you never teach them any boundaries, how will they do that? If your child can’t even do something so simple as to behave appropriately in a restaurant, how do you expect them to ever do anything really important, like be a responsible parent or spouse? Or heck, even a likable person? It’s quite unfair to a child to refuse to teach them about appropriate behavior and then stick them in an environment where everyone around them has total animosity towards them because of their behavior. It’s a total parent fail.
Obviously, there are circumstances when Autism or other conditions are a factor in situations where children are acting out in a restaurant. My experience has been though, that the parents of these children are actually the ones working really hard to help their children function adequately in public places, like restaurants. No, it truly seems that the worst child behavior seen in restaurants is usually the result of simple lazy parenting, and total inconsideration for others. There are many of us out there wishing that more restaurants (and theaters, and bookstores, and libraries) would adopt this practice of ousting families who allow their children to ruin the experience of fellow patrons. If you don’t want your family to be targeted by such practices, consider thoughtfully the do’s and don’ts of parenting etiquette in restaurants.