Let’s face it – each time we dine out, there’s a kid screaming somewhere that annoys us to the core. There’s a girl in smart clothing singing some TV show theme or nursery rhyme loud enough to be so audible and so aggravating to our nerves. There’s that boy in his Sunday best throwing wads upon wads of macaroni and cheese, ruining others’ – um, Sunday best. Which one would you rather stand – a concert band comprised of just noisemakers that irritate our nerves (think party horns and vuvuzelas) or a choir of screaming children in our restaurants?
Usually, those situations happen at casual dining eateries. (Think baskets of chicken fingers, burgers, paninis, and kids’ menus!) Don’t get me wrong, but it’s a broad genre of restaurants that are likely to cater to people from 1 to 100. On weekdays when the kids are suffering from classroom fever, the place is usually quiet, save for six-inch volume conversations and the rare ringtone tolls of cell phones. But the overstimulation gets even worse when diners of all ages come out on weekends, Friday nights, and school holidays. I experienced those situations each time I eat out on any mentioned day. At one of them (a relative’s birthday party with adults being the only guests), I saw a kid screaming and a parent disciplining him (spanking and scolding). I thought that the secluded area we ate our meals was reserved for just us, so why did the parent even bother to take her child on ours?
Even those who cater gourmet cuisine (no kids’ menus, fine wine, roasted cut of Angus beef served with chateau potatoes) have their fill of kiddie temper tantrums. Just imagine spending your hard-earned cash on a place where you expect Regency Era (or simply, fancy) décor, a formal dress code requiring women to wear dresses and men to wear suits or tuxedoes, a string quartet performing classical pieces, and waiters all in their tuxedoes. Suddenly, you hear a 5-year-old scream as she shoves her whatever in her mouth. Then, she vomits on you, ruining your ensemble of apparel that fits the dress code nicely.
So what can restaurants do to curtail screaming kids? They simply put signs that either don’t allow them or ask them to behave. For example, a North Carolina restaurant (yes, it’s a casual dining restaurant) owner put up a sign that said, “Screaming Children Will NOT Be Tolerated!” But simply putting a sign can cause some controversy. Some parents of autistic children (who are still learning and grasping social skill even at older ages) feel as if those restaurants are discriminating against them. But restaurant patrons who want peace while they eat applaud that move. Another way is to impose age restrictions to maintain that peace. When I dined at Palo onboard the Disney Wonder for the first time years ago, I found it more than just a detour away from Parrot Cay (unpalatable food for my relative who was traveling with me is that one problem). Everything was peaceful and unrushed, and I felt so happy inside. I owe it all to the “no Guests under 18” rule they post and enforce! But like signs that say, “No Screaming Kids,” they seem discriminatory to some parents. Even big kids with autism can melt down too.
But the best way to curb screaming children at restaurants is to imply strategies of plain and simple parenting. Teach kids some good table manners, preferably as early as possible, and start at home. (I can tell you, it’s much cheaper than shelling out cash for expensive etiquette training classes with Victorian Era principles!) Also, those of you with autistic children must better prepare them for dining out. That means sharing social stories and having them look at pictures of your restaurant before you go.
Little screamers have no place in a restaurant. With good parenting, us diners can have our pieces of minds as we eat our burgers or fillets Mignon.