This was the survey question I ran across while looking through an old copy of Parenting from 2010. The verdict?
49 % Yes
51 % No
Seems like people were split pretty much down the middle on this issue. And if you keep up with current events, you've probably read about instances where parents with crying kids have been asked to leave the restaurant, like this incident recently in Maine.
This got me to thinking about my own experiences as both a mother with a young child and being a patron when kids are being unruly. What side would I have taken, had I taken the survey back in 2010 ? My son, Tyler, is now 14 but I recall the many times we went out to eat when he was a toddler. I recall always feeling anxious because I never knew how he was going to behave. He is now and has always been a "spirited" child. But I like to eat out and didn't feel that he should stop me from being able to do so. I also like to enjoy my outings without kids running amok, so I can definitely understand patrons who feel parents should be asked to leave if they are disturbing others. Should a restaurant kick a family out much in the same way they would ask an unruly adult to leave?
Before I answer, let me tell you what I used to do to make sure Tyler was not too disruptive. First, I often picked family-friendly places to eat. Places that are generally noisy anyway and where a loud kid wouldn't get a second look.
I would often go to dinner early. I've found that during these early times, diners are usually other families or older adults, who generally don't mind a little excitement. I also always made sure I had something to entertain him... a few toys, crayon and coloring books, etc. Sometimes the server would ask if I wanted his food early but I find that meant he would finish first and then proceed to act up while I was trying to eat, so I made sure they brought our food at the same time.
I also made sure to check online for the menu so I had some idea what he would eat before I got there and often, we would decide in advance. This eliminated a lot of hassles. And finally, yes, I would bribe him and promise desert if he behaved himself.
Generally speaking, he did fine when we went out to eat, in fact, he was more apt to misbehave in the grocery store or at the mall or other places. So this brings me to my answer. I would have to say that I would vote against an outright ban but I wouldn't have any problems with the server or management asking the offending family to tone it done. I would also like to believe that parents would realize that letting their child behave inappropriately spoils the dining experience of others and would hope they would stop the situation before it got out of hand...without being told to do so. Hummmm, this sounds like a good scenario for ABC's What Would You Do? !
Myra Faye Turner, Writer