A restaurant in Monterey, California caused some controversy last summer when they made a business decision to no longer allow loud children in the dining room. They also posted a sign informing parents that they do not accommodate families by providing boosters or high chairs, and that strollers are were not allowed. The image of the sign is making the rounds on Facebook again, spurring the debate about whether children belong in restaurants. Do they?
Of course they do. Parents just need to be vigilant about making sure they behave.
As far as this restaurant’s sign, I probably wouldn’t bring my children there because they are going out of their way to make parents feel uncomfortable. But I appreciate the sign, because I like knowing these kinds of details upfront so I can decide where I spend my money. Having been in the restaurant business for nearly 20 years, I also understand where signs like this come from.
Families across the board get a bad rap in restaurants because of the actions of a few. Restaurants who have to deal with difficult parents regularly may start blaming the rest of us. Here are some parents who make it hard for the rest of us to eat in public with our children in tow.
1. The “sure, you can lick those salt shakers” parent. This actually has to be said, which is disgusting. Little kids put things in their mouths all the time, which is why it’s not a great idea to let them make toys out of things like salt and pepper shakers, that the rest of the general public also has to use.
2. The “my child is so charming everyone probably wants to talk to him” parent. Yes, your child is the most adorable thing in the world with the most clever things to say. No, the general public doesn’t necessarily want to talk to him while they are enjoying a night out. This is tough, because our kids are so adorable and doesn’t everyone want to hear how they’ve just mastered the word “actually?” No, they don’t.
3. The “I didn’t bring toys” parent. Sugar packets, creamers, flowers — everything is fair game to these parents. They didn’t bring anything to distract their kids, so now they’re letting little Johnny tear apart the flowers that someone just bought and arranged or throw sugar packets all over the floor. This isn’t cool.
4. The “I’m outraged that you don’t have a kid’s menu” parent. Not all places have kids’ menus. If this is something that is going to make you irate, do your research beforehand and don’t patronize a place that isn’t accommodating to kids. It’s reasonable that you don’t want to pay $18 for a plate of plain pasta for your kid, but not all restaurants will offer cheaper options for your little ones.
5. The “you WILL accommodate my gigantic stroller” parent. Some restaurants simply DO NOT have space for your stroller. I worked in a restaurant in Brooklyn in a very family-centric neighborhood and was always shocked at how many parents actually expected us to change the configuration of our dining room to accommodate their huge strollers. If you are unwilling to fold up your stroller and store it, maybe you should wait until off hours to go out to eat.
6. The “I’m paying someone to clean up after me” parent. Yes, kids tend to make messes. No, it’s not okay to leave a shit storm of crap behind you after you eat out. There will always be a little mess left behind, but seriously — have you seen the way some parents leave the area surrounding their tables when they are done? It’s not surprising that a restaurant staff may sigh or roll their eyes when they see oncoming little ones. A little common courtesy goes a long way.
7. The “I’m ignoring my child” parent. Kids are loud, there’s no getting around that. But a restaurant isn’t the place to take an “oh well” attitude about it. If your child is having a tantrum, take them outside until it passes. Since bystanders literally have no way of knowing whether parents are dealing with a child who has a disability or behavioral issues — if your child doesn’t you should be extra vigilant about teaching them to use a “restaurant voice.” If there were fewer loud, tantruming children in restaurants, people may be more inclined to give parents the benefit of the doubt.