Columnist Slams Parents Who Let 4-Year-Old 'Explore The Restaurant' While They Ate

by Julie Scagell
Originally Published: 
Julia Meslener for Scary Mommy and Maica/piovesempre/Getty

Nicole Cliffe did not mince words when telling parents kids can’t ‘explore’ restaurants, ever

There’s no arguing that parenting is hard. Among the daily activities we do to keep our kids entertained, healthy, alive, and fed, sometimes (a lot of times) it can feel overwhelming. Every once in a while, that leads parents to choose to dine out rather than cooking at home, because we have short-term memory loss and forget how bad it sucked last time we tried taking our kids to a restaurant. When one angry parent wrote to an advice columnist about how their kid was treated in a “medium-nice” dining establishment by a server when they let him “explore,” they got a not-so-gentle reminder that if we choose to bring our kids out, they aren’t allowed to explore anything but the chicken tenders they’ll eventually refuse to eat.

If you’ve not read Care and Feeding, it’s a must-binge parenting advice column published by “Slate” and written by Nicole Cliffe. It’s chock-full of guidance on how to be a decent human being. One parent wrote in and asked for advice (or rather hoped for vindication) after their four-year-old kid got reprimanded by a server after he was caught running around a restaurant.

“My son is a normal, active little boy, and it’s hard for him to sit through a whole dinner, so we let him explore the restaurant a little,” the parent wrote. “I noticed our waitress giving him the hairy eyeball, so we asked him to stop running.” First, you shouldn’t need to wait for the “hairy eyeball” to tell your kid to stop running in a place where others are trying to enjoy their meal. Second, just no.

When the dad mentioned he wrote about the situation on Facebook and got “judgy” responses back, he got even more advice:

The dad continued, saying his son was “pretty good” but did manage to get underfoot when the server was carrying a tray, naturally leading to her to tell the kid to go back to the table and sit down. “I felt it was completely uncalled for, and she should have come and spoken to us personally instead of disciplining someone else’s child,” he said. Then: “I tipped 5 percent and spoke briefly to her manager,” and signed his letter, “It’s Hard for a 4-Year-Old to Sit Still.” Oh, hell no.

It didn’t take long for Cliffe to put these parents in their place. “Yeah, this is your fault. It’s hugely your fault,” Cliffe said, because it’s their responsibility to teach their kids manners before they take them to a restaurant. “A kid ‘exploring’ a restaurant is not a thing,” she continued, reminding him if he’d made his kid come back to the table the first time, this entire experience wouldn’t have happened. “You weren’t parenting, so a server did it for you. She was right. You were wrong.” Bless.

Cliffe ended her advice by offering them a way to make amends: “Apologize to the manager for complaining about your server, and leave her a proper tip.”

This article was originally published on