Kids in restaurants — do or don’t?

I love eating out and, of course, I love kids… but sometimes the two don’t mix.  I do still get annoyed, even after having my own kids, when there are children in a restaurant creating havoc. For me, eating out is a moment to relax, talk and enjoy good food, and a screaming kid can completely spoil the mood. In France, most children are taught from the moment they are conceived to behave well in a restaurant. But even here, occasionally, you wonder why people don’t just pick up their child and take him outside until he calms down, to let the other guests have their meal in piece.

I just read a piece in the Guardian about an owner of a restaurant who has decreed that “Screaming children will not be tolerated”. I think that is the best restaurant rule I have ever heard of! I am obviously not talking about kid-friendly cafés which are basically interior playgrounds, but I do think that screaming kids in a grown-up cafe or restaurant should not have to be tolerated, whilst well behaved kids who are happily eating their food are a pleasure to see in any restaurant. What are your thoughts?

- Emilie

18 COMMENTS - Add your own

1. Kate | November 9, 2010 | Reply

It makes the kids who are happily eating sound like the good guys and the other’s who struggle the bad guy who should be kicked out. I feel very sensitive about this because my son has autism and sometimes has a melt down. Sadly I can’t always know when or where it’s going to happen and I don’t want to keep him from experiencing the finer things in life. Kids should eat in nice restaurants and know what fine food is. How else could they grow up to be discerning adults? Anyone who’s going to a public place needs to tolerate other people and a nice restaurant is no exception. On the same note you could say people with colostomy bags shouldn’t be allowed in because it could put one off their meal. It’s discrimination. Kids sometimes scream. They don’t start out being perfect but taking them to an environment where they need to learn restaurant etiquette and how to cope with the outside world is a good way of helping them grow up to be well mannered adults.

2. Courtney in London | November 9, 2010 | Reply

Hmmm… It’s a tricky one. I must say that it does slightly bother me when I’m in a nice restaurant and kids are running around and being wild and crazy and the parents are making no attempt to stop them. I find this is rude. But I agree with Kate that sometimes kids just have a meltdown and, no matter how hard you try, you can’t keep them quiet or happy.
I also have learned over the years to take my kids out to restaurants only if I know they will be okay (not tired, not cranky, not too late, etc.) And then hope for the best.

3. Sonia | November 9, 2010 | Reply

I totally agree with Kate , You simply cant programme or controll your son or daughter like a computer, they are human being with their own emotions.
Sometimes everything is nice and smooth sometime not.

4. woodles | November 9, 2010 | Reply

Oh – this is a tough one, I personally can’t stand children moving about a restaurant where they are a danger to themselves, to the waiting staff and to other customers due to the movement of glass,hot food and drinks. When I dine out with other famillies who do not control their children moving about whilst I am curtailing all efforts to wander in my own children I am perceived as a mommy monster by the chldren and the other parents.
That said children have tantrums, they are unpredictable and personally if mine are in a meltdown I take them out of the restaurant until they calm down, this has meant my food has gone cold but if other diners are shelling out their hard earned money for an enjoyable meal I am not entitled to disturb their experience.
There are also very un-friendly restaurants who do not wish to entertain children at all and these are not necessarily Michelin star establishments but run of the mill places, there is one in particular which I refuse to go to anymore as even a child straight-jacketed into their seat and in stunned silence can invoke the wrath of the owner – this place is just not worth the stress.

5. Tina | November 9, 2010 | Reply

I do my best to keep my tot entertained and we are very mindful of others. There are some places though where children under the age of 6 should just not go. If the lights are dim and there is a sommelier on staff, do all of us who paid for a sitter to go out on a date a favor and leave the tots at home.
Best,
Tina

6. gilly porter | November 9, 2010 | Reply

I don’t think the article is saying “don’t bring your children to a restaurant” – just simply “if they have meltdown, take them outside for a short time” – which is exactly what I have always done (i’m a mum of 3) It’s all about learning boundarys isn’t it? Our local, kid friendly, italian cafe-bar has had the following sign up for years – “Well behaved children are welcome”!!! It’s never put me off going there – in fact quite the opposite! – and yes I have removed them a few times over the years!

7. David Bier | November 9, 2010 | Reply

What do people think about kids that want to go for a bit of a wander (accompanied)? I’m not talking about a tantrum, just itchy feet.
Personally if I’m in a casual-ish restaurant I don’t have a problem with it. I would never take my boy to a nice place unless I was confident he’d behave himself (for myself as well as fellow diners), which probably means putting it off for a few years.

8. Samantha | November 9, 2010 | Reply

My opinions on this continue to evolve. In March I was of the firm opinion that nearly 3 year old Lewis would not sit in a restaurant and “play” the equivalent of video games. On Sunday we were sat in a pub restaurant and for 5 of the 20 minutes we were waiting for our food to be cooked, he happily and quietly played Thomas puzzles on an i-phone.
We have different strategies, sometimes one eats hot food, the other cold so one person can entertain without their food being ruined. Sometimes we trade eating nicely for a trip to the playground. Sometimes it works, sometimes we have to leave!

9. Steph | November 9, 2010 | Reply

A screaming/wild child that can’t be calmed, or unruly an adult for that matter, that is disturbing other patrons should be asked to leave. We started to take our son to restaurants that are not geared to children (no children’s menus) at about 2 months old. Sushi restaurants are great first restaurants because you only need one hand and the food is already cold for the most part. We have taught him how to behave in restaurants and some days are better than others. Yes, there have been times when we have had to leave early and we had to practice what we fondly referred to as dine and dash. He is now 4 1/2 and we can spend up to two hours (occasionally with help from his ipod or a selection of legos so momma and papa can finish their dinner or wine). I remember the days of stacks of books, small toys . . . . to get us through our dinner. These meals weren’t fun but were critical in restaurant training. We also dine at 5 to 6 p.m. when in my opinion if you want a quiet child free meal you should be dining no early than 7 p.m. Long and the short of it is, if you are taking a member of the small set to dinner you cannot expect a relaxing adult conversation filled evening but one that is always interesting.

10. Kaite | November 9, 2010 | Reply

I really believe that we should all be modeling appropriate social behavior to all our children including restaurant etiquette. As adults we would never scream, throw food, loudly fight with our spouses it a upscale restaurant so why would we allow our children to? The issue is not that children have melt downs it is what the parent does once the child melt’s down. Unruly children should be removed from the dinning room then brought back in when they have calmed down (this is out of respect for other patrons). Additionally children should not be roaming around restaurants as it can be very dangerous (wait staff carry heavy and hot loads and often cannot see children below their trays). When my husband and I go out with our son we are always prepared to leave, we eat out before the dinner rush, and we don’t doddle. I think it’s great to try and expose children to many settings however you have to pick up on your child’s cues and set them up for success. Start practicing these skills at home and work your way up to a upscale meal. Now I agree that we all have to tolerate one another but we also ALL need to respect each other. We can show our children how their behavior impacts others and the importance of respecting others by setting limits and clear expectations in public.

11. Emilie in Paris | November 9, 2010 | Reply

I was about to leave a similar comment, Kaite. I don’t think children are the issue, it is the way the responsible adult deals with the childs behaviour. Children are not robots and my kids have been far from ideal on several occasions, I have “half-dined and dashed” before. But I think it is important to respect other and teach kids to respect others.

12. Diana | November 9, 2010 | Reply

I was in a small gourmet restaurant with my sister-in-law’s baby who was crying, and I was always taking him outside and walking him while the rest of the family ate. And I thought it was really kind when the restaurant staff said to me, “You don’t have to go outside. We love kids here!”

13. Kim | November 9, 2010 | Reply

I think you have to use your commen sense and take your kids if possible to restaurants where kids are tollerated. The best advice i ever gotten re restaurants & children when our first was born: never ever take them out of their chairs!!! It is disrespectful to other diners and it also makes other peoples children want to get up. My two boys (of course the occasional tantrum, but agree with Courtney, try as best as you time your visit well) know they will have to stay on their chairs. I think a little baby is a totally different story, they should be tollerated as (to a certain extent of course) long as parents make an effort to calm them down. Anyway eating out with small kids is never the most relaxing meal, but it sometimes is lovely to skip to cleaning and cooking part at home!

14. Claire | November 10, 2010 | Reply

We have always taken our children to restaurants, however they have to stay in their seats. I come prepared with play dough and kids magazines with tons of stickers. Only once my daughter had a meltdown and I took her outside immediately. I must say it is mostly at lunch times that we take them though, but sometimes even to Michelin starred places. My daughter who is three even asks to to ” the restaurant”.

15. Saskia | November 10, 2010 | Reply

Intersting topic. I believe you should start at a young age going to a restaurant so it won’t seem like such a big deal. My 3 kids grew up in Spain and I think they are far more tolerant and used to kids in restaurants than in northern Europe. They make an effort to have your kids enjoy their meal and understand they want their food right away and won’t wait intill the grownups get their main course. At home we feel it is important to stay seated untill all are finished and likewise you should continue these rules when your out to dinner as well. Of course they don’t always behave well and then you as a parent should take action to dash or take the child outside to calm down.

16. enrica.momsinthecity | November 11, 2010 | Reply

I do agree with Emilie. My husband and myself like to go out both with friends and alone and that is a moment to stay with adults, have a nice conversation and relax from our baby! Then we go out with Ginevra and she is now used to behave when we are at a restaurant. i don’t think Italy is a kids friendly place and restaurants which help you if you have kids are very few. It is changing but still very slowly. And i absolutely agree that most of the time we ahve to balme the parents and not the child… they do not want to loose their fun and do not look after their children…

17. gabrielle | November 12, 2010 | Reply

as the mum of the naughtiest boy in the world, this thread makes me nervous.

18. velika | November 29, 2010 | Reply

While no one wants to be disrupted at dinner, children are part of life, and really, it is up to us as adults to help raise them as best we can. That means, as a stranger, being kind and understanding to other adults and their children when kids are struggling.

As a parent, I can’t count how many times a public meltdown was made all the worse by the critical reaction of other adults. It stresses out the parents, which children in turn pick up on. Often, it is a smiling stranger or a kind word that can turn the situation around for all involved.

If you are a sensitive diner who is easily ruffled by the sound of children, my advice to you would be to go to a nice bar that serves food, or to eat out later, when most children are in bed.

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