Dinner Dilemma: Kids or No Kids?

Kids & restaurants: a good combo?

Kids and restaurants: a good combo? / Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

By Karen Hendricks

Have you heard about the recent controversy caused by a number of restaurants establishing “no kids” policies?

Some have outright banned kids, saying they want to establish a place for parents or couples to “escape,” while other restaurants have declared a “no kids under 7 after 7 pm” zone.

People have come out in favor of each side, with some of the points being:

  • There are too many parents bringing their kids to restaurants without expectations of appropriate behavior, leaving other diners disturbed by tantrums, screaming, etc.
  • All patrons deserve an enjoyable night out.
  • Not all families should be “punished” by these policies, as some parents truly do set rules and expectations for their kids.
  • Many family-friendly restaurants still do exist.
  • There are plenty of restaurants that don’t come out and say “no kids allowed” but if they don’t have high chairs or a child-friendly menu, the writing is on the wall. Some restaurants are simply geared towards adults.

I had mixed reactions as some of these news stories broke over the past few months. As the mother of three teens, our kids are beyond the tantrum stage (thank goodness!) but when they were younger, we truly limited our visits to restaurants because it often felt like more of a hassle than what it was worth. Our two youngest children are only a year apart, so I do remember getting “looks” several times when we dined out and needed two high chairs. We were always on edge, aware of every sound they made, in tune with their moods, and if they started to shift… it was time to ask the waiter, “Check, please?!”

We never wanted to upset other diners around us, especially those who didn’t have children. When we were younger (PC… “pre-children”), I have to admit, we were often disturbed by crying babies or toddler tantrums. Let’s just say they didn’t help set the tone for romantic candlelight dinners. But, in those PC days, does anyone truly understand what it’s like to be a parent? I know now… children are unpredictable, even for those of us who try our best to parent, establish rules, etc. Our tolerance levels shift, our understanding deepens, as we become parents ourselves.

Part of me wants to stand up for the idea of families doing something as basic as eating a meal, together. As a society, I feel as though we should support families more. We need all the help we can get!

On the other hand, we are so very blessed in America to have the ability to start up any type of business we’d like—law-abiding, of course. And if we wanted to open a restaurant geared towards adult clientele, or pint-sized patrons, then that’s our right. It’s the American dream, right?

So after chewing on this issue for a while (bad pun alert)… here’s how it all shakes out for me. I think the real issue is with the segment of parents who simply don’t parent. Maybe they don’t like to tell their children “no.” So for that reason, I’m going to say “yes,” I’m completely in favor of restaurant owners who decide to establish a no-kids policy. There are still plenty of other dining options on the menu for patrons of all ages.

Do you agree? Do you eat out with your family? What have your experiences been like? Feel free to join the conversation by leaving a comment below.

Background:

Texas restaurant bans kids under 7 after 7 pm 

New sushi bar bans those under 18 

Café owner shames moms and kids on Facebook 

Food & Wine lists a number of restaurants with no-kids policies 

The Washington Post follows-up and reports the no-kids sushi bar is doing just fine

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3 thoughts on “Dinner Dilemma: Kids or No Kids?

  1. Great thought-provoking post! And I agree with you: If you’re opening a restaurant, then you get to pick the clientele you cater to. At the same time, as a society we probably want to support families being families, even when they’re noisy. How can you teach your kid how to behave in a restaurant if you never take her to a restaurant? Yes, there will be successful meals out and less successful ones…. and sure, some parents will fail to parent… but we should *begin* by being tolerant and generous and kind-hearted toward each other. If you don’t feel up to that, or if you really want a romantic dinner out with your spouse, just choose a restaurant that caters to adults-only!

    • Excellent points, Chris! Indeed, how do we teach our children anything about (fill in the blank) if we don’t expose them to (fill in the blank). And, I agree that as a society there are huge strides to be made in our tolerance and love towards each other.

  2. I agree. There are plenty of kid-friendly / family-friendly restaurants. We have always been on top of our son’s behavior – in public and at home. We started from birth and put a few years of concentrated effort into teaching him manners and expectations for appropriate public behavior, and now we have an extremely well-behaved child. We can’t stand the way some parents seem to have no control over their children or don’t want to bother to take time to instruct and discipline. So, I don’t blame the restaurant industry or the public for wanting to enjoy a quiet, uninterrupted meal out. Bon Appétit!

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