Room for Debate

I wrote a small Op-ed about entitled parents and restaurants for the Room for Debate section of the New York Times. Enjoy!

Let the hate mail begin!

20 thoughts on “Room for Debate”

  1. new chef says:

    amen brother, as a new addition to the hell that is the restaurant industry i could not agree more, im lucky though im BOH so i dont deal with the screaming kids and self-appointed “worlds best” parents…im not really suited for normal interactions with people like that. im the guy that trips little kids that are running and screaming through the stores and im sure it would carry over into work if i had to deal with it

  2. kathee says:

    Well written. Personally when my children were little it was a rare treat to go out to a good meal – and I cherished the time alone with my spouse. Why on earth would I want to be subjected to someone else’s crying children?

  3. Naomi says:

    I agree 100% with the article. We are a couple with children all of whom are now grown, however when they were younger we never took them to the more upscale places and we absolutely did not take them out late in the evening. Now when we go out for dinner (which we do probably 3 times a week) we always ask the host/hostess to seat us in the “kid free” zone. It might make us look like asses, but quite frankly we aren’t there to hear screaming babies and watch parents who can’t handle a toddler. Well written article !!

  4. phil smith says:

    I once attended a city council meeting where the power elite were hearing from doctors on the dangers to children of the smoking section of restaurants. One doctor suggested that the secvond hand smoke from the section killed something like twenty thousand dining guest and their children each year. I took the podium and suggested that the fried chicken nuggets with french fries and kids grilled cheese sandwiches are raising childrens cholestral to unhealthy levels. I cited a study indicating that three in six children ordering from a kids meal will die of heart attacks before their second year in elementary school. A study I pulled out my ass but I made the point that if we want to protect the precious children we must start with their diets. I was gufawed by the mayor and told to get serious about the second hand smoke problem. Later that year I went to work for french chef who solved the problem of brat kids by A)not having high chairs B) charging a prix-fixe price for each person at the table regardles of age. It took only a few diners to shell out 32.95 for their six year old before they got the clue

  5. Heather Hutchins says:

    Dude, you are right. I really hate being stuck in a restaurant with screaming kids or, worse yet, kids who are running all over the place without parental interference.

    As a patron, I have been known to get up and leave if the restaurant is full of screaming kids. Okay, I admit it, I don’t have kids myself, but I’m sick of hearing parents give me attitude because I decided not to spawn. Can’t I eat in peace, people?

  6. smitha says:

    well written. I avoid taking my daughter out late nights and to any places that require her to sit quietly for long, even though she does it beautifully. And those huge strollers drive me crazy. I have a small one and even with that I take the last or the first buggy (on the metro) to avoid people running into it. I don’t expect people to roll out the red carpet for me because I am a parent with a child.

    I just wonder though how parents are supposed to deal with a tantrum on a plane?! We can’t exactly step out for a few moments! I have flown with my daughter many times (she’s now in her terrible two’s). I take a whole bunch of stuff to keep her engaged. I still insist on a small stroller, which means more bags to carry. But little ones get tired, bored, and sometimes throw a fit because they don’t know what else to do.

    I have flown here in the US a lot and also in India a lot. There’s such a cultural difference. here people glare and roll their eyes, as if my daughter is the only one who throws a fit and I am a useless parent. In India, they are more empathetic and try and help to calm her down!

    Do people really expect that I stay at home with daughter till she is in high school or something?! really?

  7. Kevin says:

    Way back when I was a bartender. On Saturday afternoon a couple came in and sat at the bar and put their infant on one of the bar stools. I told them that a person had to be twenty one to be sit at the bar. They said “but this is a baby!” Duh!!!!

  8. Nan says:

    I travel quite a bit on an airplane and for the majority of trips where kids screamed, passengers were cool. The reality is that they scream for only about 10-20 minutes, broken up throughout the entire flight. Having experienced a landing with congested ears, I am more than sympathetic to that pain. Let them scream, poor little guys, it’ll all be over soon.
    However, there are things that will drive even the most sympathetic passengers mad. One kid (whose parents were quick to annouce to everyone had an ear infection, both he and his sister) was basically given carte blanche to do what he pleased to calm him down. When it included standing up in the seat and pressing all the lights and call buttons, blocking the view of the climactic car chase scene on the monitor, a loud, deep male voice said, “Sit Down, Little Boy.” He dropped like a rock and we never saw him again. Awesome. I’ve also had kickers and I’ve had to speak to the parents to stop them. Problem is one mother wasn’t doing a very good job of stopping him and I found myself sitting there, biting my tongue wanting to tell the kid DIRECTLY to cut it out. Nowadays, it’s a social faux pas to talk to the child directly, but really it is very effective. He would have stopped because he suddenly would have realized that it was actually bothering a stranger. I don’t understand why people get offended by adults calling out rotten behavior directly to the kid. Save your voice and use someone else’s correction as a teaching tool.
    My recommendation, if your kid is a known terror, talk to the flight attendant ahead of time and ask her to speak directly to your kid if he misbehaves. They’ll respond to an authority figure and you can reinforce “you don’t want her to come back and tell you again” if it starts up. Then you can demonstrate how YOU listen to authority and do as you’re told. Nice little lesson.

  9. J.R. Locke says:

    These people, they are entitled deep down to the bone. You can be sure they were entitled before they had children and absolutely, parent hood has made them even more entitled. They’re the same people wo think they’re special and who don’t always flush the toilet in a public rest room if they can get away with it.

  10. Bob Dobbs says:

    Sorry, Steve, little or no hate mail here or at the NYT. You nailed it.

    As a worker decades ago in a chain restaurant whose motto was “food and fun,” I have complete understanding of what happens in a restaurant when children are not restrained in any way. Out-of-control kids is not a new restaurant phenom; what is new-ish is that the problem has climbed into the better restaurants. Brought there by, I suppose, the children I chased around the floor of that demented restaurant 35 years ago, now all grown up with their own kids. And not having learned much of anything.

    Off topic, something fun to share: I ate lunch over the weekend with my wife and a huge party of her friends. As we were settling in, one lone voice piped up to ask “Can we all have separate checks?” The lone schoolteacher in the group. He turned pale. We overruled her :-).

  11. joeinvegas says:

    Thanks for the post. It brings up interesting opinions.

  12. Nighthawk700 says:

    Whenever I take my kids out to a restaurant I try to make sure it’s during off peak times. A late lunch, or an early dinner (after making sure the restaurant isn’t busy, usually about 1/4 full). And with three young kids now, we tend to get take out more often anyway. Just saves all the hassle.

  13. Klaus Schmaus says:

    Absolutely 100% right. Period!

  14. mur says:

    Learning good manners and how to behave in public has long term benefits for the child. Years ago, I watched my siblings manage their children in restaurants. My brother & wife set clear expectations for their children, taught them good manners, and only took them to ‘adult’ restaurants when they could behave appropriately. Other diners frequently complimented the children’s behavior. In contrast, my sister pretty much did the opposite. Her children interrupted conversations, played with their food, and behaved as if they were eating at home, unsupervised. Guess which kids are now thriving adults, raising terrific kids of their own. And guess which ones are pretty much the opposite.

  15. SSA says:

    As a server, I have seen parents do some RIDICULOUS things in a classy restaurant. Here are the top three:
    1) Family of five sits down. Dad, Mom in their 30’s, two girls about 10 and 12, and a little boy perhaps 3 years old. Dad proceeds to walk into the waitstand and helps himself to one of our champagne buckets. I asked him if he’d like champagne. He said “Oh, no, we just drove 300 miles and Junior is a little carsick. That’s in case he needs to throw up”. I kid you not.
    2) Mommy and Grandma come in with a 3-year-old boy. After setting up the high chair, they ask if I can get mac’n’cheese IMMEDIATELY for the toddler because he might whine. Naturally, I get it on the fly. The Mommy then proceeds to DUMP IT DIRECTLY ONTO THE TABLE and lets her brat eat it with his fingers. Off the table. No plate, no bowl, no placemat… right off the table from a pile. Imagine the mess when they left. And they left less than 15% to go along with the three hundred partially-chewed macaroni pieces on the table and floor for us to clean up.
    3) Party of 16. 6 adults and their 10 kids, all under 10 years old. The adults got SLOSHED. One guy tells me “Hey, don’t put 18% on the bill, we’ll take better care of you than that”. The kids, with their parents drunk and oblivious, proceed to raise havoc. At the end of the night, the three couples ask for separate checks. The total bill: $1,040. My tip? $67.00. Assholes.

  16. Smitha says:


    Thankfully my daughter does great on flights and maybe one tantrum that doesn’t go for longer than 5 minutes – and usually it comes towards the end when she doesn’t want to get off the plane! I fully appreciate when the adult talks directly to the kid. It makes it easier for me to also explain that it’s really bothering someone else and am not just making it up! Thanks for the tip, definitely will have a chat with the flight attendant on our long journey coming up!

    I don’t understand why it’s becoming such a faux pas!

    I do have to say that some passengers give such an evil eye even before we get settled in. I remember once I was having trouble putting the tray table back and the passenger in front of me assumed it was my kid and sternly asked me to get her to stop! She didn’t even bother to take her noise-reduction headphones off to let me explain it was me and not my kid! Adults can be just as obnoxious! ;(

  17. Peaches says:

    not sure if this tops SSA’s comments, but it comes close – was eating at a (well-known fast casual chain) restaurant; the child in diapers was sitting on the table! The party left before we did so we told the server asap so the table could be wiped off with something anti-bacterial!

    The children with whom I have had lunch in good restaurants (friend’s grandchildren) have all been well behaved, thankfully, and my friend doesn’t stand for misbehaviour on their part!

    As an aside, speaking of strollers! A local city has two holiday boutiques annually; they finally wised up and *banned* strollers!

  18. Lulu Bagdon says:

    I had a great way to deal with unruly youngsters. The station that I worked in on a regular basis was on the other side of the dishwasher room. The glasses went into racks above the machine. The guys could make lots of noise when they were busy. People would complain about the noise. I explained that it worked to my benefit. When kids were being bad. I told them we had a gorilla in a cage in back. When people didn’t pay their money or kids were being bad, we would let the ‘gorilla’ out of his cage. If you listen carefully you can hear him rattle his cage. On cue, the guys would throw a rack of dishes near the wall. Their eyes would get really big and they were then very well behaved!!!!!!

  19. Lynne Houston says:

    In response to Smitha #16. “What seems like only 5 minutes to the parents of their screaming child…it seems like 5 hours to the rest of us.

  20. Kingodnile says:

    Apperently, breeders will always win. A half a century ago a couple of attemts were made to sue the government over paying school tax by people choosing not to be parents. They lost. About 20 years ago I lived in an adult apartment complex, they had an exeption allowing for devorced parents to do thier weekend a month a two weeks in the summer. Shortly after I moved elswhere there was a discimination lawsuit against have an apartment complex be all adult. The breeders won again. There is an ebb and flow to life and I am just waiting for the population growth will trigger rewards for not breeding and the stoning of the Duggers.

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