Restaurant Takes on Rowdy Kids

Restaurant Takes On Rowdy Kids
Should Parents Have to Leave Children Home When Dining Out?

March 22, 2007 — - Have you ever found yourself counting the seconds until your check arrives at a restaurant? Not because the food, service or ambience were lacking, but because someone's child was running laps around the place, hiding under the tables, and practicing his dinosaur roar at ear-splitting volume.

Or maybe you've been on the other side, out to a family meal with the kids, proud of their behavior -- which in any other situation might be called exemplary -- only to be berated by a fellow diner who believes that children "should be seen and not heard"?

Either way, the moment probably doesn't rank among your top ten dining experiences. Whether they're well-behaved kids bored of waiting for their grilled cheese to arrive or poor-mannered brats hell-bent on ruining a meal for everyone within screaming distance, the friction created by kids in restaurants is something many of us have experienced.

In one Chicago community these tensions reached a boiling point when Dan McCauley, owner of a local cafe, A Taste of Heaven, decided he had had enough of children using his establishment as a playground.

Heaven and Hell

One afternoon, McCauley said, he caught a pair of kids scaling the walls of his restaurant while their parents sat nearby. As the group was leaving, McCauley confronted Julie, one of the supervising mothers, and told her that she and her children were no longer welcome in the cafe.

"I was so shocked," said Julie, who out of concern for the children's anonymity asked that her last name not be used. "It made me feel like I was in the second grade, having my knuckles whacked or something."

The following morning McCauley posted a sign on the front door, thinking it would be a simple solution. It read: "Children of all ages have to behave and use their indoor voices when coming to A Taste of Heaven"

To his astonishment, the sign quickly provoked a strong response within the community. "We had like 50 or 60 phone calls," McCauley said. "People stating that they were really offended, and they would never step foot in here again, which really surprised me." A local newspaper even wrote that a group of concerned parents was going to boycott the cafe.

The Debate Changes

But then things began to change, when the story was picked up outside of the community and reported nationally. All of a sudden, McCauley said, the steady stream of angry phone calls turned into a tidal wave of support.

Letters applauding the restaurant's stand against rowdy kids began to arrive from around the country, some from as far away as Singapore and the United Kingdom. McCauley even received some small checks from supporters worried he would lose business.

The story reflects a debate that has long been simmering in online chat rooms and letters to local newspapers: How should children be expected to behave in public places, and especially in restaurants? Disciplinarians, advocates of hands-off child rearing, the childless, and mothers of six all seem to have an opinion.

The point of contention is rarely whether or not children should be allowed in restaurants, or whether or not they should behave. Most agree that kids are welcome to dine out as long as they don't make nuisances of themselves. But tempers seem to flare when the topic is addressed in public.

'It's Like Speaking Against Nuns'

Ralph, the husband of Julie and father of the children banned from A Taste of Heaven, said that while it was hard not to agree with McCauley, "What I'm saying is that there are ways to approach this issue without making parents feel uncomfortable, patronized, pushed away."

Meanwhile, Ted, a Taste of Heaven patron who gave only his first name, had his own theory to explain the nation-wide debate touched off by the cafe's sign.

"It was kinda groundbreaking," he said. "It's almost taboo. Children definitely are the one thing that you cannot speak against in our society. They are innately good. It's like speaking against nuns. You know what I mean?"

I'll formulate an opinion on the drive home.

Jinheim 17 years ago
It shocks me the number of people that let their children run rampant with no regard for their volume or capacity for annoying others. I think that execution would be the best solution.
Sartori 17 years ago
It drives me crazy when I'm out at a restaurant and some brat is running around like it's a playground. It always has. And that opinion didn't change when I got kids of my own. We go out to eat fairly regularly, and both of my kids (aged 6 and 4 now, or will be in a month or two) know they're expected to be on good behavior. For the most part, they behave pretty well. If they don't, either my wife or I will go outside with the miscreant until they settle down.

That said, we tend to go to restaurants that are fairly noisy and family-friendly for just that reason. (Red Robin is a good one). But scaling the walls? Please. That restaurant owner did the right thing. If your kid doesn't know the difference between a restaurant and a playground, then take them to Mc Donalds or Chuck E. Cheese's or something.

As a father of two, I wouldn't find that notice offensive at all. I say, more power to him.
Den 17 years ago
I saw this on 20/20, I think, and applaud the cafe owner.

Children need to learn...there are places they can run around like crazy monkeys and places they cannot. If parents have so little control over their children, then they can take them to McDonalds, and let them run screaming in the play area...they shouldn't take them where they will disturb the larger majority of patrons, ie: restaurants, movie theaters, weddings, etc.

Sometimes its just not appropriate to take young children to these places/events...that doesn't mean the child is a devil's spawn, it just means they haven't yet learned how to sit still for extended periods of time. So why make them miserable, and the people around you as well?

I heard the cafe's business had increased...*claps*...good show Dan!
ROzbeans 17 years ago
We threaten to beat Catherine within an inch of her life if she uses her outdoor voice. This annoys me to no end - I fucking came to eat my food, not listen to the little shits at the next table use their fucking crayon boxes as a motherfucking kazoo.

1...2..3, that's right, I said fucking 3 times in one sentence. I almost want to call the owner to personally give him my support. I love my daughter to no end but when we're eating, you act like a young lady and eat. It doesn't mean we're at McDonalds and you can friggin scream your head off, not that I'd let her do that there either. I'm appalled at the amount of parents who will ignore their children and keep talking to themselves.

Catherine's 7 and she does act like a 7 year old, but we'll drag her ass outside to the jeep if she doesn't behave. Recently while in Friday's she copped an attitude with us and Mike took her out to the jeep for 10 mins. They came back and she was quiet and grounded for 1 week from everything but eating to sustain her life and air to breathe. Parents need to buckle down.
Sartori 17 years ago
I fucking came to eat my food, not listen to the little shits at the next table use their fucking crayon boxes as a motherfucking kazoo.

Oh, my kids NEVER do that.

Their father sometimes does, however.

Slovman 17 years ago
Yeah, I side with the owner too.

On the one hand, it's sad to see that these steps have to be taken, but if parents seem content to abdicate all responsibility for their children's behavior, then it falls to the owner or manager to maintain a decent atmosphere.
Darsa 17 years ago
I never could understand what it was that allowed parents to totally ignore the beastly behavior of their children, in these cases. Climbing the walls??? Not only would my Jen be grounded, I'd be completely MORTIFIED! When we go to McDonald's or Red Robin we get silly sometimes, but I'm pretty sure I never had to pluck her from near the ceiling...

Kudos to the cafe owner!
Beli 17 years ago
I'm usually annoyed when people bring their young children to certain restaurants because you're not just paying for the expensive food, you're paying for the pleasant dining experience. Denny's one thing, but a classy restaurant is another. My husband and I know we have a lot of take-out coming up in our future.
Den 17 years ago
That's just and Ringo must understand the situation to even consider that 'take-out' may be a necessity for the next several months. What blows my mind is when parents really don't think what their child is doing is wrong, or is completely oblivious to it.
FyreGarnett 17 years ago
we try to only take my 2 year old to restaraunts when he's in a fairly cooperative mood and never when he's tired (made that mistake ONCE - never again... i still have nightmares....) we only go to family friendly ones where you expect a certain level of noise, but if he does get antsy and fussy and all that, we go outside for calm down and have even simply had them wrap up our food and paid. I see no reason to inflict a toddlers temper tantrums on everyone else. my bf and i do take his mod into consideration when making plans for meals - and have eaten home more than once when we didn't really want to!
vwinsect 17 years ago
I teach 8th to 12th graders and I see this kind of behavior in the halls and in class on the days before break. I have to be mean Miss W and behave like the witch in the wizard of oz..."I'll get you my pretty" insert evil laugh here. Seriously though, I hate to sound like the gripy old teacher from the netherworld but some of the kids I teach have absolutely no self control.
Temprah 17 years ago
I hate kids around when we dine out. And we are out probably 6 nights out of the week, not to mention lunches etc. I have no qualms about when a hostess takes us to a table next to one with kids saying, I'm sorry do you have a different table? Their mere presence can be a massive irritant to me. Far far FAR too many times have we been someplace and dealt with this type of monster. I'm not an advocate of hitting kids period (I never was spanked EVER) but some of the monsters we have been around make me want to slap the fucking shit out of them and then do it to their parents.

I was too young to be around during the adults only phase of apartments and such, and I mourn that fact. Seriously I would go to an "adults only" restaurant in a heartbeat. Kudos to the restaurant owner, because I am sure there are other patrons who were there who decided to never come back BECAUSE of the little terrors.
Verileah 17 years ago
I think if you own a place of business you should be allowed to make the rules. I also think that I would not go to that restaurant .
blazyn 17 years ago
I'm going to train my kids like my dog so they follow me, and when I stop they sit at my feet. Also they will only be allowed to speak on command and will eat out of a bowl on the floor. I think it'd be best for all involved parties
Sarah 17 years ago
*snerk* Yeah that will go over well with the authorities Blazyn.

We have two children. One we can take out anywhere and never worry about her behavior. I could take her to an opera followed by a gallery opening and she would be sweet and charming and quiet the whole time, until we got in the car and then she'd terrorize us for the injustice of it all. My other child I can barely take to McDonald's. I know what my children can and can't do and I do not allow them to be disruptive and annoy the people around us. It is rare that we go to dinner anywhere other than Chilis or Fuddruckers, because those places are loud and the behavior of our kids is less likely to set someone off. If we want food from somewhere else I pick it up and bring it home.

It will be that way until the youngest can control herself in public. So when there is a child that is running around like a holy terror and hell bent on making everyone miserable, I speak to the manager. I have no problems doing so. And a time or two, I've spoken to the child. I think I about brought one mother out of her seat at me, but her kid actually sat down and colored...go figure.
Verity 17 years ago
Hmmm... interesting thread here, it's pretty fun to see what everyone's thoughts are on this!

I gotta brag a bit here.
I'm a mother of 4 kiddo's... age range 12 years (or almost) to 11 months. As it is right now, I have no qualms taking my kids anywhere. Before you start yelling at me, and saying "omg.. you're the kind of parent I hate"... let me tell you... I have lost count of teh times I've had people come up to me (usually older grandmotherly types, but occationally other parents) and say "You have the most amazing well behaved kids" and out in public.. I do. We can go to a nice restraunt, sit down, and my kids will sit there & color & talk quietly until our food gets there.
Of course, my husband & I will sit there & talk with the kids & play the little kids menu games with them, instead of just sitting there talking to others & ignoring the kids. Frankly, I think that makes a huge difference.
anyways.. I just had to brag about my wonderful kids! Cross your fingers that Little Bridget will be as well behaved as her brothers & sister
Mileron 17 years ago
I agree with the posting of the sign.

I have been to dinner (multiple times) with two of the most well-behaved children that I know. They were quiet. They said excuse me, please, thank you, spoke gently. Sure, there were occasional, muted outbursts, but when is there not?

I have been to dinner (multiple times) in restaurants with children who are simply hellions. One incident stands to mind that involved kids rolling around on those fucking wheel-sneakers, rolling into and under my father's wheelchair.
Screaming. Crying. Yelling. Begging. Children who don't understand "no."

If the parents are unable to parent their children - including discipline and control - then the kids (and by extent, the now-enraged parents) should be restricted from disturbing the course of paying customers.
Adiene 17 years ago
Props to the owner. The bitch better be glad it wasn't me cuz I would have just called child welfare on her ass, made sure my security camera caught the kid scaling my wall so I have proof. Stupid bitch, and you KNOW.. if the kids would have fallen down got hurt she would have tried to fucking sue him.. I fucking HATE parents like this. With a passion!
I believe in letting kids be kids, specially this day and age they have to grow up so fast it seems, but there is a time and place for everything. I have 2 kids and they know mommie don't play that. I have tried my best to raise them with respect for other people, other people's property so on and so on. They know inside voice vs an outside voice and know when and where it is acceptable. I don't think I have even had to endure evil "I want to kill your kids" stares before in a restaurant. Thank goodness.
I have however, had to stop my shopping and walk out of Wally world before with Tony, and that only took once. Same with Jewel. Both of them where around 2 and 3 years old. But I wont put up with "fake crying, name calling oh and I fucking dare you to drop to the ground and try the kicking and screaming shit with me ... lol
Prosecution 17 years ago
In general at this point, my wife and I actually avoid going out because it forces us to interact with a society which generally seems to believe that people can do what ever they want. These kids are a perfect example. To be honest I don't like going to restraunts any more becuase regardless of the price of the plate, I seem to always get stuck next to a set of annoying out of control kids. I won't pay $60 to go out with my wife or $5 at McDonalds if I have to deal with that. Therefore I have to eat in. I can't even begin to imagine how many people out there are like me (I know a lot of my friends are), and how much business cafe's and restruants must lose because of it. If I had a restraunt in my area which did infact take a stand against noisey kids and patrons which distrupted my meal, I would be inclined to go spend my money there. I would say that a small local boycott by parents who seem to think that politeness manners and personal responsibilty are no longer necessary would be greatly outweighed by the number of people who want a quite evening out.

BTW I applaud the stand you and mike take Roz. I have just had a day where I got to deal with every out of control precoious shit in the world. Basic ideas like, "Hey lets not run infront of the moving forklift" seem to be absent. And parents seem to get upset when you stop the forklift and tell their kid to be careful. I got a nasty look for preventing a 6 yr old from getting smashed by a 3 ton vechile. Go figure. Next time I should do the world a favor and let their spawn remove themselves from the gene pool early enough not to cause any perment damage to the human race. Who knew Lowes was a great place for kids to play.

ROzbeans 17 years ago
When Catherine and I walk, we hold hands. I don't care how old she is, I just like holding my baby girl's hand - mostly because it reminds me of when I was 4 and my father's hand was too big for mine, so I'd hold his index finger which seemed like a lead pipe back then, but probably because I don't want her touching anything lol. I know she'll be 16 and I'll be hollering at her still not to move from her door in a busy parking lot until I come around to get her hand.

I suppose people mistake kid friendly with 'let your kid go wild'. Kids will be kids and I don't expect Catherine to be a little adult, I just want her to have a little common courtesy.