Never frowned in front of a child making noise in the train? Or sighed at a mom who couldn’t keep her children still in the waiting room? Or worse, those parents who dare taking their kids out to dinner on Saturday night! What is your attitude with regards to disturbing children? And why is it important to talk about it? Well, let’s see!
Italy (and Germany, US, UK..) : no kids allowed in certain restaurants
A few months ago, thanks to the magical powers of serendipity, I came across an article in an Italian newspaper.
A restaurant in northern Italy had banned children from entering. And since then, a ton of comments were published (because, as we know well, the internet frees us from any inhibition) which, for a good part, supported this decision. I even believe that the restaurant in question has seen its customers double.
In fact, I remained speechless in front of people’s harsh words : “I can’t stand children”; “I didn’t want to have kids myself, so I don’t see why I should put up with other people’s children”; “today’s parents are incapable of raising their children well”; and so on.
Some declared that, abroad, “You can immediately recognize Italian children!”; that other cultures are different and parents know better how to raise children in a proper way.
Others responded by accusing them of lack of empathy and support for parents (a minority nevertheless).
Who is right ?
Yes, I happened to surprise myself comparing my (noisy, full of life, always moving) children with calm and silent others’. Indeed, especially abroad.
I was also relieved when seeing other children as noisy as mine, or even more; not only Italian but even German, or French..
As always, it is not by generalizing that we will understand the phenomenon.
Take this episode. Still in Dresden, I went to have dinner with my children, a girlfriend and her kids. We were 6, of which 4 children aged between 3 and 9; we chose a fairly casual pizzeria, and got there early.
As we had improvised our outing, we had almost nothing to distract the children, so we just had to engage in a common conversation.
Sometimes they raised their voices a little, they even got up to go look at the ice creams; and we had to follow them a couple of times to make sure they didn’t run nor disturb the waiters.
Behind us, another table of 6: 5 adults and a child, probably 6 years-old.
The child had the headphones on and a tablet; completely isolated from the rest of the world, while the adults were talking. He never got up and we never heard him.
What do you think about it? Is there a better solution than the other? Should we go into more or less violent debates, let our judgments flow?
Children, scapegoat for discontent?
For a whole period of my life, I took the train regularly. Many times I would have liked to sleep or rest, but I had to listen to my neighbors’ phone conversations.
Many times, I found the toilets in such a state .. which I will not discuss today. Then, there are those who push you to go through. Those who don’t say hello. Or, those who eat making noises and leaving everything dirty around them.
There is a lack of respect for the other behind all that; and of course, if we don’t teach that to our children, they will not learn by themselves.
But here’s the thing: we can’t forbid access to disrespectful people in public places, can we?
On the other hand, we can identify certain categories of people, such as children. Is this reaction, then, a kind of general “fed up” thing that scapegoats children ?
The reasoning behind the “no kids allowed” movement
Maybe it happened to you too. To come home tired, want to do something and not being able to because your child starts crying / protesting / screaming / messing up.
Or, to want to rest on the train or plane, and not be able to because a kid next to you doesn’t stop screaming, laughing, talking aloud, moving..
What makes someone lose all tolerance and think only of their own well-being? People who commented on the decision of the owner of the restaurant gave different reasons.
One person wrote :
“I regret when I was a child and people had more respect. The parents thought of the children first, before thinking about themselves; the children had to sit at the table and eat everything on their plate.”
- Did these children suffer from being forced into rules that did not respect their development?
- Did these parents suffer from neglecting their own needs, reversing their frustration over their children?
- This bitterness is therefore a reaction to an injustice suffered in childhood?
Connected : Theory of mind and children’s social development
Behind each bitter protest.. a hidden need
I can clearly identify some main basic needs emerging :
the need to see that the rules of living together are respected by everyone;
and also the need of parents to be supported in their daily struggles (let’s not forget that 50 years ago, life was slower and families could easily live with a single salary).
to conclude, children’s need as that their development and possibilities are taken into account
On a large scale, that’s what sometimes happens at home!
When my husband comes home, he gets easily upset when he sees our children’s mess.
For my part, I get angry because I would like him to understand my efforts to be empathetic with children, to spend time with them even though working.
Children are not always able to focus on their movements and avoid spilling stuff on the floor, and they react in their own way to fatigue, dad’s cries, the urge to play instead of tidying up etc.
Does it ever happen to you? How can you find the balance between a fair amount of discipline, respect for each other’s needs, while often having little time and energy?
speaking of which.. You can print a beautiful visual rendering of the strategies for conflict-solving, to use with your children!
What is a happy child ?
Let’s come to the hard core of the matter. A child learns, all the time.
He learns to know himself, to know his internal limits and the external ones; to express himself and to bond with others.
He discovers his body.
A happy child is not a child without rules, on the contrary!
Connected : why children do need rules and discipline.
But he is, on the other hand, free to express his needs and his emotions, although he doesn’t yet know how to do it (and besides, the development of his brain doesn’t allow him to completely control himself).
A happy child, therefore, cries and screams. He hits, sometimes.
He plays a lot, he dances he moves he jumps he laughs. A child who obeys us all the time, who remains in silence and without moving, seems to me rather a suffering child, whose needs are denied. And, don’t forget, a child is happy when his parents are, too !
Hence the importance of not neglecting our own needs either.
The advantage of a happy child in the long run
A child who can express his emotions learns to identify them, express them and relate them to his needs.
He learns to bond with other people, to respect the limits of others too.
To make it short: a happy child becomes more easily a balanced and responsible adult. An adult who is self-disciplined, communicates with empathy and respects others.
Don’t we need a world with more adults like this? Who, ultimately, love life and will work to transmit their enthusiasm, their happiness, their love?
No kids allowed.. Which consequences ?
My son absolutely wanted to take his little bike to the market.
It was sunny, a warm winter sun. I knew that otherwise he would have made a fuss to go .. and besides, how can he learn if I don’t let him use it?
So, I recalled the rules, and hop we went.
For about half the time, I couldn’t help but yelling : “Stay on the right!” (But what’s the right mom?!) “Don’t stop in the middle!” and so on.
I was so stressed out because we were on a bike lane where people normally like to ride pretty fast (me included when I’m childless).
To my surprise, they were all kind. So many smiles!
Even though we were really bothering them.. !
Now the problem is that when people start looking bad at you, making comments or worse, then you end up stressed and panicked every time you need to leave the house.
You try to control your kid; and if on one side, it is a very good thing for him to know the rules, especially when it comes to safety and respecting others, you don’t enjoy life a whole lot nor learn much with a helicopter parent barking at you and limiting your possibilities to experience things on your own.
Moreover, unconsciously, this favors a tensed atmosphere, where you feel observed and judged.. where you can’t let go.
Consequences of judgment on parents
At the base of any relationship, but especially with a child, there is empathy.
Remaining attentive to the needs of the child, to accompany him with the right balance of kindness and discipline, is a tough job.
It requires a fair amount of work on oneself.
It is difficult, if not impossible, to stay connected to our child if we are tensed and worried of other people’s judgment. Maybe they’ll think I’m a bad mother!
That I’m not capable of raising my kids..
This kind of thinking settles in from birth, and according to the person, it can really be a source of stress.
Now, a little empathy for the parent: when the child “disturbs”, the parent is in trouble!
And sometimes he doesn’t realize it: let’s see the case of all these parents quoted in the comments that just sit at the restaurant’s table letting their kids run among the waiter’s legs.
I’m not defending that parent, but I say: instead of generalizing, and of judging, we could offer some help.
The consequences of judgement on the children
- There’s a direct effect :
the judged child feels labeled and will either try to take revenge, or feel void and incapable – in one case, rage and frustration will be directed outwards, in the other case, towards himself.
- And an indirect effect:
Parents who feel judged, under stress, will have trouble connecting to the needs of their children.
The children, therefore, may be reprimanded, punished, controlled; in any case, they will lose an opportunity to get to know themselves and to learn to express themselves.
Of course, all this has no serious consequences on a single episode; but if that becomes the norm, then there is a big risk: for parents, to feel more and more isolated, not understood; up to either hating being a parent, or “hating society” under its different aspects.
And for the children, to grow up in spiteful, frustrated adult, not well in his skin. Yes, raising children is the parents’ business.
It’s up to them to take responsibility and not wait for an external entity to take care of it.
BUT in the end, making sure that parents have the best conditions to grow their children under the best possible conditions, that’s everyone’s business.
Because the more balanced and responsible adults we have, the better our society will be.
Each one should take his share of responsibility.
Why are we disturbed by children ?
I think what bothers us is the loss of control and benchmarks.
We live in a time when everything is accelerating, where it is easy to lose contact with our inner self, and with others.
We don’t always take the time to look within ourselves and understand what is important to us.
Forgetting to take us into account, we accumulate frustrations..
We therefore seek to “rest” in our free time by putting our little pleasures first: outings with friends, a beer on the couch; the silence when we wish it, the noise and the mess when we are looking for it.
And we explode when the children come out of this frame where we had the impression to manage everything, to control everything.
Because a child is trying to connect with us all, including our hidden child part. Children do not try to control, they live, they carry their noisy integrity, they express their imperfect world.
Individual or society ? An eternal debate
In the end, the debate for me comes down to one question.
What is more important to you?
Are you willing to put the well-being of society at the same level as your personal well-being, or does the individual take over? To you the answer.
For my part, I think that the community will always be stronger than the individual, because no man is an island.
It’s just a matter of time .. Will we look beyond the present moment, and let our children save us tomorrow?
Speaking of conflict.. Would you mind if I gifted you with a free poster?
Resources and references
I share with you some articles that I have taken as a reference, and useful readings as always! Links to Amazon in this page are affiliate links.
But first, I ask you 3 things:
Share this post if you found it useful!
What do you think? I’d really like to hear about your experience 🙂
You liked the article and you’re interested in joining the club and receiving food for thoughts and inspiring suggestions directly in your inbox? It’s over here!
How can we raise happy kids ? 10 steps and their scientific basis.. food for thoughts!
And to continue: happy children do become happier adults! Some evidence..
A very interesting article about the “kids banning” in Britain
And on a similar note, this is what happened in the US. (apparently, it’s a world-wide problem)
Excellent article : do we want our children to be obedient?
This book, Marshall Rosenberg’s “Non-Violent“, is source of great inspiration for me and I can’t recommend it warmly enough!
A little, but funny diversion off topic.. “French Children Don't Throw Food” is a funny, yet full of insights on the different cultural perspectives there might be on raising kids I read it while pregnant with my first daughter, already living in France.. and it gave me some interesting input to reflect on how different it would have been than raising my child in Italy.
30 thoughts on “No Kids Allowed : Should we ban disobedient kids from public places?”
Parents know best what situations are likely to stress their child out & how to manage their behavior, but I dislike the casually shrugged “what can I do?” stance… because the answer is clear….’manage their behavior’ because they’re YOUR responsibility. If I were I to say “ok, so CAN you stop them from drinking poison or putting their fingers into an electrical outlet?” the answer would be “yes” because this would have a detrimental effect on the child…..
Kids are lifestyle choice, the parent’s choice, not the general public’s choice, and there’s nothing we can do (did you ever even try speaking to parents about their child’s unacceptable behavior?….it never ends well) so we’re just supposed to suck it up. And no, we’re not all “in the same boat” because it’s the parent’s choice, not ours.
I flew upteen times last year (work) & without exception, every flight was disrupted by a bellowing child and/or feral seat kicker 9 times out of 10 being ignored by their parents. As well as a great disincentive to potential parents and a huge stress to other passengers, this sends the clear message to these young children that manners & consideration don’t apply to them and they can do exactly as they please, because other people in the vicinity are totally irrelevant.
The entitlement culture starts early & continues until we have a heap of selfish little narcissists.
This is exactly the reason why children are being banned from an increasing number of restaurants & bars, because parents can’t/won’t manage their behavior…..so, if you can’t manage your child’s behavior, don’t inflict it on the rest of us.
Dear Lily, thank you for adding to the debate and sharing your experience. I also went through the same situation, and I know how annoying and disturbing it can be.
I do believe as well that it’s the parents’ job to teach their children how to behave, and to avoid them disturbing other people. I’m surely not saying that since you have kids, you can leave them do whatever.
However, I do think that it’s in the society’s interests to learn to communicate with empathy on one hand, and to prime compassion and understanding.
Translated: of course you have the right to ask the parent to stop a behavior which is annoying to you. One thing though is saying: “Your child is kicking on my seat and it’s really disturbing, could you tell him to stop?” And another is saying, for instance, “If you’re not able to control your kid and you don’t even care, you shouldn’t take a plane! You parents think that you can just leave your child do whatever he wishes and look at where the world is going” – just because in one case, the other person will feel (I assume) sorry and apologetic, while in the other, feeling accused, will probably fire back.
And: of course I agree that there are parents who don’t seem to care. But we don’t know the whole story, for once (like, maybe they haven’T slept a whole night straight in months and don’t get any help and work full time); and second, I don’t think it’s fair to ban one part of the population from places, just because there are examples who behave badly. There are many parents who do care and do their best, as well as many adults who aren’t parents and behave with lack of consideration to others.. And I do think that lack of consideration and respect should be addressed, regardless of the age and status.. but always with empathy and respect on our side 🙂
Empathy & respect I completely support, and this should be a two way deal. It’s not just parents that may be tired, possibly for other passengers it’s their second or third flight of their journey, this doesn’t make their tiredness any less valid. There are also people, like myself, who suffer from misophonia. A screaming toddler can induce a panic attack….. are we worthy of the same consideration as a tired parent, or maybe our needs aren’t considered as valid?…..
There is, however, a world of difference between parents who actively manage the situation & those who shrug nonchalantly “ah kids will be kids” and allow their children to create chaos because “it’s hard being a parent”……
Unfortunately it’s parents of the latter variety who cause restaurants to implement child-free spaces.
really ever in restaurants or in public. I like to say that “I’ve been that guy” on the plane with a crying baby apologizing to everyone so I know how it feels. And guess what, the parent with the crying kid doesn’t want to hear them crying either. To ask them if they could stop the child is the worst question ever. “NO, I was planning on having them scream for five more hours on this flight”. I do however see parents who try to do nothing about their kids running around in a restaurant when they should be teaching them how to act. They can actually learn if you talk to them and teach.
I took my kids everywhere with me…on purpose, because I wanted them to be exposed to everything and learn how to behave and be courteous and respectful and also to not be shy. I also didn’t put up with their crap either and they knew going in that they needed to behave or there would be consequences in the form of things being taken away etc. It’s not the kid’s fault most of the time. Also, some unruly kids also suffer from autism or some form and we don’t know it because they “appear” fine. My sister always tells the staff that my great-nephew has autism any time she walks into an establishment so that they know he’s not just misbehaving. I guess these are times that we must exercise tolerance and empathy and not anger and judgement.
There’s places that advertise as kid-friendly, so why can’t there be the opposite? I see it as, maybe parents want a date night without any kids, theirs or anyone else’s to interrupt a rare night out. If the restaurant wants to advertise their policy and can make money from it, awesome. More power to them. I’ve rarely had kids be really disruptive, but if I’m tired or have a headache, it seems worse than what it probably is. The biggest problem, in my opinion, is everybody is offended by everything. We were all kids once. We were loud, needed to explore, and had boundless amounts of energy. I’m glad you create an environment for yours that encourages that and focuses more on time spent with a kid instead of on a perfectly clean house.
Yes, it should just be common sense, right? I agree. But I also find there’s a trend where people get easily offended, and there’s a tendency to judge instead of trying to understand, which ends up with those huge misunderstandings.
Such a unique topic. I think that it definitely depends on the parent. I have 2 kids 2 and 8 months and I know that taking them to a theatre or festival or even a nice restaurant is not going to end in a positive experience for us or other customers so I avoid that. I know my two year is going to throw at least one fit and probably actually throw something. Not because I’m a bad parent but because he doesn’t yet know how to regulate his emotions and I make the decision on where I should take my kids.
It really depends on the parent Jennifer! And probably those who let their kids running around don’t pay too much attention to neither their kids’ needs, nor the other customers’. Which comes to a form of respect that should be common sense, like leaving the toilets cleaned.
This is such a touchy subject. Children cannot yet control their emotions, cannot regulate their actions. Even as parents it is not fair to discipline them for learning. So while leaving a place because of a tantrum is preferred to bystanders, what value does that teach the child? As a mother, I do not care what other people think, I will discipline my child in public as I see fit, even that means staying somewhere through a tantrum. You don’t like it? Leave, it’s a public place.
That is great that you can keep your focus on your child’s needs instead of worrying about what other people think! Not everybody is able to do so. It can be so difficult at times!
I wasn’t aware of the laws, but I’ve been very frustrated on several onccassions due to misbehaving children in places like movies, planes and restaurants. Not all kids are this way, but some parents don’t discipline them at all.
Some parents just don’t know what to do, and others may plainly not care out of disrespect. Understanding the fine line is probably crucial when addressing such situations : the former parent may just need an understanding look, the other needs discipline himself 😉
This is pretty interesting. I think for me it is about perspective. I understand where you are coming from and seeing ‘No kids allowed’ in some places that you think should be public is shocking, yet, there are alot of places that we ensure our children never enter, because it will not be right for them at all. Not everyone will be pleased in every situation, and there are some things that just are. We all need to be more empathetic and show our children that it is safe to be themselves and to also exercise reasoning. Same thing we need to remind ourselves as adults as well.
I really like your change in perspective Ashley! Thank you for sharing this way of seeing things
I have learnt to respect the opinions of a child’s parent when it comes to restaurant etiquette because there may be more than what we know. There’s a big difference between a spoilt child and a special needs that the parents are trying to integrate.
I don’t have kids (yet) so cannot really offer any advice, but I suppose each child is unique and situations are never black and white. Perhaps some parents do not provide enough discipline, and perhaps some children just have rowdy/annoying/loud personalities!
I love kids…everyone’s kids so this is ridiculous. BTW, we were all kids! You are doing the right thing taking yours on a bike ride and for pizza teaching them as you go. Happy spring, Kippi
Interesting subject ! i guess our opinion changes with the time, or if we are parents or not !! but there’s clear evidence that physical punishment or forbids may be harmful in the long term – so why take the risk?
i have a 15 year old and it takes work and patience. Children are children and will engage and make mischief that is life. An amazing read and just shows where society is at. Children are the future and will be the doctors, nurses and everything else taking care of us when we get old
Interesting topic. People’s annoyance with children is very rarely the children but the parent’s reaction to their behavior. If a child is not acting appropriate for the environment, the parents need to address it, even if that means leaving. All people, even adults, should be respectful in public places.
Yes, I do agree!
I think that many parents are not strict enough to install certain values in their children like discipline. Nevertheless, it is never too late. 😊
I would never suggest that children shouldn’t be in public places. They have every right to be there. They need to be there to learn about life. Obviously, running around in restaurants, getting under a waiter’s feet could prove dangerous, but a bit of noise, chatting, playing, checking out the ice cream and even crying is acceptable. Babies cry…it happens. Parents get embarrassed and upset by it. I feel sorry for them.
I don’t actually have children, but if I am in a restaurant, and I see a child having fun, it makes me smile.
Oh thank you for your testimony! And please keep smiling. I can assure you, it is so simple but it is a practical help for parents when other people smile at them and their children, instead of frowning with disapproval. I guarantee you that one single smile can change a parent’s day!
There is such a fine line between not getting annoyed with rowdy kids and getting annoyed. I feel it all depends on the situation. I really have no problem when kids want to get up umpteen of times to go to the soda fountain, check out ice creams, check out the aquarium, walk about on the train or flight etc. However, if they do something wrong and do not apologize in spite of being advised to do so by parents or adults they are with, its annoying. Have you ever had a kid sitting behind you in a flight and kicking your seat for most of the journey? No amount of explanation or reasoning helps and I really feel for the parent as in public they probably don’t want to raise their voices.
Oh yes it happened to me and it also happened that it was my son doing it to the person in front of us. I had to get really mad at him to explain that he was disturbing another person.. And find some creative way to intervene, as in a plane, you can’t leave right? But probably what is most annoying for people is when parents do no react at all..
A very important subject touched by you which we all face in our day to day life. It is only when the grown up kids misbehave, I really feel parents have neglected to some extent their responsibility in their earlier life to inculcate the right discipline & values.
I don’t have problems with kids really ever in restaurants or in public. I like to say that “I’ve been that guy” on the plane with a crying baby apologizing to everyone so I know how it feels. And guess what, the parent with the crying kid doesn’t want to hear them crying either. To ask them if they could stop the child is the worst question ever. “NO, I was planning on having them scream for five more hours on this flight”. I do however see parents who try to do nothing about their kids running around in a restaurant when they should be teaching them how to act. They can actually learn if you talk to them and teach.
I personally don’t think I’ve ever had problems with kids. All the problems I’ve only ever read about online. And even then it’s only one side of the story so I try not to make snap judgements. I do understand how it can be annoying to sit next to a crying kid for hours on an airplane. But I usually just have my headphones in anyways.
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