A restaurant in North Carolina recently banned children under the age of five. They were forced to make the decision after parents refused to lower the volume of their son’s ipad game even though surrounding diners complained it was intrusive.
Both supporters and detractors have jumped in to comment, but I think my vote would have been to throw the parents out, and bring the little boy over to my table and actually engage him in conversation instead of shoving a computer screen in his face. The problem in this situation wasn’t the child, but the belligerent parents.
The first rule of Southern manners, is to always make others around you comfortable. It goes back to, “Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.”
I suspect if this parental duo ever had someone blast loud noise at them while they were trying to dine, they’d come unglued at the thought of such inconsiderate behavior.
I was lunching (much more fancy that just “eating lunch”) with my dearest friend Kay Kay. She and I were celebrating something or the other, since like me, she can turn finding a ladybug into a party. A couple with two children were seated next to us and the young’uns set in to screaming, throwing food, tossing napkins and yelping to the point we had to suspend our conversation. The restaurant owner attempted to control the situation, but the parents looked clueless — because they were. Little did the parents know they were seated next to two savvy elementary education experts who have controlled entire cafeterias full of wild children with the highly skilled “teacher look,” which causes children to hush, shudder, and gulp.
Kay Kay and I tried to catch the attention of the children for a second so we could work our magic eye trick, but in the end, the family left with the floor around their table looking like pigs had come home to root.
In case parents missed the lesson on taking children to a restaurant, here’s a little refresher course.
First of all, it’s great you’re eating out, because this can be a learning experience on how to properly conduct yourself in public. And God in heaven knows we need more lessons like that. (Maybe our politicians weren’t taken out to eat much when they were young).
- Set expectations before you arrive. “Hey little Farrah Jo, We’re going to a pretty restaurant where you’ll need to sit very still and quiet, but we’ll let you choose your vegetable — either mac an cheese or jello-salad. There will be pretty flowers on the table, and maybe dessert for sweet girls.
- Electronic devices don’t belong at the table. A doll or book will entertain without removing the child from the conversation. Crayons pack more learning potential per pound than any computer.
- Speaking of conversation, include little Beau-Bo. It teaches social skills and makes him feel valued, and engaged. If it’s adult-only conversation you seek, there’s an invention called a “babysitter” you need to consider. (Mew Maw usually works for free).
- Decide ahead of time which parent will take Junior out and let him walk around a bit if he gets antsy. Explain you’re just so sorry, but he can’t return until he calms down. Then be prepared to eat the rest of your dinner from a to-go box at home.
My own politically incorrect way of handing my children was to locate a door in the restaurant as we entered, point to it, and tell them, “That’s the spanking room. Don’t make me take you in there!” They were amazed that every restaurant we visited had a spanking room. And not once, do I ever remember having to use it.
Buck up parents. Treat other diners the way you’d want to be treated. When your child throws a tantrum and you act as if nothing’s wrong, we don’t dislike your child, but we think you are goof balls. Wild behavior from children every now and then is natural, but doing nothing to address it is not. Don’t be afraid to use the evil eye. It’s not just for teachers, you know.
This story first appeared on AL.com and in their Alabama newspapers.