Restaurant owners are fed up. Parents have been bringing children to their otherwise decent eating establishments. Children get in the way. They are loud, and they are messy.  What to do? What to do? Ban children under age 6.

When I first heard about this, I thought surely this move would put them in the red. The more I heard and thought about it, the more it seemed like the restaurant owners could cash in with all those people who don’t want to dine with children.

I like being able to take Simone and Nadia with us for a bite to eat. Ken and I take the girls to family friendly eating establishments, the ones with kids’ menus and Crayons. If we’re going out, it’s for lunch, where the crowd is smaller and the menu is less expensive. If we dine at night — and we rarely do — we go early. Children don’t take long waits well, and nothing gets in the way of our nighttime bath routine.

When trouble arises, we act fast. We packed up and left a restaurant one day when our girls wouldn’t listen to us. Going out is a treat. We also scoop them up and take them outside if they start to wail.

The general public doesn’t love my kids like I do. While banning children seems extreme, some restaurants know what their customers want. I still wonder what will happen when those young children grow up. Will their parents skip those establishments that weren’t friendly to them and take their money elsewhere? We shall see.

What do you say? Should restaurants ban young children?


9 thoughts to “No Children Allowed

  • Beth

    Glad you raised this. It’s a pet peeve of mine …

    Kids learn social skills in new situations. Taking them to family-friendly places–when they’re very young–is the way to go. I resent PARENTS who allow their youngsters to whine, cry, and generally carry on in any eatery and, specifically, in a tablecloth restaurant. How narcissistic can you get? “Love me, love my loud, ill-behaved kid.”

    As you note, dining out is a treat. And it’s expensive. When I splurge, I don’t have the desire or patience to overlook and tune out bad behavior by kids who would be better served by mac and cheese at home.

    Ideally, parents should take responsibility for their kids. Barring that, I’m all for upscale restaurants banning kids under 5 or 6.

    Wanna know how I really feel?

    Beth (mom, nana and family travel specialist)
    Frommer’s Washington, D.C. With Kids

  • Gini

    I have mixed feelings. My dd has been going w/us to all sorts of restaurants since she was a baby. Mind you, rarely high-end/fancy but I expect good behavior and only allow good behavior and guess what 98% of the time I get it from my dd. The 2% of the time when there’s been any hint of being loud or acting out in a restaurant…it gets shut down or we leave. While I may sound militant…I am really not — I am chill, calm but strict and persistant…the problem w/most kids who act out is the parents discipline or lack there of…I do think back to a business trip on where I had the night off and my Mom who’d come along w/dd came out w/me to dinner to a fairly fancy, definitely price restaurant and thankfully even at just a yo dd’s behavior was stellar and stellar enough among what I believe were worried mgmt that we got a free dessert and tons of compliments. Honestly, I think there are adults who should be banned…who talk loud, talk and text rudely with others, drink to much, are innordinately messy, treat the staff poorly, etc. at restaurants — so where does it end and really % wise do the kids really act worse than adults….I guess I kind of see both sides but ultimately a private establishment can do what they wish and I do wonder if in the long term those who ban will feel it…

  • Laura M.

    I generally respect a restaurant’s right to ask a patron to leave. So, it seems that it should follow that I might agree with the idea that a restaurant could ask a patron never to come in, in the first place. Not so. I have heard this argument before regarding children and dogs on the bus. Some people say they are too messy and too loud to be in a restaurant or ride on a bus. Will kids and pets eventually be confined to our homes? To a single room? I know that sounds extreme but how far will this go? I think a combination of people speaking out politely at first and then more forcefully is the answer to lessening the kids are loud and messy issue in restaurants. If other people in the restaurant ask the parents to please take the child outside/keep the child from kicking the back of their chair/or whatever, there will be a culture of not accepting the poor behavior of parents and kids. If kids never go to restaurants until some approved age (18?) they surely will not know how to behave then. And they people will be even _more_ outraged that some 15 year old can’t behave themselves at the table. Life is messy. Speak up politely and give people the chance to do the right thing. Do the right thing when someone asks you to or better yet before they ask you to. And wave at little kids who are playing peek-a-boo from the next booth over. It’s fun for them and you. 😀

  • TBB

    As a child-less person who primarily socializes with child-less folks, I don’t generally go to places that are kid-friendly so I’m not sure where all this is coming from in regards to full-on bans against children. I feel like I have plenty of adult-focused places available to me now, sans ban.

    That said, unruly children can pluck a nerve and so do their parents.

  • mamacandtheboys

    I just want to say how happy I am to hear that you ALSO will leave a place if your kids can’t keep it together. I have done that twice in the last two years, and both times the message to the kids was clear.

    I think parents are less and less inclined to do that though–for all sorts of reasons. But I am a fan of logical consequences!

    I love how succinct your writing is BTW.

  • Blanc2

    The market should be allowed to decide on its own. In certain markets, there will doubtless be restaurants that adopt “no-child” policies. Presumably some of those places will thrive catering to their self-selected “no-child” customer base. Others will find that the “no-child” policy results in diminished revenue and will thus be compelled to revert back to “yes-child” status. Either way, it should be up to the individual merchant.

    The question of whether it is incumbent on parents to teach their children how to behave in public is a separate question. I side with the camp that says, “yes, absolutely, parents need to teach these lessons to children.” Among other things, this type of training is essential to the child’s success as an adult, never mind it is consistent with notions of social decency.

    By the way, have any of you been to restaurants in Western Europe? My experience there is that parents give their children, especially sons, a lot more indulgence in terms of letting them behave as brats than here.

  • Logan

    As some of ya’ll have pointed out, a lot of the problem is the parenting in the situation. If a child isn’t disciplined, then they are going to act out in restaurants. But how do you ban just the “bad” kids that don’t have strict enough parents? You can’t. So while some families that do discipline their children get the short end of the stick, the majority of their guests will be grateful for the absence of kids. Not every establishment is going to ban kids. Like ya’ll have already stated, there are “family friendly” restaurants, and those aren’t really the ones up for debate here. Most of the establishments adopting the “no-kids” policies are the ones that are a bit more high end. There will always be some of both available. That’s how both will thrive.

    As for the comment that was made about asking parents with kids to leave the restaurant when they act out, I think that would just cause more problems than it would solve. Some parents (certainly not all) would take offence to such a request and would most likely start a quarrel rather than leave peacefully. If they didn’t get up and leave when the child started acting out, what makes you think they are going to listen when you suggest it?

  • Nadia

    I think it’s great to have the option to go to restaurants where children are not allowed. If more people taught their kids that eating out was a privilege that you earned, there wouldn’t be a ban in the first place. Why should my hard-earned dining experience be ruined because someone can’t be bothered to discipline their children?

  • Amaryllis

    Restaurants that try to get badly behaved kids in line, or ask a family to leave, are generally met with resistance. If a parent is not going to discipline their children on their own, they are not going to take outside advice, and will tell other restaurant patrons or restaurant management that it is none of their business. This is why some restaurants are banning children.

    However, no matter how well behaved children are, I have no problem with some restaurants banning children, or banning children under a certain age. Most high end restaurants either implicitly or explicitly refuse service to the crayon set because they want to maintain a certain atmosphere.

    Restaurants and other businesses cater to various markets. If there wasn’t a market for adult-only restaurants, hotels and vacations, they wouldn’t exist.

    I don’t understand all of this anger from parents. There will always be places that cater to children, and because a certain proportion of venues exclude them does not relegate parents to ChuckECheese and McDonald’s.

    I know quite a few parents that are happy that childfree venues exist. Even parents want a date night once in a while, and who wants to hear a screaming child when you’ve just paid a babysitter to take care of yours.

    I honestly don’t see this as an “us versus them” issue.

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