Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Kid Bans Expand

Has anyone else been following the recent bans on children in various establishments with mixed emotions?

I have to say that my initial reaction is something along the lines of: "I kind of like the idea of places that aren't kid friendly putting up a sign that lets us parents know... because if they don't want kids there, I don't really want to give them my money."

At the same time I can't help but be annoyed every time I read one of the articles. I have a one year old and a three year old who know how to be pretty quiet. They sit through Mass at least an hour a week (that can be very tough). They find it much easier to sit in a restaurant and look at a book or color in the little coloring pack I bring along in a restaurant.

On the rare occasion that one of them is having an off day, either Paul or I whisk them outside for a few minutes and they're usually pretty eager to come back in to have some food after standing around being bored in a parking lot.

So I don't like being lumped into any sort of classification with parents who don't care what their kids are doing and let them run wild (I've seen it, when I'm with my kids and been horrified...) because... well... I don't belong there (and I imagine most of you don't either!).

Here's a highlight from the latest article (prepare to be offended):
"...Brat bans could well be the next frontier in destination and leisure-product marketing," writes Robert Klara in an article on the child-free trend in AdWeek.

Klara points to, a travel website for kid-free vacations, with a massive list of yoga retreats, luxury resorts and bargain hotels around the world that ban children.

"Call me a grinch, a misanthrope, a DINK (dual-income-no-kids), or the anti-cute-police, but I hate (hate a thousand times over) ill-behaved children/infants/screaming banshees in upscale restaurants (ok, anywhere, really, but I don’t want any death threats)," writes Charlotte Savino on Travel and Leisure's blog. She lists a slew of a popular destination restaurants with kid-free areas and policies for travelers looking for quiet vacation dining.

Traveling is one thing, but what about in kids' own hometowns? Should kids been banned from local movie theaters, like they were at a recent adults-only Harry Potter screening? In Texas, one cinema chain has even flipped the model, banning kids under six altogether, except on specified "baby days".

Even running errands with toddlers may be off limits. This summer Whole Foods stores in Missouri are offering child-free shopping hours and in Florida, a controversy brews over whether kids can be banned from a condominium's outdoor area. That's right, some people don't even want kids outdoors.

When did kids become the equivalent of second-hand smoke? Blame a wave of childless adults with money to spare. "Empty nesters continue to wield a huge swath of discretionary spending dollars, and population dips in first-world countries mean more childless couples than ever," writes AdWeek's Klara..." (picture from Shine Article)
I guess it makes sense. We can kill our kids in utero. They seem to be seen more and more as a commodity or an accessory. And now they're a pesky problem that shouldn't be seen at all.

These article have shown me one thing: I now appreciate the local movie theater in town here more than ever (although I must say, I can't imagine taking a small child to see the new Harry Potter movie to begin with!). When we took Sadie to a movie once we assured the owner that we'd take her out if she made a peep. The owner told us that was fine, but to make sure we told her if we had to leave... because she'd give us tickets to use to come back later.

I'd much rather give my money to a business like that, than one that feels an inclination to put up a sign banning all kids. So while I'm disturbed by the mentality behind the bans I am slightly thankful for the warning. Don't worry Mike Vuick... we don't want to spend our money at your restaurant either!

I'll keep looking for descriptions like "family friendly" when I'm looking for a new place to try. Kids menus are a plus too!


  1. I've been reading about that too. I made a comment to a friend and he told me that legally they can't do that. But I told him but they do and they are. He says it's age discrimination and these places could easily get sued. He said if you're a restaurant owner you can't only serve white people (think lunch counter protests and whatnot of the 60s) so theoretically you have to serve children and their families.

    I'm not sure if there really is a law about children. I know that there are laws protecting race and gender. And I know kids and families are protected other ways, but restaurants?

    Maybe we should all stage a sit-in and see what happens. :)

    BTW have you seen this commercial. Totally disgusted me. I think the world hates children. Sad since everyone starts out as a kid.

  2. re: Harry Potter- when we went to see Deathly Hallows Part 1, there was a couple there with 3 small children. It was the late show, so not only were they exposed to a very dark movie, but they were kept up late and did fuss quite a bit. Our little ones were with Grandma.

  3. I can see this issue from both sides. I personally cannot stand to go out to a restaurant and listen to someone's ill behaved child scream/carry on/talk loudly. When I go out to eat it's so I can enjoy myself, not to be bothered by someone else's child. I also feel the same way about adults who talk loudly enough at their table to be heard by me at mine. So maybe instead of a "brat ban" these places should have an obnoxious ban. That would probably please more people. With two kids I can count on one hand the number of times we have had to remove one of them from a restaurant for being loud and that's saying something given that over the past ten years we have eaten out on average 2-3 times a week. My children are better behaved when they eat out than they are at our own dinner table because they have been trained to be quiet while they are in a restaurant. They even take notice of loud children and adults and ask why they're acting like that.

    So on one hand, I think it's good, but it shouldn't be an age specific thing. If the table of thirty-something women are being loud and cackling like a bunch of witches, they should be lumped into the same category as the whiney toddler who won't stop loudly saying the same annoying phrase over and over while the parents ignore her. The difference, of course, is the adults should know better and the child has to be taught/corrected by the parents. In most cases with wild children in restaurants, I blame the parents for not speaking up and stopping the poor behavior.

    The flip side of these brat bans is that people like me who can take their children out and have them not make a peep in the restaurant would in essence be discriminated against for no reason. If I went somewhere and was told my children were not welcome you can bet I'd make a big deal about it.

  4. I hadn't heard about this. I can understand top end fine dining restaurants not allowing children due to the nature, expense and atmosphere of the experience. (If, one day, I actually had the money and opportunity and decided to spend hundreds of dollars on such a meal only to have a neglected child at the table next to me, I'd be upset.) I don't think it makes sense though anyway taking kids to such restaurants. But food stores, restaurants in general, etc. banning kids is ridiculous.

    Deltaflute, I hate that commercial too.

    Much better commercial (though I wish they had left out surrogacy and IVF, but even those defend the idea that a person is a miracle no matter what):

  5. I have to say I don't mind this so much - and I'm a mother with a small child. There are family places, and then there are more adult places. Not all parents are on-top of their children like you, myself or others that we know.

    Unfortunately, it's the awful parents who ruin it for the rest of us. But like you said, I'm glad they have signs up so I know not to bring my business there.

    It's their business, and their perogative, I guess. So maybe I'm in the minority, but this particular issue hasn't bothered me at all. I do, however, agree with Deltaflute - seems like the world really is turning on children... hardcore.

    It's all due to our Culture of Selfishness. :(

  6. There are no laws that protect children from "age discrimination" so what these restaurants are doing are perfectly legal.

    Honestly, I feel a bit mixed about the topic. Like you, I've been in a restaurant and seen parents who are completely ignoring their screaming kids who are playing cops and robbers in the middle of my meal. I think that maybe restaurants should take a stronger stance on dealing with these parents? Maybe asking them to control their children or leave (in a nice way, of course!) I do think, that it is wrong to punish all families with small children because there are plenty of parents that do the right thing.
    Nora@ The Dollar Hollering Homemaker

  7. I can understand restaurants and theaters (one here bans anyone under 18), but parks and grocery stores? I don't think that will fly. Except at the snooty and overpriced Whole Foods. This is an awesome video making fun of them:

  8. There are laws, though, that do protect children/teens that fall under the "age discrimination" category in the workforce. They aren't like the ones about not hiring because of being over a certain age, but they are still age laws. This includes the number of hours a child can work, the age the child has to be in order to work, etc. The idea is to protect children from being misused by employees for cheap labor.

    Then there are laws that protect the rights of children (and parents). For example, most states have laws that say you cannot discriminate against families who want to rent from you. There are others like that out there.

    So theoretically because there are laws protecting children from things like "age discrimination" although again not the same way as someone 55 years old looking for a job. Now are there laws protecting the rights of children to enter businesses like there are for the adult population; apparently, not, since there haven't been any law suits that I'm aware of.

    This isn't the first time this has happened. There are a number of shopping malls that don't allow children under the age of 13 to come in without a parent. But this is the first time I've heard that children with parents aren't allowed in. To me that's wrong. I understand not being held responsible for a child without a parent, but if the parents are there, then it's discriminating against parents and the child. Which is different.

    I think my biggest problem with the whole thing is two fold: 1) society has a problem with kids and 2) society is forcing parents to a certain level of perfection. I know people here have written that their children are great in restaurants but sometimes even the most well behaved child has a melt down. It's entirely unfair to blame the parents for being "bad parents." As one person remarked sometimes adults act horrible too.

    Maybe I'm being horrible and unfair by saying this, but people just need to get over it. There's only so much a parent can do. I've seen my fair share of kids making scenes, but I've never been cruel and gotten nasty with the parents. Yet, I've seen it happen to other parents. It's a double standard.

  9. Those are great points Delta Flute!

    And I should have been more clear, because we certainly do have an occasional meltdown (and we're heading into the age range with Mae where it's more likely to happen). The only time I'm bothered in restaurants is when the parent's play into the drama or pretend it isn't happening.

    Two incidents I've seen come to mind. One was a little girl, about eighteen months old, screaming "Mama!" over and over again while her mother read a newspaper, without looking up once. It lasted for a good half hour and was painful to watch because you just felt so bad for the child.

    The other was when Sadie was a newborn and we were at a family diner. I'd gotten her to go to sleep, and she was at the age where she slept a lot, but I had a feeling it wouldn't last when we saw who we were seated by. A boy, about four, raced around the room, slamming into other customers chair and tables and yelling, while his parents and grandparents sat at a table laughing while the dad told a story about giving the little boy beer.

    When a parent is trying to calm the child, or takes the child outside, I find myself relating to them. It's the other situations I think most of us think of when we think of nightmare situations.

    I definitely see your two points more and more clearly when I hear people talking about kids though... and I've seen as many obnoxious adults on cell phones (or just being rude to everyone around them!) that could use a time out too... It's just kind of mind boggling!

  10. I can see both sides of it.

    I don't recall ever being permitted to make a fuss in public at restaurants or movie theaters--if I did, I was promptly removed. It was the expectation and I think it was pretty common.

    It seems like it's gotten far less common these days for a parent to do that. I think that goes along with what you said about children being a part of life and a responsibility (those ARE future adults that are being raised, they need to be taught about societal expectations of proper behavior) vs. an accessory to be ignored when they're not convenient (i.e. at a nice restaurant--why remove them if it's only going to ruin the parents' dining experience?).

    I think it's because of the latter attitude that more restaurants are having to put bans on children under a certain age. The few rotten apples spoiling the bin, as it were.

    In my state, the bar area of a restaurant (or any bar for that matter) is STRICTLY 21+. People wanting to avoid kids can sit at the bar. Heck, I've sat in the bar area with hubby in family restaurants simply because there was a shorter wait. And people who don't want to listen to obnoxious drunks can avoid the bar. It's a win-win!

  11. Oh, and I ADORE that Pampers commercial :)

  12. Personally I think a business should be free to ban any group they please as long as they post it publicly (like on the door and in all their advertising) so I do not waste my money on that business.

    I like the idea that I could know who the bigots are and thus make sure my money does not go to them.

    Let them ban, make it public and go under.

  13. Alright, I was trying really hard not to weigh in on this, but I feel I have to.

    I'll be honest; I don't really have a problem with it, but it's usually unnecessary anyway. The kinds of places I've always worked for as a cook don't normally have good menus for children (with the exception of the Hilton.) There was no ban on children, per se, but since there was little on the menu that they would enjoy, there were few children around.

    Hard as it may be to believe, there is a large market even in recessionary areas like my province for fine dining, and not all fine dining restaurants need to lean on the family platform to make ends meet (though I agree it would help).

    If I had kids, I wouldn't want to take them to places like Europa or Inn on the Cove anyway. Beyond finding it exceedingly dull, I don't think a child would react especially well to grilled lobster, whole stuffed red snapper, or some of the other, more exotic dishes I've prepared in the past. Having said that, I've known many kids who were more adventurous than many adults I have known.

    When it comes down to it, it depends on the setting. Places like Tour d'Argent in France don't need to ban children de jure... the menus and atmosphere are almost de facto bans to begin with.

    I'm certain this will be poorly recieved, but I don't mean it to be uncharitable.


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