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Dirty looks while eating out with kids...

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I can't say how many times I have been out to some chain/franchise restaurant and gotten the WORST dirty looks from older people or people with no kids. Normally at Olive Garden or Red Lobster, but also at Outback or even Ruby Tuesday... I mean puh-lease- it's a chain that serves mediocre (at best) food. Not fine dining.

Maybe I am way off base, but as far as I'm concerned, if there is a children's menu, children are welcome. My kids might be a little loud or a little messy, but certainly aren't screaming or running around the table or anything. I wouldn't take them to a linen tablecloth type of place, or be out with them at 10 or 11 at night... but it seriously bugs me when people give me or DH the look, or exchange an eye roll when we are seated near them. We can't be expected to eat McDonalds every time we want a meal out.

Anyone else with kids that have the same experience? Or kid-free CH's that want to chime in?

(NOTE: While we recognize that some interesting perpectives were shared here, for reasons pretty clearly shown in this thread, hot button issues (such as children in restaurants) are off the table for this site. We've locked this thread and encourage everyone to take a breath, calm down and enjoy what we're all here for- great chow tips, not angry debate. -- THE CHOWHOUND TEAM)

  1. I don't have kids yet. Whenever my husband and I go to eat at a casual restaurant we know there's a possibility there will be kids there. I have NO problem with small children in restaurants (I actually think it's a great way to teach kids how to act in social settings), but I take great offense when parents allow their kids to roam free around the restaurant, scream or cry for minutes on end and just basically ignore them while ruining our meal in the process.

    I think kids in restaurants have gotten a bad rap lately and people are overly sensitive whenever they see small children. I think they assume the kids will misbehave just because they're kids.

    1. This post is sure to have lots of opinions. I will say- and not meaning to be snarky- could it be that your idea of "a little loud" may be different than the surrounding diners? If it has happened to you more than one time, I would take a look at the kids behavior. Anyone going to the type of restaurant you described should expect to have kids sitting near them. But their dinner should not be impacted by the kids.

      Our teen was able to go to restaurants from a young age- just was really well behaved ( and still is). I have some neices and nephews, however, who did not ( or do not!) eat out that often as they did not always use their "indoor" voices.Each kid is different.

      Next time you get the eye roll or dirty look, stop and see exactly what the kids are doing. I know that, as parents, we sometimes are a bit immune to our kids behavior.

      3 Replies
      1. re: macca

        I also think sometimes parents build up an immunity. There is a woman with two kids who frequents our favorite coffee house, and she ignores them while they scream and bounce, etc... One day, she and her kids came in with a friend and her kids, who were very well-behaved. We watched as her friend attempted to rein in the noisy kids, obviously thinking their behavior was inappropriate.

        1. re: macca

          I agree with you. Many parents simply tune out, or have learnt to live with, their children's behavior. I'm less tolerant than most when it comes to rudeness in public, whether it's from adults or children, so I avoid loud restaurants because I want to eat in a peaceful atmosphere. I stopped inviting parents who bring their children to all social gatherings. I also don't invite adults who have no manners so I guess that makes me an equal-opportunity curmudgeon.

          1. re: cheryl_h

            Parents who must bring their children EVERYWHERE are another issue.

            I generally don't mind kids if it's a casual place. However, I still think it is inappropriate for them to be inordinately messy or disruptive.

        2. I'm very vocally against bringing kids to upscale places, no matter how well behaved they are. But I see absolutely no problem bringing them to a chain restaurant, where people aren't paying a premium for a certain experience.

          That said, if people are repeatedly rolling their eyes, it's probably a sign that your kids are unusually disruptive. Unless, of course, it happens preemptively (i.e., before your kids even have a chance to misbehave) in which case your gripe is totally legit.

          10 Replies
          1. re: a_and_w

            Why are you against well-behaved kids in upscale places? I haven't seen it much -maybe two or three times- but when they're good kids, I find it kind of charming..

            1. re: spigot

              My feeling is that when patrons are paying extra for a special experience, it's really rude even to risk ruining it. Yes, your kids may behave well, but even the best kids occasionally misbehave. If they do, you will cost someone else their fairly significant investment. Think of how angry you'd be if you saved all year for one special dinner (maybe even away from your own kids) only to have it ruined by someone else. That's just not fair...

              1. re: a_and_w

                hmmm. I"ve seen loads of adults misbehave when overimbibing...I think well-behaved children should be welcome wherever their folks want to take em. I don't have kids and I when i waitressed my biggest pet peeve was parents who'd let their children roam underfoot. Hello? I have HOT food and drinks here. I hated that.

                1. re: nummanumma

                  I don't follow you. When did I say it was appropriate for adults to drink to excess at an upscale restaurant? The difference (and why your comparison is apples to oranges) is that you can't ban alcohol at an upscale restaurant. The reason is that people are paying a premium for a meal that includes booze and doesn't include kids.

                  1. re: a_and_w

                    Yes, any infringement on an evening that the money was saved for many months is wrong. But it is a public place, and with that goes certain risks. Is it right that others, whether children or overimbiding adults, ruin others' evening? Nope. But I have seen waaaay many more drunks over the top than kids at upscale resto. Does the patron have the right to overindulge in booze, nope, and should the resto cut him/her off? yup, but never never never does..

                    As I say below rude is rude. Manners are manners. I would much rather have two children well behaved at a resto than the drunken table.

                    And NO "paying a premium", being upscale and expensive does not mean as much as your liver can handle.

                2. re: a_and_w

                  Playing devils advocate here, but isn't this a double standard? Why are the people sans kids more entitled to a nice meal out than the people dining with a child? I'm not talking about a crying baby or a rambunctous toddler...but what about a nice meal out for a 7-year-old's birthday? Are you saying that child isn't entitled to a special meal out simply because they *might* act up?

                  1. re: SarahEats

                    I guess I don't believe children have any "entitlement" to special meals. There are, after all, plenty of other places to take a 7-year old for a nice meal that aren't what I'd call "upscale."

                    By contrast, when I pay for my "upscale" dinner, I think I'm entitled to get my money's worth. In practice, that means management and diners alike should refrain from conduct that risks ruining my meal.

                    Besides, let's be real. Bringing kids to an upscale restaurant is rarely about their preference or entitlement. It's about educating your kids at the possible expense of other patrons. Again, I don't think that's fair when we're talking about a significant investment of cash...

                  2. re: a_and_w

                    I guess I have had more special meals ruined by obnoxious adults than by kids.

                    1. re: thinaar

                      I totally agree with you. I am sorry but I know that I might offend some people here, but I rather have a screaming child any day than an adult that can’t hold their liquor or a very loud one!!! We have all been there, you are eating quietly with some friends or family and you have this group in the same restaurant that you can literally hear what they are talking about or they laugh so hard that you jump up every time with freight thinking a chicken was killed or something.

                      1. re: thinaar

                        I have no problem saying that obnoxious adults have no place at an upscale restaurant. The difference is you can't ban all adults and stay in business.

                3. as long as you go outside if the kid is crying, I'm OK with it. I've seen mothers just ignore the screaming kidlets and as a server, I'm always tempted to ask them to step outside for a few.

                  1. It's actually a pleasure to see kids who are well behaved in a restaurant. I hope I am not one of the eye rollers, because I do resent it when people don't control their kids, but hey, they are children and not entirely controllable. Now I'm going to consciously try not to roll my eyes in these situations! SarahEats is right, it's a good way for them to learn, as long as they are not spoiling it for those around them.

                    1. I am happily childfree and less than average in my tolerance of the "little darlings". I have no issue with kids in restaurants that you are describing, but I do take issue with them being loud and messy to the point of distraction...food everywhere, parents negotiating with Little Johnnie who doesn't want whatever is placed in front of him, etc. IMO, the fact this consistently happens to you may be an indication that your children are more distracting than you may realize. I know for me, I find oblivious parents more irritating than the misbehaving children.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Janet from Richmond

                        Adding to the oblivious parents being more irritating than the misbehaving children... I find overly disciplining parents to be just as irritating, if not disturbing. It seems like some parents scream at their children for the most minor of things and *this*, for me, is the worst distraction associated with children in restaurants.

                      2. (Let the flogging begin)

                        Fine dining establishments (those linen-napkin places) are generally--not always--but most of the time, places where Gentle Diners would never dream of taking kids unless those children are mature and foodie themselves. It might be a wonderful special experience for one of your kids to go with you to a fine place--just the two of you--now and then, so that they can learn about fine dining at a young age. But generally...those places...Their menus, hours and prices generally do not cater to the youthful palate. Furthermore, the diners there generally want to begin the process of making love to their significant others, their business associates or their filets.

                        Unless I am at a Chuckie Cheese (and if I am, you'll know the Space Aliens have finally made me a Pod Person), where carrying on is expected, I expect to NOT be able to hear my dining neighbor's conversations. Yes, this includes Outbacks and even McDonalds, unless I'm in the jungle gym there (see Chuckie Cheese comment above). To you, your children's exclamations about their pasta, their crayons, or their Bloomin Onions might be par for the course and charming. To others, it's just noise.

                        When I was old enough to use silverware, my parents drilled dining etiquette into me. One of the things was "when in Rome". If at a clambake at Uncle Ernie's beachhouse, I could, within reason, shout at my cousin to bring me an ear of corn, please, or not worry that I was leaving shards of kernels all over the sand. There was no one to slip on ice cubes left on the sand, to slip on corn kernels there, or to mind my yells.
                        However, if I was too loud at a place where it would be inappropriate to dine in a bathing suit and flip-flops--and that includes my own kitchen table for supper-- I would have been promptly and quickly removed from the place, to return only if I proved myself to be a polite diner.

                        It's true that you can't be expected to eat at McDonald's every time you want a night out. But you CAN be expected to raise children who are mindful of others' rights. Would you want another diner to blow smoke at your child? No. Likewise, they don't want your (and I use "your" broadly--I mean "anyone's") noise. Does this mean that the elderly or diners who want a quiet meal must opt for places without a children's menu--or pay the price, as you imply? Ruth's Chris might be tough on social security check.

                        Manners don't get checked at the door just because there is a children's menu. That's a wonderful lesson to teach your children, who might one day be parents themselves, and who only learn what you teach them.

                        That said, if I am dining next to your children and they raise a brouhaha once or twice, I will chalk that up to youth and have an extra sip of wine. More than that, and I will silently send cursewords at you in my mind.

                        Okay. Flog away.

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: thegolferbitch

                          This was really well-written. I was going to write something similar but I see I don't need to -- all I'll add is that good behaviour also means sitting in your seat and not running all over the restaurant.

                          Even good kids cry in restaurants -- but good parents take them out of earshot and calm them down.

                          1. re: thegolferbitch

                            It's rare DU and I agree but he and I agree wholeheartedly. Manners are manners, loud is loud, rude is rude. Getting hit with a french frie at McD's or an Escargot at La Whatever is just rude and wrong.

                            View this as a positive flogging from someone who raised two children who were never criticized for bad manners at a resto, yup my DW is a saint.

                            1. re: jfood

                              Years ago I was at a diner (yes, lots of kids/families, which was fine) and a family was sitting in the booth behind us. At one point I felt something on my head and their child (who was about 3 is my best guess) was playing with my hair (which is long and curly). His parents smiled and commented that he loved hair. Alrighty then.

                            2. re: thegolferbitch

                              "...I expect to NOT be able to hear my dining neighbor's conversations."

                              No flogging, but Whew!, you are one tough customer. I did enjoy your reply though, especially the bit about "anyone's" noise (it's not just the kiddos who can grate on every last nerve).

                              It's a constant effort for me to remain calm and "tolerant" in the face of (admittedly subjective) "annoyances," but I'm mellowing in middle age. At the best of times, a good friend of mine and I can laugh about loud blowhard guys who love to hear themselves talk or whiny dramaprone college women with the ubiquitous valleygirl inflection.... but put that in my face when I'm in the wrong mood and it can definitely ruin a meal. Then I remember that I have the option of staying locked at home by myself like the catlady down the block, and that being out among the teeming, gloriously varied masses is presumably part of the reason I go "out to eat".

                              We can (and will) lament the deterioration of manners for a long, long, long, long time, but at some point, I've got to reserve my stress and indignation for the really important things (assuming there are any).

                              1. If the children are quiet and well behaved I doubt you would consistently get dirty looks. Maybe they need lessons in etiquette?

                                1. I'm a 39-year old kid free Chowhound and I think the behavior you're describing is incredibly rude. Just because you have children, you shouldn't be expected to eat fast food all the time or stay at home. How are kids going to learn how to behave in a social setting? Certainly, there are kids whose parents let them run wild, and that is unpleasant. But more frequently, I see kids acting just fine. Yes, they're sometimes a little louder than other diners, but I've probably had as many meals seated next to badly behaved adults as unruly kids.

                                  I have a friend who has a two-year old who I happen to know is very well-behaved. They went to dinner at a medium-priced restaurant not long ago, and the couple seated next to them complained to the manager about the manager ALLOWING my friend and her husband and two-year-old to eat there. My friend was so mortified that she ordered her food to go and they left, the manager apologizing profusely the entire time for the other couple's poor behavior. I told her she was not the one who should have been embarrassed. Their behavior was totally uncalled for. The child was not yelling, screaming or otherwise misbehaving. He was sitting quietly at the table with a coloring book and crayons.

                                  I think it's unacceptable for people to go out to dinner to a public place and act ugly because someone dared to bring a three-year-old into Chili's. If you're going to go out to eat dinner someplace that is a family-oriented restaurant, you have to accept the fact that there will be little folks there. And if that's a problem, you should stay at home.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: Andiereid

                                    In the case you cited- the diner other diners were way off base- and the woman with the child was certainly not to blame. But- I will bet- if you ask your friend if that happens all the time, she will say no. Just the fact that she told you about this incident seems to imply it was a first time occurance.
                                    The original poster, if you read the first line, says she can't count the times she has gotten dirty looks. That indicates ( to some of us) that maybe the kids behavior is a little off base. And, as posters have said, it is easy to get immune to your kids behavior ( have you ever seen super nanny?)
                                    I think this topic proves that lots of people- regardless of their age- are not fun to dine near. That includes loud kids, and adult diners who think it is all about them.
                                    End of rant

                                    1. re: macca

                                      I definitely agree with you, macca - this was a first-time occurence. But I will say that as a childless-by-choice person, I have witnessed an AWFUL lot of pre-judging of parents with kids in restaurants where I feel it's not warranted. I personally have seen eye rolls and dirty looks leveled at parents and small kids in places like Chili's, Old Chicago Pizza - your typical family chains - upon the family being SEATED. Not even waiting to see if the kids are going to be hellions or not. We even got that one evening at a cheap Mexican place when we were seated next to an exceptionally snotty couple. We were with some friends of ours who had just had a baby and the infant was unconcious in his carrier seat.
                                      (Of course, maybe they were just giving a dirty look to me and my husband...)

                                      I will agree with uptown jimmy below that I think it's unfortunately too frequent that parents do not make their children behave in public settings these days (I've certainly seen my share) and I think maybe that makes people more 'proactively rude', for lack of a better term. And I don't think that's necessarily any better than having to peel a wayward child off your lap when you're eating at Ruby Tuesdays.

                                    2. re: Andiereid

                                      "Just because you have children, you shouldn't be expected to eat fast food all the time or stay at home."

                                      I agree -- get a babysitter.

                                    3. After many years of being the glaree (children now 18/22) I am now the glarer. The first reaction comes from huge number of data points, most parents view restos as feed day care centers. Over the years I have been hit with food, soda, ice cream and very rarely is the culprit reprimanded by mommy. In fact, they usually miss the action they are so engrossed in conversation with friend or relative.

                                      That being said I have also witnessed many children who know how to behave, or should i say their parents have taught them how to behave in a social setting. These children are welcome at any resto I dine at, as they need to be taught how to act at both McD's and French Laundry (their actions should be similar in both, i.e. polite and respectful)

                                      The OP comments about messy. I do not particularly like eating next to a table that views everything as potential fodder and if a parent thinks its messy, mr neighbor must think worse.

                                      As soon as parents understand that they are part of a social scene in a resto, not the basement of their house, and insist that their children act as such, the normal reaction will be OMG. If the children prove the initial reaction wrong, that's great, but my experience is that is few and far apart.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: jfood

                                        I agree that there are many children who know how to behave in a restaurant and on those occasions, if the opportunity presents itself, I will say something to the parents and the child or at least give them a welcoming "atta boy/girl" smile.

                                      2. Ooooof. Very touchy subject.

                                        We're child-free so far, and have definitely had really awful experiences at merely-decent restaurants, most recently at a local pan-Latin type of place. Three young fellows were standing directly behind, me shrieking and shouting not three feet from my head, entranced and excited about one of the many colorful decorations in the place. They were probably 6 or 7 years old.

                                        I was less than pleased, to put it mildly.

                                        The mom-in-residence gathered them up and shooed them out the door. She seemed a competent and good-hearted mother from what little I saw, but she was riding shotgun on her son and a couple of his rowdy 2nd-grade buddies for the evening.

                                        Two problems: first, there has been an obvious and inarguable decline in disciplinary and behavioral standards for toddlers and grade-schoolers in recent decades. Second, many folks seem to think that infants are appropriate in restaurants and movie theaters.

                                        Now I'm not trying to disparage your child-rearing skills. As far as I know your kids are well-behaved and civilized. But if so, they would be in the minority these days. Most young folks I see are jacked up on sugar, unable to sit still unless mesmerized by the TV. Kids are energetic to begin with, but that's why parents have long enforced certain rules for behavior in public. Unfortunately, those rules have largely gone out the window in recent years, from what I've seen. I chalk it up to the general decline in standards across the board in our post-modern society.

                                        Anyway, if you're getting dirty looks all the time, the kids are being loud. There will always be the occasional old fart who prejudges, but most folks are going to respond to stimuli in their environment. I hardly noticed those young boys until they were screaming in my ear. And I know one thing, it wouldn't have happened 30 years ago...

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: uptown jimmy

                                          Uptown Jimmy, I really like your reply. We seem to be living in the Era of Coddling Our Kids. Whether it's on a plane, in a resto, in the supermarket, in the subway (my last experience with an unruly kid who looked to be about 7 and who was crying and demanding on top of his lungs that he wanted a seat--which no one gave up, btw), it's a sad statement when kids who don't misbehave (and there are many of them) are singled out for being exceptional!

                                          I was once at a Starbucks when a kid who was running around stepped on my foot and nearly got my hot piping coffee dumped all over him. Now, if that were to happen, what are the chances that I WOULDN'T be reprimanded and possibly worse?

                                          I really don't mean to go on an anti-kid kick. There are great children out there who behave like gems when they're out, but it starts at home.

                                        2. I started training my now 13 year old daughter at a very young to behave in restaurants. I told her that if she could not behave we would go home, and then followed through. I'd tell her once and if the behavior continued I'd get the food boxed and leave. The issue usually is not the children, it's bad parenting. I welcome seeing well behaved children in restaurants but if your child is screaming, crying, or running in circles you will definitely get a look from me.

                                          2 Replies
                                            1. re: rhnault

                                              I did the same in grocery stores as well. It doesn't take them long to know you mean business...and they will behave.

                                            2. A lot of people have touched upon the loudness and rowdy issue. I've got no issues with kids, if they're well behaved. I actually like kids, even though I've chosen not to have them. I've got a different issue though. Messiness. Yes, I understand that children are messy, but as a parent, your responsibility is to clean up after them.
                                              When I was a waitress, I can't tell you how many times a family would come in with a little one (or even older kids), who would end up with half of their food on the floor. And it was my job to clean it all up. On that same line, I went out to dinner with one of my good friends and her one year old, who put probably 3/4 of his dinner on the floor. I was mortified when we got up to leave without even attempting to pick up one piece.
                                              If your kids throw or drop food on the floor, please clean up after them. It's not that difficult to grab a napkin and at least get up the big hunks.

                                              8 Replies
                                              1. re: QueenB

                                                Hear, hear. As a former wiater, I've seen a lot of kids in restaurants, and vile messiness is the norm these days. I should know, as I was frequently the one cleaning things up.

                                                1. re: uptown jimmy

                                                  I was just thinking of a time when I went out with a couple and their perfectly lovely and well behaved child. But he spent the whole time crumbling up a chocolate muffin, a very large one, and then his oblivious parents made no move to clean any of it off the floor. I found that unacceptible. But the thing is, as people have indicated, many parents become immune to these things...the server was very gracious but I could tell she would rather have not been saddled with moving the table, and bringing in a broom and dustpan etc.

                                                  1. re: prunefeet

                                                    I've cleaned up messes that were absolutely disgusting, and I grew up on a dairy farm, so that's saying something....

                                                    1. re: uptown jimmy

                                                      we do the following when we go out with our (extremely well behaved and charming) toddler:
                                                      option 1: we lay down a tarp under her high chair
                                                      option 2: I get down on the floor with napkins and clean it up as best I can
                                                      option 3: sometimes the waiters or owners will insist that they can clean it up, in which case I leave a bigger tip
                                                      option 4: I have a swiffer sweeper carpet thingy I carry with me.
                                                      That said, I am sort of saddened by the anti-kid sentiment on this topic. Remember, you were all children once too.

                                                      1. re: AliceS

                                                        LOL! No, this wouldn't upset me at all if I were out dining to see such a self-involved production going on! That wouldn't detract from my dining experience at all. Are you serious about this?! Or is this a joke?

                                                        1. re: chow_gal

                                                          Yes, this has to be a joke, no?...a tarp? What's next, bringing in your own vacuum cleaner?

                                                        2. re: AliceS

                                                          Yes, I was a child once and ate out with my parents frequently. At the first sign of misbehavior on my or my brothers' part, we would have been out in the parking lot having a most unpleasant interchange with our father. We were very well-behaved in restaurants (and elsewhere).

                                                  2. re: QueenB

                                                    When my son was little and we went to any restaurant, chain, non-chain,or fastfood, my wife and I would always be under the table before we left picking up wayward food and Cheerios. We took my son everywhere, and the moment that he acted up or cried, I'd pay the bill and get the food to go as my wife was heading towards the door so not to bother anybody. My son is 7 now and loves to sit at the sushi bar watching as they make his rolls. He's perfectly behaved in restaurants because we never tolerated any less.
                                                    Children are children but to expect others to tolerate bad behavior because they are at Chili's is ludicrous. BAd behavior is still bad behavior even if your at Burger King.

                                                  3. Interesting comments- the kids are well behaved- and when they haven't been, we have packed up the meal and left, or one parent goes and sits in the car with the offending child. I'm referring to the looks you get as soon as you sit down, or start walking towards a table and you get people looking at you like "please, let them keep walking"...

                                                    One other thing is that I think we are MORE sensitive to the noisiness of our own kids, b/c we don't expect that behavior from them. And it helps that we have the same rules at home as eating out, so they do know what is expected of them.

                                                    We do take our kids out to make sure they learn manners and etiquette in a social setting. My parents did it, and we do it. I have friends with 4 and 5 year olds that have NEVER taken their child to a restaurant, b/c they are afraid they won't be able to manage their behavior.

                                                    PS- I think servers tend to tolerate kids more b/c parents with kids tip more to compensate for a little more mess on the table or the fact that they had to get chocolate milk refills 3 times. AT least I hope all parents are doing this.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: kloomis

                                                      My friends and family in the restaurant industry would find this notion laughable.

                                                      And you said yourself your kids are a little loud and a little messy.

                                                      1. re: kloomis

                                                        "I think servers tend to tolerate kids more b/c parents with kids tip more to compensate for a little more mess on the table or the fact that they had to get chocolate milk refills 3 times. AT least I hope all parents are doing this."

                                                        HA!!! I've yet to see this happen...are you kidding? Most parents I've encountered in this situation are totally oblivious, or maybe they're prentending..

                                                      2. i don't have kids yet, but i have no problem with people taking their children out, as long as they're reasonably well behaved. The only time i would give dirty looks is if the child is grossly misbehaving and the parent is ignoring it. i have been to restaurants where children have been standing on the tables yelling, and running around the place bumping into people and inturrupting other peoples meals. THAT TICKS ME OFF!

                                                        i like well behaved children tho, and i respect parents who teach their children acceptable behavior in public places.
                                                        I also respect parents who take the time to take their children out instead of leaving them with the babysitter every time (how else can you turn them into a CH after all?)

                                                        P.S. If i screamed in a restaurant and wouldn't listen to my parents, i got paddled. And it worked.
                                                        Not saying anyone else should do it, lest you get sued or taken to child services or something, but it worked and back when ppl spanked their children, children were better behaved.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: RiJaAr

                                                          I would buy the argument about turning the kids into CHs much more if OP weren't eating at places like Olive Garden, Ruby Tuesday and Outback!

                                                          For the OP: I suspect that if you are getting lots of looks you do need to consider the possibility, as others have suggested, that your loudness and messiness meters are a bit off. However, I would throw out the following scary additional possibility to consider: despite the children's menus and 'family atmosphere', there are a number of people who think that Outback and such are places for a special adult evening out. no. really. this could explain some of the preemptive looks.

                                                          You might want to consider taking your children instead to smaller, family run, non-chain, lower end, ethnic spots, and see if you still get the same looks. My neighborhood Chinese, Mexican and Vietnamese places serve food that is much better than Outback's could ever hope to be, and are very family friendly. A plus: at least you will then be teaching your children the value of chowing in addition to proper manners!

                                                          1. re: susancinsf

                                                            "You might want to consider taking your children instead to smaller, family run, non-chain, lower end, ethnic spots, and see if you still get the same looks."

                                                            i have to agree, my favorite chinese restaurant has their 5 yr old son be our waiter. Granted he's usually a really great kid, gives us our cutlery and drinks, we write down our order for him and he takes it to the kitchen and then brings us each one of his stash of chinese candies... and when we leave "thankyou, come again"
                                                            cutest kid ever, although he hangs around our table the whole meal because he loves my brother, who usually comes with us.
                                                            anyways the point of the story, smaller family run places like that are usually more relaxed and the people who go there aren't uptight and snobby. your kids will probably be welcome and end up playing with the owners kids in a corner somewhere.

                                                        2. I took my kids out alot,very frequently... and everywhere...including white table cloth restaurants. Many of the best in L.A. in the 80s/early 90s. When making a reservation at a nicer or finer type restaurant, I always asked if this would be OK. Meaning, do they feel comfortable with a well behaved child. I needed to know we were welcome. I always said feel free to put us in an out of the way spot. I always went early, 6pm, and never stayed too long, two hours was max..the very max.

                                                          I always brought things to amuse my kids such as coloring books, action figures to play with, a few legos to manipulate...they happily sucked on ice chips when they were very little! I tried to be sure they were not sick or tired.

                                                          Once when I told a restaurant they could put us in any corner, as I was told I was bringing a two year old. I was told "you may have any table in the house." This I particularly remember, it was gracious, at the now gone original Chianti. before. And so my guy was able to celebrate a special birthday with his grandmother, who courted my father at this restaurant more than half a decade ago. He was dressed in a little suit and tie! An experience none of will ever forget...this time the baby was left behind!

                                                          ONLY once did I get the nasty look and comment from an immediate table at a Mexican chain....when my son let out a somewhat short, but a bit shrill, noise. Something apparently delighted him. A single event of the evening, and the party at the next table took their time to tell us to tone him down. Upon leaving, I handed kid to family and turned to them calmly and said..."Look around, this is a family restaurant, there are kids everywhere, if you don't like kids and their sometimes noise, go elsewhere, or ask for another table. I didn't wait for a response.

                                                          And finally, yes, kids can be messy, especially in high chairs. We always, but always, sought out the busboy and gave a generous "thank you for cleaning up" tip.

                                                          There is great value in kids joining the family table outside of the home. Today, my kids know how to dress 'appropriately' or what we deem such, and they love all kinds of dining experiences from fast food to the finest!

                                                          6 Replies
                                                          1. re: Jesdamala

                                                            Your son lets out a shrill noise, someone looks over with a "nasty look". You proceed to finish your meal and then go over and tell him he should go elsewhere or ask for another table and then leave without waiting for a response. IMO. I think you are were out of line. The person looked over maybe with as much surprise as annoyance and you give him a mini lecture and walk away? You should have gone over and apologized for your son disturbing his meal.

                                                            1. re: KTinNYC

                                                              Jesdamala made clear that it was a nasty look "and comment", apparently about "toning him down."

                                                              1. re: allegro805

                                                                If my son was disturbing a table for any, even brief, extended amount of time, I would have removed him from the restaurant, a walk around the block, taking food home. This was one noise out of the kid in over an hour. Kids were crawling all over the place, not mine, and seemingly nobody else seemed to mind but one intolerant table, or person..and my kid was not out of our booth for a minute or played with anybody's hair, etc. I would think the party next to us may have waited to see if this little person was disruptive, perhaps even a second loud noise. My kids started out as being 'centerpieces' in the middle of large tables in sassy seats. This was the ONLY time in a dozen years that something like this happened. I had no need to apologize to someone who was clearly at a family restaurant, surrounded by families, who chose to disrupt my meal with complaints. It wasn't Spago folks! And BTW, an earlier poster said they never liked to see children at 'white table cloth " restaurants under any circumstances. I personally enjoy seeing families in lovely restaurants with behaved children having a joyful experience.

                                                              2. re: KTinNYC

                                                                i think you sound like one of those people who gives couples with children dirty looks!

                                                                1)they were in a mexican chain, family restaurant, not a high end place.

                                                                2)she said the kid was well behaved and that it was a single event, and a short noise

                                                                3)If the kid is throwing a tantrum, thats one thing, if he made a sound because he was happy, thats another.

                                                                4)he didn't just look over, he told her to make the kid be quiet, obviously he didn't have children.

                                                                and 5) IMHO YOU are out of line saying that she was out of line!

                                                              3. re: Jesdamala

                                                                I think a smile and an "i'm sorry" right after the little shrill would have been a nicer approach than a nasty comment to them on the way out. Whether happy or sad a shrill is a shrill and the change of noise upset another table. Since they "took their time" maybe they were expecting a little courtesy from the mom.

                                                                I think your response on the way out was out of line.

                                                              4. I'd like to add that a disruptive adult is no different from a disruptive child.

                                                                1. yeah, well when I was a kid..... (begin rolling eyes now)...when I was a kid I only VERY RARELY ate in a restuarant. I'm sure this was symptomatic of the times but I think I spent my first 15 years learning to mind my manners and "use my silverware properly (biggie), eat what I am served, say please and thank you, ask to be excused etc." A lot of my friends had this experience too so it was normal. BTW, both of my parents worked and we weren't the Cleavers. Here's the thing: When we went to a restaurant, it was sort of a big deal. We wore dress up clothes and used all of our best manners. We got booster seats which we stayed in. We got to drink coke (rare treat) and the servers thought we were cute because we said things like "may I have the cheeseburger? "etc.

                                                                  Nowadays I just noticed that parents take the kids around in their jammie pants/play clothes equipped with books, crayons, toys (including electronic toys that make NOISES), ziplocks of cheerios and alternate foods and they roll all of these supplies around in giant strollers and park them in aisles and take over every space. This seems to happen everywhere from Chili's to coffee houses in the city. As long as there is no smoking there are housewives meeting for lattes with babies. As long as the kids are dressed for it, why not roll around on the floor? Chicken fingers, chicken fingers. bleh bleh.

                                                                  If people are giving you stink eye then it's probably because you are bothering them. Personally I think it's easier to ask to move to another table. Red Lobster is certainly big enough and grown-ups ought to have manners too. Then again, babysitters are a good idea too. That would allow you a quiet evening eating something nice (unless you are seated next to kids, then you'll probably find yourself giving dirty looks - especially with the price of babysitters these days) ;

                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                  1. re: JackieB

                                                                    Oh JackieB, that made me laugh really hard. "Chicken fingers, chicken fingers. bleh bleh"

                                                                    1. re: Andiereid

                                                                      It killed me too *chortle* LMAO

                                                                    2. re: JackieB

                                                                      That is how we were taught...at home, and my parents owned a restaurant. If we went there, we were in the back peeling potatoes or washing lettuce.

                                                                      If we went out to dinner..same thing. It was a huge deal and we knew how to behave.

                                                                      I chuckled when I read your post as well!

                                                                    3. No ones mentioned strollers. Ugh! Strollers should be left in the car or checked in a coat closet (if avail). They are hazardous!

                                                                      Well behaved children (including my own by a certain age) without question should be welcome at appropriate restaurants. My son 16 yr old could be dressed in a shirt/tie/jacket and stand 6 feet tall and still rec' a look of curiosity when walking over to our reserved table. He should not have to apologize for being there. His manners will speak for themselves.

                                                                      Ill behaved children become everyones distraction. No matter where they are. Kicking the back of my booth, theater seat is not my idea of a good time. It's better to just wait until little johnny or jill can handle a restaurant/movie theater. Watching 3 yr olds cry down a slide at Chucky Cheese wasn't any fun either...so in fairness to all...let's be realistic out there and take adult responsibility for our own children.

                                                                      They have their whole lives to become CH worthy.

                                                                      1. Having been raised a child of chowhounds at heart, I've been on both sides of this issue... as a rowdy 8 yr old running rampant w/ a gang of friends/cousins/siblings at certain eateries (McD, Chuckie Cheese, Hometown Buffett, etc). One of my (or "our" as in us kids) worst moments was a children's lunchtime bday party at Hometown... we were offered balloons to play with, and immediately we set off to pop some and bounce the others around -- at one point the poor lady sitting 2 tables from us ended up with a balloon landing on her food. The management almost threw us out.

                                                                        That same evening, my parents took us to a nice upscale place for dinner, where I knew to be on my best behavior -- sitting quietly with the napkin on my lap. When the escargot was served (my first experience with that), I also knew to observe other diners as well as my parents in learning how to properly handle/eat them. The shells did not go flying about the room amidst childish war cries.

                                                                        Flash forward a number of years, and now when I dine near children I instinctively wonder -- will they bang on their plates and mix hot sauce into chocolate milk just to see how it tastes, with the end result a table dripping with the concoction and children being ushered around puddles on the floor to the bathroom for cleanup? In certain establishments, I feel children might not be all that welcome. As with all things, children are children. Even if they are usually well behaved, there might be that one time they are not. And it might surprise some folks that children who are usually rough and wild also have the ability to sit quietly to enjoy the finer things in life. But if I was not allowed to enjoy the escargo that night, as well as have other similar experiences, I probably would not be the person I am today.

                                                                        1. Hello... I will posit a theory as to the culprit of both children AND adults actinging inappropriately at casual or formal sit-down restaurants: 30+ years of inculcation via the 'drive-thru/car meal' experience. Many many children (and now adults) have been exposed to and brought up with the notion that shouting their food order into a clown microphone, having a greasy bag of fastfood shoved back at you in exchange for a few bucks, then driving off and continuing your in-car conversations, jokes, rough-housing AND eating is the norm and not the exception to how meals (breakfast/lunch/dinner) are to take place. If a child (from infancy onward) is routinely exposed to this ritual, you can bet that by age 5 or 10 or 15, they will assume that most meals involve settling back into one's own personal universe where it doesn't matter if ketchup splatters everywhere or if you can get back at sister for mooshing your cheeseburger by throwing a handful of fries at her; mom's in the front seat driving, chatting on the cell phone, and eating her own fastfood, so its everyone for themselves in the back seat of the Escalade where you can hide 10 feet behind mom and not be noticed 'making art' out of your hamburger's pickles. In daily traffic, I often marvel at unaware parents making turns without using their turn signals, presumably without even realizing that their children are absorbing this behavior and thus vicariously learning bad driving habits by watching dad do it. So much more the case, when a child's experiences going through the drive-thru and eating in their very own mobile restaurant, where yelling and tossing discarded fries wrappers on the floor is de rigeur. I don't blame the child nor the parent. It's the notion that eating and driving and carrying on without stopping the car (because, ya know, we are such busy and important people! and have places to be), as propogated by the fastfood industry, is what constitutes normal activity, as opposed to occassional necessity. Why should we assume that this behavior stops, just because the car eventually does?

                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                          1. re: silence9

                                                                            Any chance you read Fast Food Nation?

                                                                            1. re: HillJ

                                                                              Hi.. Nope, haven't read it yet. Part of me wants to, and the other part is afraid that I'll never eat out again if i do :-)

                                                                          2. When I was a kid, my mother stopped bad behavior in the bud. I was prbably being really annoying and disrrupting other diners. Mom took me outside, swatted my rear, and made me go in and apologize to every table inside. Then I darn well sat quietly.

                                                                            Of course, both my parents had taken pains to teach both my sister and me table mannders. On that day I guess I was just a snot nosed brat.

                                                                            Sometimes, no matter what you've done, your kids act like jerks.

                                                                            Still, in my mind, that is the time for discipline. Kids learn very quickly, even young ones.

                                                                            For example, my nephew, who is only 5 now, used to behave awfully when we ate out. Not running and screaming, mind you. But he would climb on the table, crawling all over it. he also would discuss "going poo-poo and pee-pee) rather loudly, WITH HIS FATHER< WHO TOOK FULL PART IN THE CONVERSATION! The looks My sister and brother in law were getting from other diners were truly angry, but the ignored it. They thought it was cute. "He's only a kid!" Finally, after a prolonged table top excursion with full scatalogical details of his trip to the boys room my husband and I had to speak up.

                                                                            "katie, he can't do that" "WHy?" "Because people, including us, are paying for the privilage of enjoying a nice meal, and, frankly, potty discussions and kids all over the table aren't condusive to an enjoyable meal. You just dont DO that in a restaraunt. We don't WANT to hear you talk about pooping and peeing, and no one should climb on the table. What if Cullen started doing it? (Cullen is my husband)"

                                                                            He has been very well behaved ever since. Now, I could say that, she's my sister in law. But saying that to a stranger is something I would never do. Ever. I WOULD ask the manager to do something.

                                                                            Still, it is up to the parent to set limits and decide which places are good for kids or not, and I wish more would do so. But getting a babysitter isn't always easy, and sometimes, you just want to go out. Dining establishments can help by making things easier on the child- crayons, finger food etc. Evan Klineman of KCRW's good food had a great segment on it.

                                                                            What I think parents need to think about is how would they feel if they were dining out alone (sans kids) and some kid were being disrruptive at the next table.

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: Diana

                                                                              "full scatalogical details of his his trip to the boys rooms"

                                                                              That could be the funniest post I ever read!!

                                                                            2. "Well behaved" is a common theme. But what is "well behaved" to one parent is not to others. I have been at a Red Robin in Washington state where a couple changed their babies diaper on the table. That didn't make any noise, it was just gross. Parents also have a "pack mentality" when they can bring a big group of parents and kids and take over a restaurant, hotel pool or other venue that adults might be paying big bucks for. They enjoy "strength in numbers" because no one, not the restaurant manager or offended individuals, will intervene. What is troubling is that it *is* the parents fault... their kids are probably just behaving as they do at home 24/7... and the parens are oblivious to the bad behavior. I call them trailer trash. I know that when I go into a restaurant, alone or with my wife, we scan the floor and look for a atable farthest from any children. I don't want to hear babies crying, screaming and yelling when I'm spending $50+ on a meal. And no, I don't hate kids, just the proginy of parents that can't parent. Why is it one of the most precious resources can be created and raised without any training, education, license or limit? What I mean is why there are so many bad parents these days? It wasn't like that when I was growing up. If I misbaved in a restaurant there were negative consequences. Not serious, but things like no dessert and no T.V or other entertainment when we returned home. I agree with those who have said "if people are looking at you, you're probably annoying them"...

                                                                              1. As a childless by choice couple, we have zero tolerence when it comes to poorly behaved children and the parents do little to nothing to correct the situation (not saying anything about the OP's kids). We've had numerous occasions that were dangerous and just down right annoying (sitting in a booth with said child jumping up and down in the booth behind us). We solved that problem by always dining at the bar and we never, ever dine in a restaurant that has the word "Family" in it's name. We just generally avoid any place that might have tons of kids.

                                                                                I guess to answer the original poster's question, yes, I have rolled my eyes upon seeing a family come in with little ones, strollers, kanga-rocker-roo's and 14,000 things to keep the tykes busy, but like I said we have had some awful situations in the past, and hence the solution for us is previously mentioned. :) Apologies if I rolled my eyes at you.

                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. re: cbauer

                                                                                  Yes, I do hate it when I feel I am party to a small child, who is not being well-supervised, and who is doing something that is actually dangerous. This is not about a restaurant, but at my gym a mom would come during the day with her two little kids and they would PLAY ON THE EQUIPMENT! I was so terrified they would crush their fingers or fall or crack their heads open that I spoke to the management numerous times.

                                                                                  Kids jumping up and down on seats is also not safe and the parents ought to be strung up.

                                                                                2. Our kids (three of them) have grown up here in Brooklyn and we eat out often with them. Usual rules that have been mentioned before we follow:
                                                                                  *always ask the place first
                                                                                  *go early leave quickly
                                                                                  *Do not put up with bad behavior (and leave if we get it)
                                                                                  *and tip very well.

                                                                                  My fav kids eating out story
                                                                                  We moved to London for a year and on our first night we walked into Indian place on Old Brompton road. I asked the waiter if they minded our children joining us. He says "Sir, we do not serve children.". My response was "Thats ok, I no longer eat them now that I am a vegetarian". He didnt laugh. So, dependes on the place as well.

                                                                                  1. I agree with the other posters that the dirty looks might be a sign that "a little loud" for the parent (who loves the little tykes) might be beyond the pale for other diners. Personally, I object to loud or whiny diners of any age, because that can be disruptive to my experience. (And I don't think you can put a price on disruptive--just because it's a cheaper chain doesn't mean that it's okay for kids to be disruptive. Bad behavior is just wrong--even at McDonalds.)
                                                                                    Personally, I don't like seeing kids play with their food in my sightlines. It can be like a car accident--disgusting, but you can't look away. I've seen kids joyfully poke and fling food with rubberband-rigged chopsticks, blow eruptions through straws and methodically spread food from tabletop, to banquette to floor, while the overwhelmed parent just tunes it all out. I've also heard whimpering, whiny kids refuse to eat, argue vociferously and have tantrums. I've also seen kids, bored with the table having eaten in 3 1/2 minutes, released and roaming the restaurant--underfoot, in danger and disruptive to other diners.
                                                                                    I think one has to look at one's kids and ask--is what we do at home okay to do in public? You can't ask kids to code-switch instinctively. If the kids are used to eating with their hands, blowing milk bubbles, yelling, whining and squirming at home, that's exactly what they'll do out of the house.

                                                                                    1. Wow. I have three children, all "almost" adults now. Due to several issues we would often eat out, sometimes family style chains, sometimes higher end establishments. My wife and I worked hard to raise responsible, well behaved children and there were many times we would leave a hot meal to take one of our children outside to "discuss" unacceptable restaurant behavior.

                                                                                      Eventually, we were able to go to any restaurant confident in our children's ability to behave properly. Many times my wife and I would trade glances as we would watch other families whose children would terrorize both the wait staff and other diners with all of the awful antics cited above. Often, the frazzled parents would walk past us as they dragged screaming Johnny or Mary along by the elbow and say something to the effect of, "You guys are so lucky that your kids are quiet."

                                                                                      What an insult! I can't count the number of times our hard work and persistence with our children has been discounted as "luck". So to those of you parents who are "unlucky" enough to have bratty children, please do us all a favor and eat at home!

                                                                                      1. i guess i'm *that* mom that brings her now toddler everywhere with me, including 'white linen' fancy places. we've even been to a place that was so chi-chi and child unfriendly that they didn't have high chairs. my sweet daughter sat on my lap during my meal and shared it with me, although later she was still hungry so i then proceeded to nurse her when she started to get a little antsy. her first trip to one of san diego's finest restaurants was when she was 3 weeks old (at which she only consumed mamas milk, natch). we've taken her everywhere that we've gone, she's never been left behind with a babysitter.

                                                                                        all this talk of 'discipline' and 'manners' gets me to thinking...how does a child internalize etiquette and behavior? my husband and i model it. we live our lives and our daughter (who is 14 months old by the way, and well on her way to foodie-hood as evidenced by the gusto with which she consumes some very surprising foods) observes and takes it all in.

                                                                                        most of the above posts reinforce yet again for me that we live in a society that is downright unfriendly and disrespectful toward children. how sad.

                                                                                        be sure to stop by my table and say hello when you see me out and about with my toddler as she feasts on incredible food (this babe's never eaten standard pureed baby food). in the meantime, i'll do the polite thing and ignore your eye rolls.

                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: mermaidsd

                                                                                          mermaid..when my child was 14 mos old I probably felt the same way. Although you lost me on breastfeeding in public--I would have excused myself to a car or restroom. But, then I realized he wasn't going to be a child forever and it was up to me to instill social cues. You'll know when its time with or without the eye roll of another.

                                                                                          Social cues are important.

                                                                                          1. re: mermaidsd

                                                                                            I thought as you did until a friend persuaded me otherwise. She's a widely syndicated columnist and the author of several best selling books on childcare. She told me that it was my responsibility to find babysitters for my child at a very early stage that I could trust and that my child was happy with. It was part of raising my child to be independent and also not centering my life completely on my child.
                                                                                            I deserved the opportunity to enjoy an adult meal with companions without having to tend the baby or worry about an unfamiliar babysitter. Children aren't always happy in every adult situation. There are some restaurants, particularly at some hours, where a child simple does not belong. Any child gets restless sitting for 2 or 3 hours, particularly late at night or if they miss a nap. It's not fair to the child or other diners.
                                                                                            Most "chi-chi" restaurants aren't the types of places where you eat in under an hour and high-chairs aren't meant for confining children for long periods.
                                                                                            We often did take our children to white tablecloth restaurants, but we did it at early hours, and they were very well-behaved. We had sit-down dinner every evening at home where they were expected to use proper etiquette. Practice makes perfect. It's more than "observing and taking it in," it's doing it every day with your guidance. At 14 months old, your child already can say "please" and "thank you." She learns her manners little by little as age appropriate and her coordination improves.
                                                                                            Yes, she will eat surprising food. A baby will put anything in her mouth. That's good and you should keep giving her everything. But she's going to enjoy kid food like her friends as well so appreciate her choices too. The whole point of this is to teach her how to be independent. I fought my instincts to project my food tastes on my children and they turned out to be great cooks and wonderfully eclectic eaters.
                                                                                            BTW, our kids didn't take crayons or books to restaurants when we took them with us because we talked with them and involved them in table conversation. They could color and read at home.

                                                                                            If you notice that quite a few of us are rolling our eyes or sighing, the "polite thing," may not be to ignore us, but to re-evaluate your practices.

                                                                                          2. I have high kid tolerance without actually having any of my own. I honestly haven't had many bad experiences with kids in restaurants, though. Some restaurants are really noisy anyway, like Chili's, so I don't think moderately noisy children would bother anyone there. It's really an issue of common sense and empathy on the part of the parents. Most people are simply grateful when children are well-behaved. My mother, a former schoolteacher, regularly goes out of her way to compliment families on the beach and in restaurants when their children are exceptionally well-behaved.

                                                                                            The only truly awful experience I had was almost a decade ago, when me and my two best friends went to a rather high-end and elegant restaurant shortly after graduating from college. We were having what we considered to be our first "adult" dining experience. Three mothers were seated at the next table, with about five children among them, all under the age of 3. They then proceeded to run in circles around the table, almost tripping up one of the waiters carrying a massive tray, screamed, cried, you name it, the entire time they were there. Their mothers made no effort to restrain or reprimand them. We were appalled. I have not seen anything to top that since, and if I found myself in a similar situation today, I would definitely step up and say something.

                                                                                            Teenagers are more likely to cause me agita than babies, of late. I guess that's a sign that I'm REALLY getting old!

                                                                                            1. I wish toddlers could read this and post their own replies. I'm an early childhood teacher as well as a grandmother and an enthusiastic diner. I have to remind all of you that going to a restaurant is not the same experience for a young child as it is for an adult. Very few young children are interested in polite small talk and perusing the menu. They have short attention spans and want to eat and go on to another experience. If they are brought into a "white tablecloth" establishment they are expected to sit and be quiet for a least an hour. If I asked my pre-kindergartners to sit and be quiet for an hour I'd be cited for child abuse and lose my license!

                                                                                              4 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: lucyis

                                                                                                I absolutely agree--it's torture to expect the average small child to sit through a two hour dinner, with napkin on lap, and no noise or movement. That's why they really shouldn't be brought. Unless, of course, this particular child loves the experience--but that would have to be a kid in a million.
                                                                                                The problem is that all parents fully believe that their kid is that kid in a million. Parents (rightfully) love their children to pieces and are blinded , to a certain extent, to their faults. They tend to empathise rather than criticise--and so they should. But I've seen parents of a shrieking kid look around at their dining neighbors with an apologetic grimace and explain, "Sorry--he's teething." Actually--teething or not -- you need to hustle the kid out of the restaurant, pronto.

                                                                                                1. re: nrxchef

                                                                                                  Man, not MY mom. Her mantra was "Well, what did you do now?" My brother was the Baby Jesus, though. :)

                                                                                                2. re: lucyis

                                                                                                  LOL!

                                                                                                  Exactly why some common sense should be observed when selecting a destination!

                                                                                                  My 4.5 year old gets all the "well-behaved" compliments, and would be great at a 2 or even 3 star restaurant (assuming we found a menu item she liked.) However, we don't take her for paella because it takes too damn long! My 20-month old is generally good, but only for a limited window of time... he gets no better than the diner or "family resto".

                                                                                                  1. re: lucyis

                                                                                                    I remember being 10 or so and taken to Windows on the World. I was at the time an only child, and my then divorced mom took me everywhere. I sat between my mom and my grandmother- it must've been a special occasion because I remember we had a number of people at our table.

                                                                                                    After I finished my whole artichoke (most young kids will eat anything- it's pre-teens that are picky IMO), I started to cry. What's wrong, my mother asked. No one is talking to me! I cried.

                                                                                                    While it was certainly a learning experience to be around adults all the time, it wasn't necessarily fun.

                                                                                                    Now that my generation is having kids, I notice that parents my age bring their kids any and everywhere, too. Not sure that that practice is best for parent or child. Maybe I will change my mind completely when I have children.

                                                                                                    And yes, I, too am a preemptive eye-roller. But only if we're at a place with (any kind of) fabric tablecloth that requires a coveted reservation, especially after 9pm, and most certainly if the average entree price is $18 or more. At a nice restaurant, I want a grown-up night with my fiance or friends, and I have absolutely no interest in hearing any kind of squeal, be it joyful or in agony. From anyone of any age. Squeals are what should happen in more private environs!!

                                                                                                    When I'm around small children, I'll put my cigarette out and chide my fiance for using the f word. Can't I be afforded similar courtesy?

                                                                                                    And as for the cries that kids are second class citizens, just try being a smoker for one afternoon!!

                                                                                                  2. The NY Times ran a great piece on this issue last year...revolved around a cafe in Chicago's Andersonville neighborhood where there was a nasty turf war between the kidless & the stroller set. I can't seem to get the link to the original post.

                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                    1. re: g rote

                                                                                                      There was also a piece in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. A mother wrote about her experience at a mall restaurant of being asked to leave by the manager after she took one child to the bathroom and the other child ended up fussing until she came back. Her husband did not get the child to stop.

                                                                                                      The manager was subsequently fired, I think, and many readers responded in support of the manager and blasted the mother and father. It got vicious on the newspaper's Web site as people blogged their opinions.

                                                                                                    2. Wow! 55 replies in 2 hours indicates that noisy kids are an issue for Chowhounds. (Me included.) Recently I dined at an Asian restaurant where very, very few non-Asians go. There were about 10 children under the age of 10 eating with their families. (Using chopsticks on steamed clams which was impressive and a feat I could not equal.) At each table their table manners were impeccable so much so that I noticed how well mannered they all were. Noticeably absent, too, were giant strollers the size of SmartCars.

                                                                                                      1. I have no kids and it doesn't bother me to see/hear them at chains/franchises. Kids are kids, and certain behaviour is to be expected so as long as it's reasonable.

                                                                                                        What I don't care for is obnoxious behaviour at any restaurant, regardless of age. Is crying obnoxious? Not necessarily. Are throwing tantrums obnoxious? Yes...as is mobile-phone use by adults.

                                                                                                        So as long as the restaurant encourages families w/children (by supplying kid's menu, crayons, boosters, etc), by all means bring 'em!

                                                                                                        1. letting kids run rampant in a restaurant more of a SAFETY issue than a behavior issue. well, maybe it's the behavior of the parents that's being called to question. i cannot for one minute understand how a parent can let their child do such a thing in a hazardous environment such as a restaurant. cutlery, hot food and liquids, glassware...it is not a place to let a child run rampant with little supervision and with that i wholeheartedly agree.

                                                                                                          as for nursing in public, my daughter has the right to eat wherever she is...just like everyone else. eating in a restroom is disgusting no matter how you slice it. unsanitary and smelly, doesn't it make you gag just to even think about eating in a public restroom? and retreating to a car? pretty cramped and uncomfortable, to say the least. most of you all have never really seen a nursing mother in public, and it's because most of the time, all it looks like to the casual observer is that a mom is holding a sleeping baby.

                                                                                                          1. I am a newer parent, we had a baby girl in October, and not bothering other diners is always a consideration when thinking about dining out. From where is acceptable to go, to who gets the duty of taking baby outside to the foyer, or vehicle if she needs a feeding, or starts crying.

                                                                                                            We waited to have a baby until we were both mature, had a home, and were financially stable, we are 36. So in the years leading up to this we dined out alot, and ran into rude parents, and out of control kids on occasion. Like some have mentioned some parents tune their kids out, dont care, or think it is the waitstaffs job to entertain, or babysit. Which it is not.

                                                                                                            As I mentioned my wife and I try to feed the baby beforehand, and plan meals out during her typical nap times(easier said than done sometimes, with a baby a couple of months old). If we are out and the baby starts crying we first try to get her to stop with the trusty pacifier, but if lasts longer than a couple of seconds one of us takes the baby away from the table, and the other diners. Common courtesy in my opinion.

                                                                                                            1. Grandparents build up an immunity to "loud" as well. Before I became a grandma, children seemed very loud in restaurants. I think people who go out to eat should be able to enjoy their meal in a relatively peaceful environment..no matter where it is. Some people can only afford Olive Garden and BTW, we like their food and service.

                                                                                                              When my kids and granddaughter were here for Christmas, we went out early for dinner (4:30..and no, we aren't old) so that we could feed the baby and avoid the dinner crowd who might be bothered by the baby chatter. She is too young to control her volume. The great-grandparents came over to the house that night and had to leave because they thought it was so noisy. I was used to it and didn't think it was noisy at all. GASP!!

                                                                                                              We went to a fabulous place when we visted them in Portland called Peanut Butter and Ellies. It's all about the kids there and the food was great.

                                                                                                              BTW..if you are consitently getting dirty looks, me thinks your kids are being more annoying than you might believe. The only time I send out a dirty look is when kids are being loud for extended periods of time and it doesn't appear as though the adults notice.

                                                                                                              1. As a parent whose child is now in college, I find that what I thougth was "not that bad" or "not that loud" when he was younger has changed. What you tolerate and are used to is much different than what other people find acceptable. I taught my son how to behave in a restaurant and he ate out with us at some very fine establishments without any complaint from other diners, or any dirty looks. In fact once, when he was about 9, the table next to us was a group of 6 guys who had just come off the golf course, were drinking a bit, and were quite loud. My son asked the manager if we could be moved to a different table because "the gentlemen at the next table have forgotten their restaurant manners." You should have heard the guffaws from the people who heard him, and as they left a very shamefaced guy came over and apologized to my son for disturbing his meal.

                                                                                                                1. Hmm. interesting posts. Well Kloomis, I applaud the fact that you've quarantined you kid-dinners to the chain family restaurants, but diners are entitled to quiet, relaxing dinners nonetheless. I personally don't recall my parents taking me to restaurants before I was eight, and when I went out to eat with family as a pre-teen, it was Carrows Restaurant and Denny's and the like. I think MacDonald's and other fast food establishments are generally kid-friendly (often with play centers) and kid-preferred too. They aren't so much healthier or better than the chain restaurants you are writing about anyway.

                                                                                                                  5 Replies
                                                                                                                  1. re: kayonyc

                                                                                                                    You're right, diners are entitled to quiet, relaxing dinners. But I usually find the ones making the most noise are the adults, boorish businessmen and women usually, getting drunk on the company dime, talking loud enough for me to hear their conversation from 3 tables away. At least babies have an excuse for being loud--they're babies! I'd much rather sit next to a family with babies, toddlers, and kids than a jerk.

                                                                                                                    1. re: rcsimm

                                                                                                                      Why can't we have nice relaxing dinners sans drunken boorish idiots and screaming toddlers? But, I generally have not had this problem in the NYC restaurants I go to. Thank god!

                                                                                                                      1. re: kayonyc

                                                                                                                        Why can't we? Because we live in a world full of OTHER PEOPLE. Who are not always as well behaved as we have been taught to be.

                                                                                                                  2. A restaurant, a plane, now and then the screaming meemies are gonna intersect with my tranquil life. So be it. I am more annoyed, and more frequently, by teens and young adults who use the f-word 3 times in each pseudo-sentence and converse as if they are the only ones in the room. I often intercede for the benefit of the civilized diners in the room, and these monsters are always belligerent and never contrite. They should have been smothered at birth.

                                                                                                                    Veggo

                                                                                                                    1. It seems that people in general are more ticked off these days about more things...i know i've gone to dinner with friends discussing some horrible or irritating news and then looked in another direction with the same ticked off look i had when we were discussing the news. maybe the person in my line of sight thought i was rolling my eyes at him? who knows? but maybe the looks you think are directed at you really aren't? or maybe you know your kids are doing something that would elicit these looks and just think people are overreacting? at any rate, nasty people will be everywhere and if we look for them hard enough we'll always find them.

                                                                                                                      not sure if that makes any sense, but i hope it does.

                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                      1. re: soypower

                                                                                                                        It's called over-population.

                                                                                                                      2. If people are giving you dirty looks, it's because your children's behavior is poor.

                                                                                                                        We've got a fairly long list of families that we do not dine out with because they do not require their children to be quiet and well mannered at the table. They are all really good people but they are just not able to perceive their children's bad behavior. They have no idea that we're appalled by the the way their children act, they simply think we're really busy on the nights they want to go out with the children. I don't even know if they would believe a third party if they were told that we think their children behave like badgers. Parents in denial tend to be fully unable to see their children through an objective lens.

                                                                                                                        1. Having dined out with my nephews and received compliments and dirty looks simultaneously I can sympathize with the OP. There is an expectation of bad behavior and when that doesn't happen not everyone adjusts their behavior accordingly, adults and children alike. It's too bad.

                                                                                                                          OP, I'm sorry for the bad reception you receive.

                                                                                                                          1. people need to get a handle on the difference between bad behavior and developmentally appropriate behavior that can be perceived as "misbehavior".

                                                                                                                            also, there seems to be quite a continuum of what is expected in terms of children's behavior. it seems that noises are the least tolerated, followed by table manners. but i'm sure that there are some people who look at my dh and i, who patiently pick up the spoon/food/toy from the floor for the umpteenth time as my daughter learns all about the force of gravity and think we're the parents of a 'badger', too, i suppose.

                                                                                                                            it seems that popular consenses dictates that children are to be seen and not heard, and that children are not be be seen OR heard at a fine dining establishment. so lets just all relegate families with young children to the punishment of dining only at chili's, friendly's and mcdonalds. shame on me for wanting to share the joy of tasting juicy heirloom tomatoes, melt-in-your-mouth sushi, or sublime creme brulee with my toddler. instead i should take her to a restaurant where she can consume some nasty mc-crap-wich with fries so that *gasp* we don't offend other's sensibilities.

                                                                                                                            so once again we come to the conclusion that our esteemed society treats our children, the leaders and chowhounds of the future, as second class citizens. it's apalling to me, how many people forget the fact that 100% of adults used to be children at one time.

                                                                                                                            5 Replies
                                                                                                                            1. re: mermaidsd

                                                                                                                              "also, there seems to be quite a continuum of what is expected in terms of children's behavior. it seems that noises are the least tolerated, followed by table manners."

                                                                                                                              You know, if a kid wants to throw their dinner all over the floor, I could care less. But don't expect NOT to get dirty looks. Also, it's the fact that the parents will leave without even attempting to pick it up that irks me. A little common courtesy for the employees who will have to clean up after you goes a long way.

                                                                                                                              This goes for adults too, who I've seen leave disgusting messes on tables.

                                                                                                                              I know I used to be a kid. I have tolerance for kids. It's the parents that I don't have the patience for.

                                                                                                                              1. re: mermaidsd

                                                                                                                                I shuddered when I read "developmentally appropriate behavior" the only time I've ever heard it before was from a couple who's child bit my son in the face.

                                                                                                                                If we're going to take our children to restaurants it is our responsibility as parents to ensure that their actions do not negatively impact other customers. Society does not owe your family the opportunity to dine out. If your children are not ready to adopt different behavior (manners beyond their years so to speak) when they're out for dinner, then it's best to keep them home until they reach a stage when they can manage.

                                                                                                                                1. re: mermaidsd

                                                                                                                                  This is what baby-sitters were invented for, so that parents of infants, toddlers and little children could still go out and enjoy fine food.

                                                                                                                                  A toddler or child who cannot behave at a restaurant in a way that does not interfere with the enjoyment of others should not be there. Period. There is no distinction given in my mind based on their age. Noisy and ill-behaved 12 year olds are just as annoying as screaming babies or toddlers that throw their food all over the place. None of them should be in a fine restaurant, imho.

                                                                                                                                  If you think current society treats children as "second class citizens," you should have been alive 50 years ago, when there were some teeth to the notion that "children should be seen but not heard." Compared to the way children were treated in the past, the children of today are coddled like virtual princes. I think that's one of the problems behind the entire topic of children's behavior and parental entitlement these days.

                                                                                                                                  As for introducing your toddler to fine foods, such as heirloom tomatoes, etc., that's what going to the farmer's market and cooking at home were invented for, too. Just because your toddler might not be welcome at a top restaurant does not mean you can only feed it McDonalds.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: DanaB

                                                                                                                                    Along with the "seen but not heard", I also got an earful of "don't speak until you're spoken to" while growing up. Too bad it's not practiced anymore; I've had too many conversations interupted by children who constantly need attention

                                                                                                                                  2. re: mermaidsd

                                                                                                                                    "wanting to share the joy of tasting juicy heirloom tomatoes, melt-in-your-mouth sushi, or sublime creme brulee with my toddler."

                                                                                                                                    Oh boy. Sorry, mermaid, I respect the views you've brought to this discussion, but I think most people would balk when you get to this point. I don't think that finding it inappropriate to have 2-year-olds at fine dining establishments is indicative of the way "society treats our children" poorly. Please. Hyperbole?

                                                                                                                                    I don't have a problem at all with well-mannered older children dining out, but if your child is still dropping silverware, or food, or anything else all over the floor, please don't bring him/her to an upscale restaurant! I don't care how "developmentally appropriate" that is!

                                                                                                                                  3. My husband and I have two small children and we love to eat out. We don’t go to fine end dining places, just the casual places, Chili’s, Applebee’s, est.... We try to teach them how to properly set and act when we go out. My daughter no problem, but my son...WE HAVE ISSUES. We have limits though, like when they start crying or throwing a tantrum, I don’t believe anyone there, including us, pay to hear kids cry when going out for dinner. So I leave or take them outside until they calm down. But I have noticed that some grown ups forgot what its like to be a child, or they think they were never that bad, and to them I say, GIVE ME YOUR MOMS PHONE NUMBER!!!
                                                                                                                                    Not on food related issue but I have to share this, one time in Fashion Island (OC), I was in the restroom with my friend and both of our daughters, and they were screaming and running in the restroom, this lady comes out from one of the stalls and goes off on them for being bad behaved. Apparently our children interrupted her nature calling. For those of you from South California know what mall I am talking about and know that it’s a high-end shopping place, but still, going off on two kids in the restroom??? Hmm

                                                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                                                    1. re: silvana

                                                                                                                                      Finally, someone who admits to having a child who occasionally misbehaves! Judging by the tone of posters with children ("Yes, there are children who misbehave in restaurants--but not my children, oh no!"), I thought I was the only one who had a child who is not always an angel in restaurants!

                                                                                                                                      1. re: gloriousfood

                                                                                                                                        My kids often misbehaved...If this was a subject that involved how kids misbehaved by rolling on the floor while waiting endless minutes to see a doctor, I would not have posted as I did LOL! ...without a doubt. They just didn't misbehave in restaurants. For this I am fortunate, as eating out is my favorite
                                                                                                                                        entertainment. I had kids, they were along for the ride, and it worked out wonderfully!

                                                                                                                                    2. Children treated as "second-class citizens" these days? Are you kidding me??? Best laugh I've had all day....

                                                                                                                                      1. Now that the smoking issue has been addressed, I think restaurants (and airplanes) should be divided into "Children" and "Children-free" sections. Children may not cause cancer, but they do not enhance either experience.

                                                                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                                                                          1. re: Sandy Eggo

                                                                                                                                            I've seen parents seat their kids on bar stools. lots of times.

                                                                                                                                        1. The problem with parents these days is they "try to be best friends" with their children, rather than parent them. They think of them as little adults as opposed to adults in training. They feel they are entitiled to all the things "big people" are entitled too. And when their behavior is not good they fall back on "they're just kids!"

                                                                                                                                          11 Replies
                                                                                                                                          1. re: Sandy Eggo

                                                                                                                                            What sums it up for me is that I now choose not to have meals out with parents with pre teen children. I never enjoy the experience or can relax. I love my niece and nephew but I can enjoy dining with them in my home or their home--not even in a diner. They are great kids and well behaved but there is always something that goes awry. And if it's not them, it's their parents worrying about the meal or something about the restaurant.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: Sandy Eggo

                                                                                                                                              by your logic, if children are adults in training then how are they supposed to learn about how to act appropriately in different contexts if they are not exposed to different scenarios? when is the magical age where they are then 'allowed' to participate in activities for "big people"?

                                                                                                                                              if you have such a delicate constitution that you cannot tolerate the presence of children in you life, whether they're sitting at an adjoining table or airline seat, then perhaps YOU are the one that should stay home and cook yourself a meal. well, ok...i'm not really saying that but it's the same thing as telling a family that they should stay home if they have little ones.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: mermaidsd

                                                                                                                                                They don't need to be exposed to a "different scenario" to learn... I would gamble that the kids with bad behavior at restaurants also have bad behavior at home and those with good behavior at home behave well in restaurants. Taking a brat out of the house to a restaurant will not temper their poorly (developed) behavior. When they can behave well at home they are probably ready for "the restaurant experience." But this isn't really about bad kids (is it folks?) , it's about lousy parents.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: Sandy Eggo

                                                                                                                                                  Back in the unreconstructed '60's, dad used to take me and my brother to the Officer's Club, prop us up on barstools, and we would quietly drink our cherry cokes while he got pleasantly smashed on bourbon. The ride home--no seat belts of course--was always an adventure. We were taught to use fish forks, and ask "May I be excused?" at the end of a meal. Forget having to get up to pee during a meal. It was not allowed. Does this sound harsh? Was he a lousy parent? Probably. But I learned how to eat and appreciate tongue at 6, and turbot at 8. Unlike kids today, who will only eat macaroni and cheese because their parents are wimps.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: whs

                                                                                                                                                    I was eating adventurous food like escargot and pickled pigs feet at age 6. What's with kids dipping EVERYTHING in Ranch Dressing these days.. and I mean *everything*

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Sandy Eggo

                                                                                                                                                    which one did you graduate from?

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: mermaidsd

                                                                                                                                                      your sense of entitlement and nastiness in this post belies your point.

                                                                                                                                                  2. re: mermaidsd

                                                                                                                                                    It is not a matter of having a "delicate constitution" or not being able to "tolerate the presence of children" in one's life. It's a matter of WHEN and WHERE. If I am at the park, at a pre-school, at a matinee or G-rated movie, or at the beach, or at Disneyland, at a shopping mall, at a playground, at a fast food joint or casual family restaurant, etc., I'll expect to see families with children, and I will be tolerant of the children's behavior.

                                                                                                                                                    If I am at a high-end restaurant or yes, on a plane, I expect the right to peace and quiet and if people cannot maintain their children in that manner in such places, they should keep them at home. I cannot tell you how many plane rides I've suffered through with infants SCREAMING bloody murder for hours (no exaggeration) on a 5-1/2 hour flight to NYC, or hours of a child kicking the back of my seat, despite my (polite) requests to the parents that they control their children. The only thing worse than having a nice dinner ruined by ill-behaved or screaming children is to be stuck on a plane with them for 5 hours. At least in the case of the dinner, you can get up and leave if it's that bad. I was not taken on a plane until I was 5 years old and my parents could trust that I would behave. Nothing NECESSITATES taking an infant or an ill-behaved child on a plane. Oh, I guess I'd put up with it if it was to save the family's life, but taking them to visit grandma across the country when they are too young is not a good reason.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: DanaB

                                                                                                                                                      I was on a flight once where the parents decided that it would be a great idea to bring a portable DVD player for their kid. With no headphones. And blasted it. The entire plane got to hear (but not see) Shrek II.

                                                                                                                                                      That was OT...sorry.

                                                                                                                                                2. I don't bring my child to any restaurant that DOESN'T have a kid's menu. That's the restauranteur's way of saying "Please bring your whole family", as far as I'm concerned. It's pretty black and white.

                                                                                                                                                  My parents started taking us out do nice dinners when we were in high school. I suspect I'll do the same, except for the annual fancy holiday dinner out with family.

                                                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                  1. re: mamamia

                                                                                                                                                    i've actually been pleasantly surprised at how many upscale restaurants do have special menu items for children. not that we order them (usually some permutation of hotdogs/chicken fingers/grilled cheese/plain pasta and fries), but it's a nice gesture.

                                                                                                                                                  2. It's not the misbehaving kids that bother me, it's the inconsiderate parents that bug me. I've been in casual places and upscale places where inconsiderate parents block aisles with strollers and let their children run around do whatever they want to do.

                                                                                                                                                    You haven't had a great dining experience until a two year old named Jasper (I remember the kid's name) drops a plant on your head and in your dinner, while his mother is sipping her wine and discussing the cheesecake to one of her neighbors that just happened to be passing by.

                                                                                                                                                    Now that's parenting!

                                                                                                                                                    1. My wife and I had a 9 course tasting menu paired with wine with our 4 month old. (She didn't have wine :) ) She was an Angel and we still got looks. Doesn't bother me. Now she's 2 1/2, sometimes she behaves sometimes she doesn't. When she doesn't we remove her until she calms down or ask for our order to go. Tasting menus are no longer an option. 90 minutes is her limit. Can't complain though. Different strokes for different folks.

                                                                                                                                                      1. it seems that EVERYONE has some horror story or other about a child that wreaked havoc on their dining experience. goodness knows i have my own. but to summarily reject the presence of children in fine dining establishments is really quite rude and uppity.

                                                                                                                                                        i totally agree that there are some parents out there who are either oblivious or in denial about the impact that their children's behavior causes on others. sometimes when out and about, i am completely shocked and appalled by examples of non-parenting or lazy parenting. but we're the family sitting next to you, enjoying a wonderful meal as our toddler is happily eating or otherwise occupied, and one of us takes her for a little stroll if she starts to get a little antsy or exuberant, and we've asked for a table out of the way and made our reservation for early in the evening before the dinner rush...don't we deserve to have a night out like that?

                                                                                                                                                        1. While we recognize that some interesting perpectives were shared here, for reasons pretty clearly shown in this thread, hot button issues (such as children in restaurants) are off the table for this site. We've locked this thread and encourage everyone to take a breath, calm down and enjoy what we're all here for- great chow tips, not angry debate.