Monday, April 02, 2007

Obnoxious kids and rude parents part two

A restaurant owner takes on obnoxious kids...

March 22, 2007 — Have you ever found yourself counting the seconds until your check arrives at a restaurant? Not because the food, service or ambience were lacking, but because someone's child was running laps around the place, hiding under the tables, and practicing his dinosaur roar at ear-splitting volume.

Or maybe you've been on the other side, out to a family meal with the kids, proud of their behavior — which in any other situation might be called exemplary — only to be berated by a fellow diner who believes that children "should be seen and not heard"?

The moment probably doesn't rank among your top ten dining experiences. Whether they're well-behaved kids bored of waiting for their grilled cheese to arrive or poor-mannered brats hell-bent on ruining a meal for everyone within screaming distance, the friction created by kids in restaurants is something many of us have experienced.

In one Chicago community these tensions reached a boiling point when Dan McCauley, owner of a local cafe, A Taste of Heaven, decided he had had enough of children using his establishment as a playground.

Heaven and Hell

One afternoon, McCauley said, he caught a pair of kids scaling the walls of his restaurant while their parents sat nearby. As the group was leaving, McCauley confronted Julie, one of the supervising mothers, and told her that she and her children were no longer welcome in the cafe.

"I was so shocked," said Julie, who out of concern for the children's anonymity asked that her last name not be used. "It made me feel like I was in the second grade, having my knuckles whacked or something."


Notice the response was not "I my god, I am so sorry that I appeared so rude. How embarrassing. I promise this will never happen again". The answer was all about this woman, and her feelings, and that makes sense considering how self-centered her behavior was beforehand.

The following morning McCauley posted a sign on the front door, thinking it would be a simple solution. It read: "Children of all ages have to behave and use their indoor voices when coming to A Taste of Heaven"

To his astonishment, the sign quickly provoked a strong response within the community. "We had like 50 or 60 phone calls," McCauley said. "People stating that they were really offended, and they would never step foot in here again, which really surprised me." A local newspaper even wrote that a group of concerned parents was going to boycott the cafe.


The owner here has been vindicated internationally, and the groundswell of support continues to grow. The fact is that people are tired of being subjected to bad parenting and the results of them. I should mention that as I former high school and middle school teacher, I am far more qualified than the average parent give an opinion about what constitutes a good parent and a bad one. While many people are of the opinion that their ability to give birth gives them the god-given ability to parent, the fact remains that incompetent parents, like incompetent people, don't know they are incompetent, and in fact believe exactly the opposite.

The same skill set that is required to have consideration for others is the same skill set required to realize you are being inconsiderate. More importantly, just like the middle schoolers I taught, who wanted the benefit of being an adult without the responsibility, today's parents often want the privilege of being a parent without the responsibility.

This shocking conclusion is readily apparent at literally dozens of restaurants and open spaces literally blocks away from where you sit as we speak. Starbucks has become romper room. Any place that sells pizza is automatically a bad bet, and even upscale restaurants aren't immune to the scourge of bad parents with obnoxious kids.

This is, of course, a fabulous opportunity for anyone with capital to swoop in and make some cash. Just like a bar, people could have a safe, sane and relatively quiet place to sip coffee or eat lunch, without children charging up and down the aisles and screaming. You read it here first.

Don't expect anyone to develop any sac about this in the meantime. Just like any real societal change, it will take years for the pushback to be felt. After all, how long did it take for people to stand up to smokers?


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