Saturday, November 12, 2005

Child Wars

We've all seen it happen and maybe even experienced it with our own children. An unruly toddler in a restuarant and the irritated stares of patrons nearby. What to do? Do you leave? Do you stay and try to keep them quiet? Do you get mad at the other patrons for their lack of compassion?

Well, Dan McCauley the owner of A Taste of Heaven in Chicago is fighting back the unruly behavior with his own rules of etiquette for children. . Quoting from an article in the New York Times, has posted a sign saying that

"children of all ages have to behave and use their indoor voices when coming to A Taste of Heaven."
He chose to post the sign because parents have been unable to control their children and he desires a pleasant calm atmosphere in his cafe. According to the article here's what Mr. McCauley has to deal with

Children were climbing the cafe's poles. A couple were blithely reading the newspaper while their daughter lay on the floor blocking the line for coffee. When the family whose children were running across the room to throw themselves against the display cases left after his admonishment, Mr. McCauley recalled, the restaurant erupted in applause.
Unfortunately, some of their regular patrons are not too happy with the "keep our kids quiet or out policy." Here's what one mom had to say,

"I love people who don't have children who tell you how to parent," said Alison Miller, 35, a psychologist, corporate coach and mother of two. "I'd love for him to be responsible for three children for the next year and see if he can control the volume of their voices every minute of the day."
While we have worked hard to teach and train our children to keep quiet in restaurants it does happen. They act loud or inappropriate. But when it does I am not put off by those who get annoyed with my child. It just tells me I have more work to do. I politely apologize for my child and if necessary leave. Other mothers don't seem to see it the same way. Here's what mother of two, Laurie Brauer said,
"I think that the mothers who allow their kids to run around and scream, that's wrong, but kids scream and there is nothing you can do about it. What are we supposed to do, not enjoy ourselves at a cafe?"
So a parent with a loud toddler are allowed to enjoy themselves but the rest of the cafe has to suffer? I remember an experience I had when I was a waitress years ago. I attempted to seat a family with their young son. Every table we tried was somehow unacceptable to the the little dictator. Eventually, the child declared, "I don't want to eat here. I want to eat over there." He pointed to the a restaurant across the street. Obediently, the parents left the restaurant and went across the street! The whole restaurant breathed a sigh of relief.

With a little work you and your children can enjoy themselves.
While I agree that parents can't control the volume every minute of every day, they can teach them to use the proper voice in the proper place. And understand that when their child acts inappropriately they need to do something. We work with our children at home before we take them out. I learned this from my own parents. They would drill us before we even left the house about what they expected. Often my mom would have a menu and practice ordering so we were ready when the waitress came to our table. We've done similar things with our children. Then when we do take them out, they have already learned and developed the restraint necessary to control themselves. If they haven't we wouldn't go to a place where we would be a distraction. It's not that hard really but it does take time. And once they have learned how to sit quietly it is a joy to take them just about anywhere.

I remember one time when I just had my five children. The oldest was about 11. We attended a benefit violin concert. When we arrived the only seats left were right in the first row. I could see the looks of disapproval on the faces around me as we made our way to our seats. Quietly, we sat as the people behind me murmurred loud enough to let me know I had just wrecked their evening. However, at the intermission one elderly lady walk up to me. "Isn't that impressive!" she exclaimed.

I nodded in agreement, "Yes, the violinist sure are talented."

"No! Not my son. Your children!"

I was thankful and relieved that we had done the hard work at home. I don't share this story to boast. Not at all. I am thankful to God that I had parents who were willing to take the time to work with me. They were not the perfect parents and neither am I. But when parents take the time to work with their children, the children rise to the challenge. And in the end we all have a much more pleasant experience.

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