Discussion: Kids in Non-Kid Places

We’ve all had moments where we were out somewhere – maybe having a meal, maybe seeing a movie, maybe on a bus/train/plane – where we’ve thought, “Someone needs to tell that kid to knock it off.” When some parents mix entitlement with a lack of common sense, is creating specifically kid-free places the answer?

A recent op-ed on an Australian news site talks about establishments that have made themselves “no kids zones,” specifically a microbrewery called The Raccoon Club.

The rules of the club, whose owners want adults to relax and not modify their behavior because of children, have drawn complaints from parents who, according to one report, “cannot see the harm in having the odd family in there on a sunny afternoon.”

I don’t agree with the article’s opening of, “Once upon a time, children were seen and not heard,” since I do not find anything wrong with a well-behaved child contributing to the conversation in the right environment. The post is not particularly well-written, either. However, I still think it’s well within the rights of places that serve primarily adult beverages to limit who can be in there. In the U.S., some laws insist upon it. Just because one place says no does not mean there aren’t other options.

Drunk Baby: "So is anyone here into breastfeeding?"Regarding “modified behavior,” how many of you know that person who, when hearing the faintest whiff of a curse word or a sex joke, will make a big huffing deal if children are nearby? Now, how many of you know someone who would do the same thing if they’d brought their children to a bar-like place? My precious angel must never hear the word “hell” because Mummy couldn’t get a babysitter.

Look, when you make the decision to bring your child to a place that is primarily frequented by adults, you cannot control the content of that environment beyond leaving it.

I have two kids, eight and five, and I have brought them along to places where children are infrequently seen – an art show, an all-ages concert, etc. – though it is always within the rules of the establishment. It is always with the pre-game pep talk of, You will not act like wild animals in there. It is not the You Show. We are here for [X] reason, and I expect you to behave. They know what is expected of them, and if they misbehave, I will not hesitate to leave because, guess what, I know the world doesn’t revolve around me, and that other people do not need to endure whatever fit my children might have. They’re older now, and therefore less prone to fits, but one never knows.

The only parenting decision I am judging here is the selfishness involved in: A) letting your kid misbehave to the detriment of others’ enjoyment; and B) acting as though you are entitled to do so. It’s rude. If your child cannot handle a sit-down meal in a nicer restaurant without getting bored and loud, then do not eat there with your child. Everyone will be happier.

What do you think? Where do you draw the line for “kid-friendly?” Do you think the child-free establishments are overreacting, or do you think the parents complaining are?

By Sara Habein

Sara Habein is the author of Infinite Disposable, a collection of microfiction, and her work has appeared on The Rumpus, Pajiba and Word Riot, among others. Her book reviews and other commentary appear at Glorified Love Letters, and she is the co-manager of Electric City Creative.

36 replies on “Discussion: Kids in Non-Kid Places”

My kids are grown but I have young grandchildren (almost 5 and almost 2).

I’m fine with kids being places where I expect kids to be. Not so fine with kids being places kids probably shouldn’t be – and bars are a good example of that.

And I’m not going to modify my behavior or language because someone decided to bring their child into a place meant for adults. If a parent brings a kid into a SPORTS BAR during a BIG GAME then that parent should know the chance of the kid hearing ADULT LANGUAGE is pretty high. And frankly, that’s the parent’s problem, not mine.

I wouldn’t go into Chuck E. Cheese’s and start cursing about missed field goals and bad three point shooting. I keep that shit in a sports bar, where it belongs.

Indeed. The times I have had my kids out where you don’t commonly see children (for example, they were at a bar for a little while where we put on an art show/party because we needed to set up, but then my mom took them home when she was done with work), I’ve had people apologize to me for swearing without thinking, and I tell them, don’t worry about it.

The other day, my son asked me if “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis had “bad words” in it, and I told him that I didn’t think there were too many “bad” words, ever, but that this song had some words that were not appropriate for him to say, because some words are impolite in certain situations and for certain people. I asked him if that made sense, and he said yes, and even though I know in his head he’s probably singing the “This is fucking awesome” line, I knew he’s not going to say it to adults or at school.

I’ve mellowed out on this topic considerably over the last ten years or so, and my position can be distilled down to this: I have no issue with kids being in places I’d expect kids to be (grocery store, chain restaurants, whatever), as long as they (and their parents) aren’t behaving like monsters. I do, however, reserve the right to get annoyed when I’m shelling out a lot of money that I don’t have much of for dinner or a show or even a particularly violent movie, and ill-behaved kids ruin my experience. Yes, kids need to learn how to behave in public. They can do that just as easily at the Olive Garden as they can at Chez Expensive.

And honestly, more disturbing to me than loud kids is performative parenting. You know, when a parent feels the need to broadcast what a great parent they are, loudly and dramatically, complete with whatever the current trendy baby name and parenting style happen to be. Half the time, I wouldn’t even know the kid was there if not for the booming proclamations and outright aggressive desperation for a fucking cookie for doing the job of not being a terrible parent.

See, I like a lot of individual children. Just like I like individual adults. In large groups, or when one is having a tantrum? No way.

I feel like a lot of the kid friendly vs. not kid friendly debate is all about context and boundaries. I wouldn’t go to a public park and get angry and offended if there are kids running loose, because that’s a kid friendly space. I would get mad if someone was drunk and acting like an ass in that same park. In contrast, I’d be more tolerant of someone being drunk at a bar than a small child running around. At a family or casual restaurant, I’d expect the occasional child to make a mess all over the table, but if I were to go somewhere that requires dressing up, I’d prefer to not share that experience with kids. Nor a bar/pub, nor an R-rated movie. From a purely selfish non-parent perspective, I’m not going to drink a beer at a playground or watch “Silent Hill” at a preschool, so I’d prefer not to have kids in places where beer and scary movies are expected. It’s just not the right place or time.

I can usually deal with public tantrums and whining and such in family-friendly public areas, mostly because it’s really difficult to know what’s been going on that day. The parents of that toddler in mid-meltdown at Target might literally only have this particular time available for errands, or they might be making a post-doctor prescription run or getting a few necessary grocery items or be on the last item on the list (and the last errand of the day). They might not have the option of a babysitter or might be on the way home from work. Or it could be that the kid’s going through a “I want to express myself and you should automatically understand me” phase. Or just a bad day. I tend to assume (and occasionally have to remind myself) that the last thing a melting-down kid or their parents need is a dirty look from a stranger.

We don’t take Lexie out very often; partly because we just don’t eat out much anyway and want a break from her when we do and partly because she’s a pill who refuses to eat any normal kid’s menu food except at the Olive Garden. If she gets loud or rambunctious I shut that shit down. She’s not good with waiting, so I usually ask the waiter if her food can be brought out ASAP. Then the only issue is if she finishes up before the check arrives, but I’ll take her back out to the lobby since she’s less likely to get a try of food dumped on her head there.

I do get annoyed when people freak out about kids in places like grocery stores. If the kid’s running around knocking shit down and screaming, absolutely, but if Lexie’s sitting nicely in the cart and just talking (or, um, singing) at a normal-ish volume, chillax.

“I do get annoyed when people freak out about kids in places like grocery stores. If the kid’s running around knocking shit down and screaming, absolutely, but if Lexie’s sitting nicely in the cart and just talking (or, um, singing) at a normal-ish volume, chillax.”

Word. My son is prone to dance parties, so as long as they are contained dance parties, sometimes he’s just gotta run that course.

I honestly don’t understand how you can enjoy yourself at a ritzy restaurant or a child inappropriate place if you have kids.

I have an 19 month old and a 6 month old. We have no family support. This means if we go to a restaurant they are coming with us. Actually we don’t really go to restaurants outside of our local RSL (Australian Returned Services League who do an excellent buffet). Our main choice of eat out options is local cafes for breakfast. One of us is on baby duty so that if anything turns sour we’re quick to grab and run (thankfully this has only happened once so far). We turn up with lots of snacks, bottles, toys and books to keep them occupied. They learn how they are expected to behave in public, we get to have a yummy meal out but we know it is an appropriate place for them.

Do I miss our local French restaurant with the amazing duck fat potatoes. Yes, I miss it a lot but we’ve had friends babysit for us a couple of times and those duck fat potatoes are a lot more enjoyable when I don’t have to worry about a toddler unexpectedly chucking a tantrum!

Thank you so much for this. I have a friend who likes to throw house parties where everyone drinks and smokes and curses and we play video games and shoot the breeze and her sister always wants to bring her pre-teen son and tell us she doesn’t want us smoking around him….TAKE HIS ASS HOME THEN!!

And then there’s kids in movies. R-RATED MOVIES. UGH. Don’t get me started.

Nicely said! I don’t have a problem with adults-only places. In Indiana, kids aren’t allowed in bars, and there are bizarre rules about children in restaurants that have bars- there are certain “family dining areas” and areas that are off-limits to those under 21. It’s kind of great on date-night/girls-night to sit in the bar area, to be honest.

We take our kids a lot of places, and while there’s a learning curve on how to behave, we have left any number of places after the appopriate about of re-directing (and, if I’m honest, threats). The biggest tip I have is to follow your kids on this one- if they’re at art show (mine are at First Friday as I type with dad) and they’ve been good for say, 45 minutes and then start getting antsy, that’s your cue to go. My husband and I have tag teamed plenty of meals when our kids were toddlers, where one of us walked around outside with the young one before the meal was over. Thankfully, those days were short lived!

I’d think in smallish places, it’s proabably the fire marshall that doesn’t allow for strollers. I know there are a couple of buiidings at our zoo that don’t allow strollers because it’s just not safe.

There are times you are trapped- the screaming kid on an airplane, the restless one in line at the grocery store, or the one who drops like a sack of potatoes in front of the library doors because he is just D-U-N. That’s why I scan exits likes a Secret Service agent and always have our escape strategy in mind.

Speaking of trapped — I once had a three year old behind me on a train dropping his seat-back table over and over and over and over AND OVER (so, shaking MY seat) and his grandparents just kept talking to him in an itty-bitty-cutesy voice where everything ended on a ? “Oh aren’t you such a BIG BOY? Look at YOU? We’re riding the TRAIN?”

Mom was half-asleep with an infant, and fair play to her for sleeping when she could, but grandma needed to remove the grandma blind spot and tell him to KNOCK IT OFF.

I was about to (politely) say it myself, but then they thankfully moved to the train car with the larger windows.

Personally I love the idea of kid-free spaces. Not that I could actually utilize them these days, but that’s beside the point here. People should be able to go to specific places and not have to deal with someone else’s kids. Parents who think they should be able to take their kids absolutely everywhere are jerks. (Totally different situation than having no choice but to take your child everywhere with you). Parents who don’t hold their kids to a higher level of behavior in certain places are even bigger jerks.

There are a couple of nicer restaurants in Seattle that do not allow children because they want to have an environment where adults can relax and enjoy a sophisticated meal/brunch/cocktails/etc. without having potentially disruptive kids around. The first time I heard about it, I was practically up in arms until I heard their explanation why. I think it makes sense and honestly, there are PLENTY of places that allow for family meals.

This is one of those crazy things where I am glad to be Canadian. No kids in pubs. I can’t believe that anyone would think a pub is an appropriate place for a kid.

As for restaurants, art shows and the like, I have no problem with kids being there and in fact, I think it’s great, children need socialization too. I have a problem with adults who ignore Little Johnny acting like an idiot without correcting the behaviour. Then I’m not mad at the kid, I’m mad at the adults.

The difference I see in a place like a microbrewery is that they sometimes have restaurants as part of being there. When we were in Portland, we ate at a ton of those places with the kids, but that’s a bit different than a place that focuses mainly on the drinks.

Totally. It’s common in Canada to have a lounge side and a restaurant side in lots of places from chains to one off micro breweries. Same kitchen and menu, but one is a pub and one is a restaurant. So usually if the lounge side is full then I would go into the restaurant side.

There’s a brewery around here that’s twenty minutes from its official restaurant, and the restaurant has a pub across the street (they have a few waitstaff whose primary job is to run food from the restaurant to the pub). I feel like that’s a good way for the owner to compromise with both people who want grownup time and people who want to have a family meal, and enjoy a tasty local brew with it.
I would be fine with a kid a few tables away in the restaurant, but I’d be unimpressed by parents who insist that their kids eat with them in the pub. It’s small, and it’s loud, and it’s not set up for kids. The restaurant has real tables and high chairs. The pub is narrow and you can’t really vary the seating too much, or people can’t get around.

“The only parenting decision I am judging here is the selfishness involved in: A) letting your kid misbehave to the detriment of others’ enjoyment; and B) acting as though you are entitled to do so. It’s rude. If your child cannot handle a sit-down meal in a nicer restaurant without getting bored and loud, then do not eat there with your child. Everyone will be happier.”

I think this is the key. When I say that I prefer parents not bring little kids to nice restaurants, or movies, or wherever, it’s because I see so many who act like this. A kid who can sit there and politely STFU through a meal? Fine. One that screams like a banshee and runs up and down the aisles with no adult stepping in to put an end to it? No way. Go home until you learn to behave.

I also don’t think you should expect any modified behavior. If you don’t want your kid to hear cursing, don’t take them to places where there will be cursing.

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