Should You Stay Or Should You Go? (When Your Toddler Is Crying in a Restaurant.)

The most recent argument in the mommysphere is whether a parent should allow a crying toddler to stay at the table or leave the restaurant after Marcy's Diner owner, Darla Neugebauer, yelled at a child who was loudly crying in her busy diner filled with 75 other patrons.

Now, Neugebauger did end up making some major PR mistakes after the incident, including making foul mouthed statements on her business's Facebook page calling the child a "beast" and a "monster" for which I think she should apologize. But as someone who supports business owners running their operations however they see fit (and losing business if they opt to make the wrong decisions), I'm interested to see how this plays out for Marcy's Diner.

Afterall, this wouldn't be the first time that a restaurant took a "No Tolerance" stance towards the potential ruckus a child can create. Old Fisherman's Grotto in Monterey, CA has a sign outside that states:

Old Fisherman's Grotto seems to be doing just fine financially at least 3 years after their anti-children policy, with planned renovations of the Grotto, a multimillion dollar business expansion planned for the property across the street, and an average of 4 stars on Tripadvisor.  I think it's safe to say, kicking kids out of the dining room doesn't hurt a business one bit.

As parents, however, we can vote with our dollars and avoid anti-children restaurants who don't want our families there anyway. But we also have a responsibility to our children and society. Do we parent in a way that children aren't seen as such a burden that it's not worth it to serve families? Or do we ignore the effects on society and focus on teaching and disciplining our children like no one is looking?

On one hand, I feel it's important to teach our children to be considerate towards others. Toddlers are narcissistic little people and as parents, one of our goals should be to guide them quickly out of their "center of the universe mentality." That means, if they are causing a disruption for other patrons of a restaurant, after trying to calm down the child unsuccessfully, the child should be removed.

Many parents were outraged that Neugebauger yelled at the toddler. No one has yelled at BB yet so I'm not sure how I would react in that instance. Reports say that the toddler stopped crying after Neugebauger yelled, maybe because she realized that she had upset someone with her crying. In that sense, that child received a valuable lesson in the consequences of poor restaurant manners. On the other hand, I would personally never yell at someone else's child unless it was to keep the child out of danger (i.e. "NO TIMMY, DON'T FALL DOWN THE WELL!") because yelling at someone's child is rude to both the parents and the child.

In fact, I believe that the only way to teach children how to have restaurant manners is to take them to restaurants. Many parents might say manners are taught at the dinner table at home and brought to the restaurants, which is partially true except my dinner table at home doesn't have a ton of other people and kids that my toddler would love to talk to and wave at so, really, it comes down to practicing in public.  Toddlers behaving in restaurants doesn't just come down to the children alone, often it's a learning experience for parents.

For instance, it took me several meltdowns at restaurants to know that I needed to have some of BB's favorite snacks on hand and a cup of water instead of assuming that the restaurant would get us food and water fast enough for BB's needs/wants. I also know I need to bring something to entertain BB aside from awful restaurant crayons and menus. Like Tegu blocks or other travel sized toys. In some cases, if I know I absolutely will not be able to leave the table (i.e. a birthday meal with family), I'll bring the iPad preloaded with Thomas the Train. I don't normally let BB watch TV while eating but sometimes, you do what you have to do. If nothing appeases him within 10 minutes, depending on the volume of his screaming, he is removed from the restaurant and BB gets and explanation about being removed from the fun because he was being inconsiderate towards the other people in the restaurant. Yes, it sucks for us as parents to miss our meal. And yes, possibly I am teaching him the wrong lesson by "giving in" to his cries to get out of the restaurant. That's exactly why I am conflicted.

Some stronger willed parents than me believe that giving in to their child's cries, regardless of whether they are in the middle of their living room or in the middle of Target, is undermining their parenting. And I respect that. That's why I will never give a parent of a screaming child any side eyes. You do you. Parent as you choose to parent. I support you, mom I don't know dealing with an epic toddler meltdown, and respect you for sticking to your guns.

In short, I am going to put this parenting argument on the shelf along with formula feeding/breastfeeding, sleep training/co-sleeping and whatever else we parents fight about. Why? Because there's no right answers, just differing personal circumstances and parenting values.

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