Is it kosher to ask someone to shut their kid up in public?

January 24, 2013

public tantrumI was recently sent a link to the Sydney Morning Herald story about a fracas in a cafe involving the parents of a ‘problem child’ and the peace of other patrons by one of my readers……

Firstly, I was a little bit chuffed. I loved that HE (yes, one of my two non-related-by-blood (to me, not each other) male readers – high five, dude!) thought of me when he read this, but secondly, he was interested to hear what I thought. Just to get you up to speed before I mouth off with my opinion, it went a little something like this.

In a nutshell, this couple, one of whom is the writer of the piece, were trying to enjoy their brunch at a busy cafe when a child at a nearby table started shrieking, not crying or whinging, but shrieking with a ‘piercing, shrill cry that sounded like the child was in pain’.
It continued for a bit and some people left, then it stopped for a bit (presumably when the babycino arrived), then it started worse than before(afore mentioned babycino finished) and continued for ten minutes before the writer’s husband went up to them and suggested they take the child for a walk.
Nastiness ensued, blah, blah, blah, the F word was slung and the bird was flipped. Cafe staff said they’ve had trouble with this particular family before and the child is a ‘problem child’.

Now…..what do I think?

Hmmmmmmm, before I had kids I would have been all ‘hell yeah, shut that freakin’ kid up, yo’ (Breaking Bad has a lot to answer for), but since having kids I’m much more tolerant. I’ve been on both sides of the coin and when the lady glared at me at Fratelli Fresh whilst I was trying to bolt down my pasta and glass of medicinal vino and the two babes at our table, whilst not crying, were definitely not being seen but not heard, I may, or may not, have told her to schmuck off, or something to that effect.

That said, I do think, in a crowded cafe, you have a responsibility to other patrons. Hence my discomfort in that situation. Although I do feel parent’s are absolutely entitled to eat out too, you really shouldn’t do it at the expense of everyone else’s experience.

Cafes are a bit of a nightmare with kids, every parent enters at their own peril, so if it all goes pear shaped, I get embarrassed and high tail it with my skinny latte -one sugar- in a go cup if need be. I get annoyed at my own kids chucking a wobbly, so yes, I do find other people’s misbehaving kids annoying. I think it’s our duty, as parents, to keep our families nice in public as much as possible……not always doable, of course, but something we should aspire to.

The part that kind of makes my alarm bells ring (Danger, Danger Will Robinson!!) is the ‘problem child’ part. It’s a fairly ambiguous thing to say, but if you had a go at someone with a disabled child because they were disturbing your eggs benedict, you do look like a bit of a douche.
It is a basic parental right to have access to coffee, and I imagine if your child had special needs, this is more valid than ever.

So, let’s take this situation away from the parenting vibe for a second and discuss a different kind of disturbance….If a couple had a loud argument would I suggest they go for a walk?
Probably not.

We saw recently when that poor French woman was verbally attacked in a racial slur on the Melbourne bus and NO ONE came to her defence that people, in general, do not intervene in altercations, so why do we see fit to criticise others’ parenting?

I guess I’m sitting on the fence here. I probably wouldn’t have said anything and bitched about it the whole day, so I really can’t blame the dude for taking the bull by the horns. As for the parents, they probably should have eaten their breakfast in shifts whilst the other distracted the kid outside. Not relaxing, but it doesn’t sound like they were having a particularly relaxing time as it stands.

Long story short, enter cafes at your own risk, and try to keep your kids nice, or get it in a go cup.

What do you think? Would you have said anything or let it slide?

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  • Reply January 24, 2013 at 8:29 am

    I read that article with interest too. As a Mum I felt that I should side with the parents, but I didn’t… yes children have the right to scream and cry but if it’s going to last longer than a few minutes I agree with the writer that they should be taken for a walk. When we go to cafe’s I always ask for my coffee in a take away cup in case I have to leave suddenly.
    That said, cafe’s that actively encourage you to bring children are a different story altogether.
    I suppose I’m fence sitting a bit too! xx

  • Reply faydanamyjake January 24, 2013 at 8:30 am

    If they can leave then they should or just step outside with the child or have to hand something that will calm him or her. If the childs behaviour on the whole is not cafe friendly I would not go.
    On a plane is different. you do your best. I have inflicted 2 hours of screaming on a plane load before now, believe me nothing would hush her. but on the whole my kids can be hushed and all is well.
    Its a matter of thinking of others who are not with a child that screams bloody murder, its part of having a family, yes your cafe culture might well come to an end. deal with it.

  • Reply faydanamyjake January 24, 2013 at 8:32 am

    Noise is a real trigger for me. I would probably have turned and tried to distract the kid myself, I have slight issues with considering every child under my care to some extent. comes from working with them for so long 🙂

  • Reply Bunny Eats Design January 24, 2013 at 9:11 am

    As much as it would annoy me, I would never tell anyone how to parent their child. In fact, sometimes I feel like I’m a little too hands off. A child of a friend pees in our garden. It totally took me surprise until I realised the parents were fine with it and that they probably do it at home (they live out in the wops). I’m glad I didn’t make a fuss out of peeing in the garden. As long as the parents don’t start doing the same!

  • Reply Jeff Steller January 24, 2013 at 9:23 am

    Yes, everyone has the right to pop into a cafe for a “relaxing” cuppa. If one’s child is haveing a screamer then I think it is up to mum to at least attempt to control the situation, or as you said, have your java in a takeaway cup ready to take flight. I do understand the difficulty of the mother’s situation and would, therefore, generally not critisise her unless she was making no attempt to placate the child (which we’ve all experienced) and I would just leave the cafe.
    Your mum and I once wandered into a cafe in Brighton and set ourselves down and were checking the menu when a “wagon train” of mums with prams entered. Without saying a word (a glance was all that was required) we both stood up and left…. then drove miles to our fave coffee shop at the time… Chez Maria’s!!
    Cheers Unk J

    • Reply Keeping Up With The Holsbys January 24, 2013 at 10:39 am

      Ha, the mother’s group coffee morning!!
      I’ve had to laugh at times when I’ve seen an entire cafe turned upside down for half an hour!!
      I’ve been on both sides of that one too…..

  • Reply Dan January 24, 2013 at 10:10 am

    Having thought about this a bit more since raising it, i think that individuals (whether they are parents or not) are either considerate or not. Being the parent of a 2yo boy i like you would high tail it out of there with a coffee to go if things were reaching DEFCON 2 but probably wouldn’t have said anything myself, either left or put up with it. What is interesting is that people (not all) wouldn’t generally intervene if two adults were causing a disturbance but would say something if children are involved. Do we as a society feel we have an obligation/right to help guide the next generation, or are we just less fearful of reprisals from a child?

    • Reply Keeping Up With The Holsbys January 24, 2013 at 10:37 am

      It’s totally an interesting point.
      I think it’s great food for thought.
      I’m very outspoken but I really doubt I’d say something…..
      Thanks so much for giving me something to chew on!

  • Reply katelikestocreate January 24, 2013 at 2:09 pm

    I’m torn also! While at times I get frustrated by parents who make their child the boss of the family and seem oblivious to the needs of others alongside the whims of their child, this case sounds different. If the child in this case has a disability or special needs of some kind, then surely her parents deserve plenty of coffee-time and any latte-sipping, childless yuppie couples who feel their Sunday brunch is compromised can suck it up. It bothers me that no-one offered any help and only offered judgement.
    Steven Covey tells a story of a man sitting on a train, oblivious of his misbehaving children. When Covey approaches him and draws his attention to the children’s behavior, the man apologises. He is very distracted: they are returning home from the hospital where the children’s mother had just died.
    We seem to live in a very anti-child society. All the pressure is on the parents to raise the child. The village just doesn’t care.
    Rant ends.

  • Reply My French Heaven January 24, 2013 at 6:42 pm

    Very well said. I truly enjoyed the way you expressed your opinion here. It reflects the way I feel, yet I know I couldn’t have expressed it quite as well…

    • Reply Keeping Up With The Holsbys January 24, 2013 at 6:49 pm

      ….but you would have said it in a sexy French accent and that wins every time 😉

      Sent from my iPhone

      On 24/01/2013, at 6:42 PM, Keeping Up With The Holsbys

      • Reply My French Heaven January 24, 2013 at 6:50 pm


  • Reply Nealie January 24, 2013 at 9:38 pm

    What about the proprietors? If I felt uncomfortable in an environment I think I would talk to the owners. It’s their business that suffers, they have a vested interest & right to maintain that environment & it means I don’t have to go head to head with the parents. This is not an unreasonable avenue IMO.

    • Reply Keeping Up With The Holsbys January 24, 2013 at 9:43 pm

      Yep, another option…..all good valid responses…. I really don’t think u’d do anything, except finish up and leave, and kick the kid on the way past 😉

      Sent from my iPhone

      On 24/01/2013, at 9:38 PM, Keeping Up With The Holsbys

  • Reply momsasaurus January 24, 2013 at 9:49 pm

    Hmmm…my first thought jumped to : what if this “problem child” has some actual, legitimate “problem?” Perhaps something along the Autism spectrum or a sensory integration disorder? Any little thing could be the trigger that starts him screaming. Perhaps these poor parents are attempting to get this child used to a cafe environment and able to handle being there so that he can someday have “normal” experiences like going to a cafe with his family or friends without a meltdown. Perhaps the repeatedly choose this cafe because it feels like a “safe place.”

    Or lets say he is just a “normal” everyday kid with no special diagnosis. I can’t stand it when other people cluck about how some parents are “bad” parents for having a misbehaving child in a restaurant that is welcoming to families. I have often heard “keep your kid at home until s/he can eat nicely.” Well, I ask, how will any kid ever learn to sit nicely in a booth and not play with the salt shakers and shred the paper napkins and gawk at the other patrons in a voice too loud if we don’t ever give them that experience an let them get used to it?

    As you said, “I’ve become a lot more tolerant since becoming a parent.

    • Reply Keeping Up With The Holsbys January 24, 2013 at 10:10 pm

      I totally agree, you have to try to submerge them into every environment, the question is to what end?

      I love how thought provoking this topic has been!!

      Sent from my iPhone

      On 24/01/2013, at 9:49 PM, Keeping Up With The Holsbys

  • Reply Have a laugh on me January 27, 2013 at 11:14 am

    Ha ha love the Jessie – Breaking Bad reference! You know when my ferals play up in public, I hate it as much as the poor person who has to listen to them scream/screech/cry. Kids are part of every day, public life, some are noisy shits, regardless of how well we try to parents them. Great post 🙂

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