How to Deal with Awful Kids (and Worse Parents) When Dining Out

by Susan Paige on April 22, 2019 · 0 comments

If you’re a certified pro, then this scenario is all-too-familiar: you head out to a restaurant and look forward to a good time — after all, you’re not just paying for the food, but for the overall experience — and lo and behold: there they are.

Yup, you know who and what I’m talking about. Those parents seated close by — or even worse, right next to you — who’ve decided, probably long ago, not to care whatsoever if their kids are making other customers miserable. We’re not talking merely being loud or slightly unruly; kids are kids, after all. We’re talking off-the-charts, over-the-top disruptive — like the kind of behavior that would prevent a flight from taking off.

Now, here’s the thing: parents who inflict their excessively unruly kids on other people know that they hold the high ethical ground, even though their actions are not very ethical. And that’s why giving them a look (you know the one) probably won’t do much. Maybe it would have years ago, but not anymore. They’re desensitized to that kind of thing.

However, you don’t have to resign yourself to an evening of wincing each time you hear another ear-piercing scream or see another kid crawl under your table (“oh don’t mind him, he’s just so curious!”). Instead, you can try and mitigate the damage. Here are four options, from best to worst:

  • Seek out no-kid restaurants.

Yes, this is really a thing, and yes, many parents hate it and think it’s a kind of human rights violation. But there are a growing number of restaurants (as well as other establishments) with the sense — and the guts — to impose a minimum age limit for customers. Do a Google or Facebook search to see if there are any in your area, and give them a try. Some restaurants even note an age restriction on their signage and window lettering.

  • Try and change tables.

If you’re already in a restaurant and the parents seated next to you or nearby have decided to make you yet another victim, quietly ask the waiter or the manager if you can change tables. It may be a bit awkward and uncomfortable, but it’s better than being used as target practice for the next 30-60 minutes.

  • Talk to the manager.

If you can’t move and things are really getting out of hand, then get up and privately speak to the manager, to see if they would consider having a word with the family in question. Sometimes they will because they deal with this kind of thing quite frequently. You’ll have more luck if you can point to healthy and safety hazards (kids throwing utensils at each other — and you) than just unpleasant behavior (ongoing renditions of “It’s a Small World After All” at 75dB, which is about the same level as a vacuum cleaner and about as annoying; if not more).

  • Talk to the parents.

If none of the above work, then your last option — and it’s the worst one — is to speak with the parents. Be aware that this can get ugly in a hurry; especially if the parents are well-versed in this kind of thing. It won’t be easy, but be as polite and respectful as possible. Don’t make any judgments about parenting style or behavior. Your best bet is to shown (read: feign) concern. For example, their kids keep racing by your table, you might tell a parent that you’re worried that someone will get hurt. The parent might reign them in…at least for a while.

A Word of Warning

Never — no matter what — speak to anyone’s kid directly. And don’t get into a war or words with parents, either. The law is 100 percent on their side, and for the most part so it the court of public opinion. Just play it cool and be polite. If nothing else, at least you can take comfort in knowing that they aren’t your kids.

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