Should Restaurants Be Allowed to Ban Kids?

Posted July 13, 2011 by

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Should restaurants be allowed to ban kids? McDain’s, an “upscale casual” restaurant in the Pittsburgh area, is going to ban children under the age of 6 starting July 16th. Owner Mike Vuick, who built the restaurant next to his successful golf center, says that he’s doing it because customers have complained that children have been causing a ruckus. And “Parents have gradually diminished their cooperation.”

This makes me wonder if it’s really all about the kids acting out, or if the clientele at his establishment is less than patient — or perhaps it’s a little of both.

When our son was a toddler, there was a time my husband and I just didn’t go out to eat anymore unless we had a babysitter. Our son was loud, threw food, and wouldn’t sit in a highchair for more than 2 minutes. When we did take him somewhere and he misbehaved, we removed him from the restaurant until he calmed down.  Fast forward to today. I took my 8-year-old son to a fairly nice (but not fancy) restaurant this week. He was well-behaved and we had a good conversation during dinner — but in spite of that, a man a few tables away scowled at us — mostly at my son — the entire time we were there. And at a free outdoor concert last summer, we sat down next to a couple who immediately announced they were grandparents. Then they said, “Your son isn’t going to ruin our concert, is he? You’re going to keep him in line, right?” (“Boy, I’ll bet their grandkids are excited to see them when they come for a visit, I whispered under my breath to my friend who was there with her daughter.)

Last week, I wrote a blog post saying that I understand that restaurants — especially fine dining establishments — want to keep the atmosphere nice for adults. But I also think that there’s been a backlash recently against children in general. Many adults seem to assume that all children are going to act out, and that all parents are too permissive. It seems like it’s become a case of guilty until proven innocent for kids.

What do you think? Should restaurants be allowed to ban children under a certain age?

Elisabeth Wilkins is the editor of Empowering Parents and the mother of an 8-year-old son.


Elisabeth Wilkins is the editor of Empowering Parents and the mother of an 10-year-old son. Her work has appeared in national and international publications, including Mothering, Motherhood (Singapore), Hausfrau, The Bad Mother Chronicles, and The Japan Times. Elisabeth holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine.

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