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No Kids Allowed

Misbehaving children are resulting in "adults-only" rules.

Recent news items have reignited the debate over children’s behavior in public places, and parents’ ability (or inability) to control that behavior.

Nadya Suleman (of Octomom fame) recently took 12 of her 14 kids on a 6-hour flight from New York to Los Angeles that ended up being delayed two hours. Apparently, the kids (eight of whom were 2 years old) were being noisy and disruptive. Suleman and her helpers (one other adult and two older children) were  apparently unable or unwilling to control the octuplets, to the dismay of other passengers.

In other airline news, Malaysia Airlines has banned infants from first class on many of its flights. Apparently, other airlines, such as Virgin Atlantic and British Airways have also considered adults-only flights on some routes.

Back on the ground, McDain’s, an “upscale, quiet and casual” restaurant in Pennsylvania, has taken the step of banning children younger than 6, stating: “We feel that McDain’s is not a place for young children. Their volume can’t be controlled and many, many times they have disrupted other customers.” 

These types of situations raise some interesting questions: What level of behavior is acceptable in public places? At what point does “Aw, look at the cute kids,” become “Get those brats out of here?” What responsibility do parents bear in reining in their children?

Another important question is this: Do children misbehave more now than a generation or so ago? Or have adults become less tolerant? Clearly, people are going to have varying levels of tolerance for children’s behavior. Speaking from personal experience, I became much more tolerant of crying babies after having dealt with my own.

If having children makes you more understanding of them, then as a society, we could be much less tolerant right now. According to the Pew Research Center, nearly one in five women are currently ending their childbearing years without having a child. That is up from one in 10 back in the 1970s.

As far as whether children’s behavior has changed, I believe it has. Perhaps I’m getting old and going through a “kids-these-days” phase, but it seems like we’ve come quite a ways from when children were expected to be seen and not heard. Kids now seem much more vocal about their desires in general and are also growing up in a society that values instant gratification and constant stimulation. It’s not surprising they become easily bored and disruptive.

Friends and relatives who live in or frequently travel to other countries have told me that they’ve been astonished at how much worse children’s behavior is back here in the states, so there may clearly be a cultural component at work here.

Does this absolve parents from the responsibility of making sure their children behave appropriately? Absolutely not. Can parents prevent their children from crying or making a scene? No, but they can and should take appropriate steps to deal with it, including distraction, discipline or removing the child from the area. This just seems like common sense and common courtesy. Then maybe airlines and restaurants wouldn’t feel like they need to institute “no-kids” policies.

By the way, after we deal with the kiddos, what are we going to do about those annoying adults? Just like children, they come in a variety of categories. Should we ban them next? How about a no-rowdy-drunk section in restaurants? Or “scent-free” flights to avoid those overly perfumed folks? The possibilities are endless...

Joan Falk July 20, 2011 at 02:09 PM
I've conveniently forgotten any restaurant episodes with my own pre-school age children years ago. The occasional tantrum in the grocery store is more vivid. I was sensitive enough to be mortified and rational enough to know I couldn't lash out in kind. I did know to zip through the store as quickly as possible whenever kids were in tow. And, no, I didn't bribe good behavior with treats. Of course, they may remember it differently.
Nancy Sarocco July 20, 2011 at 03:22 PM
Loved this article, Laura. While some misbehaving children can be attributed to the increase in kids with spectrum disorders (which is a topic for another article), the majority can and should be attributed to today's parenting. I agree that kids' behavior has changed-- as a direct result in changed parenting styles. Gone are the days where respect for authority and others ruled. Today's parents are simply to weary to properly train their children or have mistaken indulgence for love. Overall, our culture no longer views children as a blessing--just ask any mom of more than 3 kids about the comments she receives on a daily basis from complete strangers and even family members or simply look at the data you cited in your article. Nancy
Nancy Sarocco July 20, 2011 at 03:28 PM
PS. Loved the idea of banning overly scented folks from close quarters especially if their perfume choice disagrees with mine! And a few less drunk folks on our upcoming float trip would be nice. We've already banned the smokers from most areas but what about those folks that tell you the most intimate details of their life in the waiting room when you're trying to read a book! LOL
Laura Falk July 20, 2011 at 05:56 PM
@Nancy: Thanks! There was a whole Facebook discussion going on as I was writing the article, and there was some discussions of spectrum disorder kids, but as you say, that's a whole 'nother article. There are always going to be exceptions. I've also had some interesting discussions lately about some of the underlying causes of "changed parenting styles." Maybe yet another article!
Laura Falk July 20, 2011 at 05:56 PM
Sorry. Should be "discussion" in the first full sentence. I hate typos!
Lisa Miller July 21, 2011 at 11:02 PM
We have always had bad parents, lazy parents, children with special needs,etc. The issue here is respecting personal space in a public venue. Especially when the public venue chosen combines a shared amount of time and cost. If you want to be a lazy parent in the privacy of your home, go for it. If you want to be a lazy parent out in public, the public may have something to say. As a result , public businesses are now weighing in... The message is not "No kids allowed" The message is " No Lazy Parents Allowed"...
Laura Falk July 22, 2011 at 07:25 PM
Love your last sentence, Lisa!!

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