Blog: Should screaming kids be banned from restaurants?

Watch above: After enacting a ban on “small screaming children,” a Cape Breton restaurant has found itself at the centre of a nationwide discussion on allowing children into restaurants. Minna Rhee reports.

TORONTO – It begins with a whimper and can soon escalate into a full on temper tantrum. The Internet is full of real life examples of kids losing their cool while eating out.

A Cape Breton lobster restaurant is the latest eatery at the centre of a tug-of-war over dining etiquette after they posted this note on their Facebook page that reads in part:

“We will no longer allow small, screaming children. We are an adult-themed restaurant that caters to those who enjoy food and are out to enjoy themselves.”

Facebook screengrab

It didn’t take long for the restaurant to retract their statement and issue an apology in hopes of winning back disgruntled clientele.

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In Toronto, residents aren’t immune to the rise in establishments trying to keep out noisy children. There’s a sign prominently displayed outside the Roy Public House in Leslieville that reads: “The Roy is an adult space. Well behaved children are welcome. Parents and children are asked to respect others and the safety of all.”

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They enacted the policy after a child threw a salt shaker across the restaurant – ending up in a patron’s lap – sparking a dispute.

“The [Ontario] human rights code says you cannot discriminate on family status, family status being a parent and a child. And indeed there was a case here in Ontario last year where a restaurant said ‘you’ve got to take your child out,’” Global’s legal analyst Lorne Honickman said. “Having said that, restaurants can provide non-discriminatory explanations. If you want to put out a policy like this, I strongly suggest you seek legal counsel for detailed wording first.”

Bottom line, there’s no hard and fast rule when it comes to no screaming children bans and the way the courts may perceive them.

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Parenting coaches say it is up to parents to control their kids and if they misbehave, take them outside.

“By removing them, it really stops that misbehaviour and teaches them to think about other people,” said Karen Skinulis, a co-author of several parenting books.

As a parent of two and expecting a third on the way, I make it a point to take my children to restaurants on a regular basis. However, I lay down the law before entering the establishment: standing in chairs, throwing food, or speaking in a loud voice will not be tolerated.

If my child acts up, I remind them of the rules – if they continue acting up – I would leave (thankfully it’s never come to that).

I’ve learned that empty threats don’t work. Stepping outside (or the bathroom) with my child as soon as they begin getting out of line is better than letting the situation escalate. The fact is, I’m often a paying patron on the other side – out with friends or my spouse, and the last thing we want to hear when we’ve left the kids with a sitter at home, is a child having a tantrum.

Ban or not, nobody wants their meal to be memorable because of a meltdown. And there’s nothing worse than watching kids lose their cool and their parents yelling at them and doing nothing about it.

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Another pet peeve? Parents who take their kids to restaurants even though their children have missed their naps, and then feed them sugar to appease them. Talk about adding fuel to the fire.

Know your child’s limits – and plan restaurant meals accordingly. If you know your child has a hard time sitting still after 10 minutes, you may want to think twice about having them join you in a fine dining establishment.

There are plenty of restaurants to choose from, if you don’t like the “no screaming kids” policy, find another place to eat.

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