If children don’t know how to act in public, it’s because the parents have failed to teach them and to discipline them. This could be a function of just pure ineptitude of the parents or perhaps their parents didn’t teach them. Parents are ultimately responsible for their children’s behavior, and there are really no excuses. There’s no way to penalize the parents as a means of holding them accountable for their kids per se. I think there are several points to make here.
First, kids need to be taught foundational values like the difference between right and wrong, the concept of personal responsibility, and that decisions and actions can have consequences. A good way to start is by teaching them the Golden Rule and the Ten Commandments. But aside from that, parents need to teach their kids how to behave and how to act in public. It never ceases to amaze me how many parents let their kids misbehave in restaurants and seem oblivious to it. I guess this is because the parents themselves have no manners and are so self-absorbed and self-centered that they don’t care about anyone else. Personally, I don’t feel that I should have to put up with people’s kids misbehaving in a nice restaurant. As a parent you may think your kid is great and special and the center of the universe, but I don’t.
Second, discipline has pretty much vanished from parenting skills. Parents want to be their kid’s friends instead of being the parent. Kids will have much more respect for parents who parent than they will for their parent/friend. Discipline is the means to reinforce what you’ve taught the kid. Actions have consequences. If you do something wrong, you get grounded or you get spanked. I don’t see anything wrong with spanking a kid as long as it doesn’t go too far. I got smacked across the butt with a belt on a couple of occasions, and I learned real quick that I didn’t want to get the belt again. I had my mouth washed out with soap once. I didn’t want that to happen again. A little discipline will go a long way. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard parents tell their kids this: “Don’t do that. Don’t do that. Don’t do that. I told you not to do that. Don’t do that. I’m going to take your toy away if you do that again. I’m going to take your toy away if you do that again.” And the parents do nothing and the kids keep doing what they want. First time the kid misbehaves, you give them a warning. Second time, you jerk a kink in them. That’ll probably straighten them up real quick. Threatening that you’re going to do something and then never doing anything only emboldens the kids because they know you’re a coward and that you’re not going to do anything.
Third, shaming or embarrassing people is a real effective way to get them to change their behavior. Business owners need to say something to parents when their kids are misbehaving in their establishment. So what if they leave? You can actually do without their business. Other patrons will thank you. If the owners or management of an establishment aren’t going to say anything, it’s up to other patrons to say something. I can think of two instances in the last month where this happened, and I was involved in both of them. First, I was having dinner in an upscale restaurant and the large party at the table behind us had three kids ranging in age from about six to ten. The middle one, he was probably about seven or eight, refused to stay seated and was up and down and running around. The parents kept telling him to sit down, but he didn’t listen. After about a half hour they told the kid to sit down again, so I turned and said in a voice loud enough for the tables around us to hear, “He didn’t listen to you the fifty other times you told him to sit down, what makes you think he’s going to listen now?” The restaurant got real quiet and all eyes seemed to be on them. The parents were quite embarrassed. They gave me very dirty looks, as if I cared, and the wife apologized profusely. The husband took the unruly child outside. When they returned, there were no further problems.
The second instance was at another nice restaurant. Two children, probably about five or six years old, at the table next to us were running around their table then our table and the parents seemed oblivious to it. They just continued to enjoy their food and their conversation with an older couple who I presumed were the wife’s parents. Luckily, they were nearly finished by the time I was seated. I made eye contact with the father a couple times and sort of shrugged. He then tried to reign the kids in but to no avail. I noticed a couple of other diners were also getting frustrated. Soon, they picked up their stuff and started to leave. I stood up and started to clap without saying a word, which prompted a couple of diners around us to join in on the clapping. The wife look like she could have died from embarrassment, and the husband just had a real stupid look on his face. Hopefully, that gave them something to think about on the car ride home, and maybe it will prompt them to take action to see that their kids behave a little better next time.
Now, I’m sure some of you are thinking that I’m quite the jerk for doing this type thing. You’re certainly entitled to your opinion. I don’t have a problem with kids; I don’t have any and I don’t want any myself. Most of the time, you can look around and see other kids in a restaurant and they’re better behaved. I have no problem with that and I welcome that. I’ve even commented to parents about how well behaved their child is, and they seem to genuinely appreciate that. But like kids or not, I don’t believe there is any excuse for them to misbehave in public. If you’re a parent going out in public, the world doesn’t revolve around your kid. Have some courtesy. It’s real simple.