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Banning Children from Public Spaces

On multiple listservs that I’m on (including Prompt-ly!), the same article has been floated out for discussion.  Adweek’s article on creating child-free spaces by banning children has a subtitle: “A new marketing movement aims to protect the childless from germy broods.”

I understand how it could be enticing, especially since I often go through phases where I simply don’t want to see babies.  Even though I have children, it doesn’t mean I’m cool always being around children (especially stranger’s children; I’m usually always okay around the babies of friends and family), and babies can be salt in a very open wound.  There are also times when we go out, let’s say to a film, and we don’t expect nor want to see children there.  We’d like to see the film uninterrupted, and a child kept up past a normal bedtime is probably going to become disruptive.  So I totally get that desire to know without a doubt that you will not be encountering a child in certain places.

And I still wouldn’t patron a business that made that decision for the parent.

This is my feeling on bans and how I gauge my feelings on them.  I replace the word “children” with another group.  Would everyone support a ban on Jews in movie theaters?  Why not?  We’re freakin’ loud as all get out and we talk through films.  We leave our cell phones on and eat bagels in the theater, dropping the crumbs.  Would everyone support a ban on Jews in first class on an airplane?  Why not?  Again, we’ll talk your ear off, and if you paid a lot for your seat and you want peace and quiet, don’t sit next to a Jew.

(For all the Jews who are sucking your breath in at this moment, I’m saying this to make a point — not because I think I should be banned from places…  Though we do sometimes talk a lot, nu?)

I am pro-banning behaviours, but never pro-banning people.  I am totally fine that our east coast trains have a silent car and you can’t use your cell phone there, and I would never be offended if an airline said that first class was a “silent cabin.”  That said, I would hope they’d come down just as hard on chatty Jews, rock stars, AND children.  But I wouldn’t support an airline that bans children (or any group of people) from first class, even though I have never flown first class and probably never will.

I like child-free spaces just as much as the next person, and there are plenty of days that I do not want to encounter children.  But that’s on me.  Again, replace the word “children” with another group.  Would it ever be okay to say that we want Jews banned from a business just because we don’t want to see Jews?  Because they’re too expressive with their hands and eat smelly garlicy hummus and speak their throat-clearing language very loudly?

When I really don’t want to see kids, I stay home.  When I really don’t want to see kids but must go out, I try to choose a place that few parents would bring a child.  And if they do, I have to suck it up to be part of society (and usually, if that child is behaving, I can even tune them out).

And if they do bring their child AND the child is disturbing everyone else’s meal/movie/activity, I have no problem addressing the behaviour or asking the management to address the behaviour.  Because not talking in a movie, let’s say, is a given regardless of age.

Being part of society means dealing with all members of a society; not picking and choosing the ones whose main characteristics are palatable with my desires.  It would never be okay to ban whole groups of people based on race, gender, or ethnicity.  Therefore, I can’t support it based on age.  I wouldn’t want elderly people banned, and I don’t want children banned.  Though I’d totally support a noisy people ban and if that sweeps out children (as well as loud-talking, half-deaf elderly people and those pesky expressive Jews*), so be it.  Ban the behaviour; not the person.

So those are my thoughts and they’re not set in stone if you can argue passionately.  I truly do want to hear the other side as well as additional thoughts on banning children from public spaces.

* For the love, y’all know I’m Jewish, hence why I picked it as my example.  I’m not hating on Jews but merely being facetious to make a point.  Replace “Jews” with your group of choice.


1 Erin { 07.28.11 at 7:19 am }

I think adults act just as annoying as children do in public places 😉 Especially the woman scratching her ass in line at Subway.

2 twangy { 07.28.11 at 7:50 am }

I agree: children are people too!
But seriously, like you, I stay at home if I want absolute quiet. If I go out, I expect that I might need to show a little flexibility in terms of those I might run into, in the hope that they’ll show it to me when needed.

3 HereWeGoAJen { 07.28.11 at 7:55 am }

I totally agree with you. I’ve been watching the discussion on Prompt-ly too. A lot of people have been saying that it is okay to ban children from nice restaurants. I don’t agree. We’ve taken Elizabeth to nice restaurants since she was an infant. If she becomes disruptive, we take her out. But we rarely have to do that because she’s learned how to behave at a nice restaurant because we’ve often taken her there. She’s two and a half and she sits and eats beautifully at our favorite Japanese restaurant. We get compliments from other parents all the time that their kids would never behave like this or eat this kind of food. I think it is important that children adjust to society and learn how to fit in to all different situations. She can tell the difference too- she sits nicely at nicer restaurants and she is a little noisier and bouncy at louder restaurants with kids running around.

4 Chickenpig { 07.28.11 at 7:56 am }

I find people talking on cell phones are 100x more annoying than a child. Normal child behavior (not extremely bratty behavior) is just that…normal. Kids whine when they are tired and hungry, they fidget and talk loudly when bored and ignored. It is the PARENTS that are to be banned in these cases. Who takes their kid out to a nice restaurant past their bedtime? or expects them to sit quietly through a movie that they don’t understand? At least the kids are just being kids. Adults who talk loudly on cell phones, cut in line at the coffee shop, or cop a feel on the subway are old enough to know better.
I went with my husband to an art museum (before kids…waaaay before) and there were a couple of little ones playing around bored. Hubby whispered something about ‘brats in an art museum blah blah blah, and then I took him by the hand and had him look up at the paintings on his knees. Aha! kids can’t SEE anything. If you look at art from a kid’s height, they only see light shining off the varnish! Kids naturally want to please adults, and they will if given half the chance. Some adults on the other hand….

PS I didn’t know all that stuff about Jews…hmmm. good to know 😉

5 HereWeGoAJen { 07.28.11 at 7:58 am }

P.S. Saying that children should be banned from airplanes drives me crazy. It is one of my exceptions for children’s behavior. Because I have to be on this airplane to get to where I need to go and there is no taking her out if she misbehaves. Not a lot I can do. And I don’t agree that children should be banned from first class either. If I had a well behaved child and the money to ride in first class, I would want that choice.

6 Mina { 07.28.11 at 8:21 am }

That’s precisely it, behaviour should be banned, not children. But fact is there are too many unbehaved children with indolent parents and in order to have some order, some business owners try to avoid saying to those parents ‘Lookie here, your children screaming and running wild and hitting chairs and kicking plant pots are as annoying as your doing nothing about it and ignoring the pest that are your children, pretending to be a modern parent with a genius child, when in fact you’re a slob raising a slob’. No wants to open that can of worms. So the solution is just to overlook this issue, since the masses can’t be educated, and just go around and create another issue. Smart, heh?!

I totally understand when people want a child-free time and place. Denying me to go somewhere with my child is a bit cheeky, but then those places are not my first or tenth option, to be honest, anyway. Denying me the right to travel how I want is also bothering me a bit, but then practically, I’m not in that situation nor will I be anytime soon (this lifetime – first class, don’t hold your breath waiting for me), so again, it doesn’t matter.

You see the circle I am in? And I think I am not alone. When we have kids, we would not go to places where children could be a nuisance, but other would, so those places ban children. And we don’t really get involved, because hey, we DON’T go there anyway. And when we do, the kids are grown up and they are not banned anymore. So yeah, quite a pickle, huh? Suck it up is what I chose to do. I know ignoring is not the best way and the reason’s sleep brings forth monsters, but what can I do? Personally, I chose not to fight the windmills and just suck it up.

7 Kate B { 07.28.11 at 9:07 am }

It’s not the children who should be banned, it’s the parents who bring children places they don’t belong or who fail to address the issue when their children are behaving in a disruptive manner.

8 Michaela { 07.28.11 at 9:13 am }

I totally agree with your point(s) here but on the flip side:

“You have to be this tall to ride this ride”

And maybe just maybe “You have to be this old to enter this establishment, see this movie or be in the damn bar!”

Even though I thought Reese Witherspoon took care of this in Sweet Home Alabama apparently that was not the case because for many, many years I have tended bar and it never ceased to amaze me that amount of people that bring their children and babies into the bar and tell them to sit on the bar stool. It is unacceptable even if you are “just waiting for a table”.

By law you must be 18 to sit at a bar and by law you must be 18 to be in a R rated film.

I recently went to see Scream and there were children in the movie theater. Instead of enjoying the film I became more concerned about the effect of the films graphic nature on those young children.

So there are some places that children just don’t belong and for many, many good reasons.

9 Betty M { 07.28.11 at 9:20 am }

I have sympathy with the plane eg as essentially it is the equivalent of the quiet coach with no mobiles. It’s not the fact they are children but the fact that they are more likely to cry, wail, walk about, kick seats and generally make a nuisance of themselves than an adult and less likely to be amenable to an instruction to stop it. I know if I had paid that much to fly first so I could for eg work or sleep before a meeting I would be livid if I had some unhappy toddler making everyone’s flight a misery next to me. I would feel the same about a disruptive adult too.

Restaurants are different. I have taken my kids to the fanciest of restaurants and they have behaved and been welcome. I don’t take them in the evenings unless it is a relaxed place.

10 a { 07.28.11 at 9:40 am }

Of course it’s the parents who are the problem. How do you fix that, though?

We just got back from vacation. We left our daughter with her grandparents because we didn’t think she’d enjoy our plans (and some kid-free time would be nice). There’s no way I’d have taken her to any of the wine-tastings we did. But we went to the National Forest, where I saw many kids her age. I would not have taken her there, either. It would have been too much exertion for her – and she would have gotten tired and cranky and whiny. But I see the other kids, and wonder if it’s me being considerate (of her and of anyone who would have to listen to her) or if it’s me being lazy.

My aunts used to take all the nieces and nephew out for a nice dinner every year – but you couldn’t attend until you had turned 18. They wanted an adult dinner with adult conversation. One of my aunts took us shopping and to lunch for our birthdays every year. My mom would threaten us with death and destruction if we misbehaved. We got to choose our dining locale, and my aunt was surprised that only once did anyone suggest they go to McDonald’s. We always wanted to show off our good behavior, I guess.

Anyway, I guess my point is – you should be training your children to behave in public. So, you don’t start off at the difficult level – you start where they can make mistakes without it being terrible for them, you, or everyone else.

Airplanes, though? Suck it up. You can’t just leave the baby at home. You can’t make people with kids travel by car everywhere. Our flights were full of kids and I didn’t even notice.

11 BigP's Heather { 07.28.11 at 9:41 am }

@Michaela – I “think”, I’m not sure, but I think that is a safety thing and not just discrimination…

I do agree with bans. For legal and safety reasons. I haven’t read that article and I don’t agree with banning children from most establishments and airplanes (or sections of them).

I enjoy the fact that there are “21 and up” establishment. I know they are that way due to legal issues and alcohol. But if I want a drink without kids, I can go there.

I also agree with the others who said it isn’t the kids but the parents who are to blame. I don’t agree with taking a two year old to a midnight movie. I don’t agree with taking a two year old to a nine oclock dinner at a four star restaurant. BUT, I also know that sometimes things happen that are out of the parents control and they are doing the best they can…

12 a { 07.28.11 at 9:46 am }

@Betty M – I’d say the plane is NOT like the quiet coach. It’s more like the city bus where you’re packed in as closely as possible. First class is paying more for more room and more comfort. You are still on the city bus, though…

13 Mrs. Gamgee { 07.28.11 at 9:55 am }

Thank you for this post Mel! I have been chewing on this subject for some time now, and you have voiced my feelings exactly (when I didn’t know how to say it). Banning behavior is what needs to be done. Instead, to avoid awkward conversations with dumba$$ parents who take their kids to inappropriate places, those in authority just choose to make a blanket ban on a group of people who really have no control over their being there in the first place.

Many years ago, when I was a youth director for a church, I would spend a lot of time hanging out in the vicinity of different high schools, visiting the members of my youth group when they were on lunch or watching their games. One thing that always bothered me was convenience stores located nearby which had limitations on the number of teens who were allowed in at one time. Would they have been able to get away with that if they had posted signs on how many people were in the store based on race, or colour, or religion? No. And yet somehow it is deemed ok, by society at large, to discriminate against kids.

14 Kir { 07.28.11 at 10:37 am }

I heard about the restaurant in PA very early on because it happened in PA and well that’s where I live and everyone was talking about it.
I disagreed with it from the get go, and this was AFTER a very bad weekend of ours with our sons and public places. In particular on place that I was sure we were going to KICKED out of because of Jacob’s behavior. If you think I say “I’m sorry” too much now, you didn’t see that weekend my friend.


but you’re right, there are lots of people that we can ban from lots of places, but we won’t…we don’t…it’s NOT RIGHT and if a parent can’t see that their child needs to removed from that place then they are the one with the problem, not the 3 yr old that doesn’t know better yet. We took Jacob outside, we talked to him, we dealt with his annoying behavior OURSELVES.

just as a side note,early in June my SIL wanted to take my MIL out for her 80th Birthday to a very swanky, on the Hudson, overlooking NYC restaurant on a Sat night at 6:30 pm. It was Father’s Day weekend and so I knew that if I was dining my family, on a romantic 1st date or any other occasion that would call for a swanky menu that I would not want 3 yr old twins running around. (We had tried a semi classy place for brunch the weekend before with said SIL and they were HORRID …HORRID in front of her I tell you) but SIL insisted and I told her my worries, days and nights of not sleeping etc…but we went and the boys were GOOD AS GOLD. Sometimes your children will surprise you, sometimes they just need the benefit of the doubt, like Polish girls who talk to much or Jews who talk to much.

I am so sorry I got wordy, but I do hope it got my point of how ridiculous I think this is across. 😉

15 Heather { 07.28.11 at 11:35 am }

Brava! So proud of you.

As I said before, we often elicit stares and discussions because of Jack. He is not quiet. He drools. He occasionally makes strange noises. He fights imaginary Star Wars men. All day. Everyday.

I think banning anything, ANYTHING, makes me kind of stabby and rebellious inside. And that makes me want to lose my mind on someone.

And I get sad seeing babies sometimes too. But I think my life would be much more sad if I never got to see a baby smile as I passed by. Or watched a mother nurture her youngling in the park. Ya know?

16 Birds and Squirrels { 07.28.11 at 12:07 pm }

Birdie has flown first class, right on her first birthday. We did not pay for it – we were upgraded based on my husband’s frequent flier status. Coach was overbooked so they bumped all three of us up. We certainly were not expecting it, but it was so nice to have extra space around us. We had all 4 seats across the row to ourselves, so we had her car seat buckled in and had room to let her sit in a seat. I was nervous, but she behaved beautifully. Of course, we were prepared with lots of things to amuse her, plenty of food, and we paid for a ticket for her so she could be in her familiar and comfortable car seat instead of on our laps for 8 hours.

Another thing to consider is that many people sitting in first class are not paying full fare for the seat – they are frequent fliers who have been upgraded. I used to travel a lot for work and would get upgraded once in a while, and I have to say, I would rather sit next to a baby than an obnoxious businessman. I’ve had beer spilled on me by a drunk guy. There are so many self important adults who behave poorly in first class.

17 Pam/Wordgirl { 07.28.11 at 12:32 pm }

I whole-heartedly agree that much of the issue surrounding children in public spaces is really more about how their parents address the behavior — presumably taking into account places that are and are not child-appropriate. There seems to be a kind of entitlement on both sides of the fence here — on the one side there’s the sense of entitlement in the child-as-accessory crowd that children should go and are welcomed everywhere — and on the part of those who wish to ban children from public space there’s the idea that they are entitled to an environment free from anything troublesome or unwanted — I think that a good dose of compassion on all sides could solve this. Compassion on the side of the caregivers who can realize and circumvent situations as they arise — and compassion on the part of patrons…

Airplanes are a different matter — I’m not sure about a distinction between first class and coach — we recently had a nine and a half hour day flight with Z, who is 19 months old (and W, 11) — our carrier had reassigned us (without our consent) to a bulkhead seat. We were traveling with her on our laps, not having the extra money for the already steep airfare — she’d been a champ on our arrival — but it was a nighttime flight — but this time — immediately as we arrived at our seats we were trying to see if another passenger might switch seats with us so that all of us might sit together (they’d also separated us by the aisle) and the older woman next to the man kind enough to offer his seat said, fluttering her Financial Times at me, “I was assured I wouldn’t be seated by a child” — and she said it about four times until I, immediately on the defensive, whirled on her and hissed “well these seats were assigned us by the airline — we had no say in it” — and I spent the next nine and a half hours — already apologetic for the very sin I’d committed of bringing a child on the airplane — that much more anxious.

What next, child-only planes? Family-only?

18 Kate (Bee In The Bonnet) { 07.28.11 at 1:12 pm }

I agree with you, whole-heartedly, and I replied to a child-free friend on FB who had shared the article, and said pretty much what you said. The one slight difference I shared was that I feel like setting aside kid-free *times* at establishments was a perfectly fair way to solve the problem. Ultimately, the better solution is to ban behaviors, but if there are people (and my gosh, there ARE…) who are irrationally offended by the presence of children and you, as a restaurant owner, want to cater to them, then perhaps you say that you will seat children under 6 before 7:00 p.m., but that after that, you become an adults-only establishment. I think that allows for people who want to be away from children to do so. I recall vividly being pregnant with the twins and wanting to have a nice anniversary dinner with my husband, understanding that I soon wasn’t going to be able to so easily do so (and writing a blog post about it that pissed someone off enough to bad-mouth me on her blog because I dared to suggest that it was a bad decision for the parent of this particular child…). We chose a late seating at a very nice restaurant, and were enjoying our meal when a woman came in with her two children, one of whom was a very fussy, very over-tired 3 year old, who proceeded to beg, whine, cry and otherwise vocalize her overwhelmed emotions very, very loudly, while the woman more or less ignored her in favor of chatting with “uncle Dave”. She clearly didn’t have the good sense to cut her date short or schedule it earlier or get a sitter (or, you know, be a decent human being toward her child who was begging to go to sleep…), and I think that’s the people for whom these rules are being made.

So yes, I agree. Children are humans and as such, should be treated as though they are. Discrimination is discrimination, and I think discrimination is wrong.

19 Jonelle { 07.28.11 at 1:44 pm }

I think you are correct in directing the ban on the behaviour and not the group of people. My husband and I love to go to the movies…correction I like to go to the movies. We go every weekend in the summer. Being that we are a child-free couple I can’t help but cringe when I see some parents walking into the cinema with a toddler ready to watch a film that is PG-13. Its not so much that I’m afraid of the child ruining the movie experience for me, but of what the child is being exposed to by watching a film with violent images and mild language.
I can understand people’s need for quiet in places like a plane, restuarants, the cinema. But like you said, you can get loud and obnoxious people everywhere. It all comes down to banning the behaviour, not the people.

20 Erica { 07.28.11 at 2:27 pm }

I think what you write about banning behaviors rather than people is very important. And even then, there’s some need to be even-handed and thoughtful in looking at what behaviors really are bothersome. In my library, for instance, we made a change from banning cell phones to asking people having *any kind* of loud conversation to take it to an area where they won’t interrupt studying. Some people still complain (well, some people just don’t like cell phones), but this newer approach saves us and our students a lot of aggravation – it felt very silly and unfair to be asked to “shush” a quiet person on a cell phone when they were surrounded by students talking away with their friends.

That’s just one example, but I think it’s important to ask questions about what behaviors in public spaces prevent people from doing what they came there to do and about what expectations it’s worth banning behaviors in order to meet. I may expect a fancy restaurant to provide me with a relaxing night out, for example, and I think that expectation is reasonable, and that crying and throwing food should be discouraged by that restaurant. I may expect a plane to get me to the Midwest quickly and in relative (if minimal) comfort to see my family, and I think that any behavior that holds up the flight or puts me in danger (more danger than the base-line of danger you engage in when flying hundreds of miles about the earth in a construction of metal and plastic, anyway) should be discouraged by the airline. If I expected an airplane to provide me with a relaxing afternoon or evening out, though, and insisted that others’ behaviors support my expectations, well, I think in that case the problem might be mine, and rightfully so.

21 Rebecca { 07.28.11 at 2:58 pm }

Looks like I’m in the minority and not to that place in my life (i.e. I haven’t been able to have children) to be offended by the prospect of not being allowed to take them somewhere. I would rather enjoy if at times there were a child-free zone somewhere, ANYWHERE, that I wouldn’t have to be the hermit I become sometimes when I can’t deal with seeing/dealing with the annoying behaviors that seem to plague us wherever we go. I do agree that a majority of the problem is the parents not dealing with the behaviors of the bratty children, but I would also like it if for once my husband and I could enjoy a meal out somewhere without having to listen to a screaming/squealing/mouthing off child. Just my opinion and I’m sure I’m going to get flamed for it.

22 It Is What It Is { 07.28.11 at 3:00 pm }

I do not like wholesale bans on people, either, and agree with the many that have said that the child is behaving child-like and the problem is with the parent who doesn’t manage the behavior as it is spiraling out of control (and then throws dirty looks at everyone who is giving them the stink eye as if it is none of their business that the child is screaming obscenities at the top of their lungs in a restaurant with cloth napkins).

That said, I do cherish being about to visit my Arclight theater and attend a rated R movie with no children present. And, maybe the rating system for movies is really on to something and for those establishments that are geared toward adults, they be allowed to advertise “Families welcome before 9” etc.

I am not that passionate about this but I do think that families, especially with young children would like to gravitate toward establishments where they are going to be welcomed (and in some cases the behavior of their children better tolerated) than forcing a square peg in a round hole. But, that’s just me (who has a strong-willed 4 yr old who, while mostly well mannered, sometimes just isn’t having any of the need to sit in his seat and eat quietly).

23 Queenie { 07.28.11 at 5:25 pm }

I think the problem isn’t with kids in any space–it’s with parents who neither teach appropriate behavior for the space, nor take their child out when the child misbehaves. Children have to learn how to act, and how do they learn if we don’t teach them? We take our daughter almost everywhere, but we are careful to remove her if she gets loud or fussy. We get plenty of dirty looks, though.

I feel Pam’s pain about the plane. People are rotten about kids on planes.

24 Marissa { 07.28.11 at 5:41 pm }

I think the airplane thing is absurd, but I’m kind of split on the restaurant/theater thing.

My husband and I were at a very nice restaurant for our anniversay. A nearby couple had a small child who really was behaving terribly–throwing things, yelling, etc. The maitre d’ finally asked the couple to leave…and holy cow, they threw a fit worse than their toddler’s!!

I don’t know how often that happens–we’re usually not at fancy places–but if patrons who are asked to leave throw huge fits (and likely don’t pay their bills or tip their servers), then I can see pre-emptively banning small children after 9pm or whatever. Because yes, it’s the parents’ fault…and the parent’s don’t care and will be jerks and “kids will be kids” about it. :/

25 mrs spock { 07.28.11 at 6:03 pm }

There is a local restaurant that we hang at, and we only bring the kids for lunch- never for dinner. I would hate to bother people over their nicer pricier dinner and wine with my 3 year old climbing under the table! There are certain places kids really don’t belong- like cocktail bars, swanky restaurants, the theater. Should a full-on ban be necessary- I’d hope not- but there are always folks who break the rules of etiquette. We ate at the Cheesecake factory today, and two older women were having a birthday lunch next to us. My son started crawling across the booth too near them, and I pulled him back into line ASAP! I had to threaten to leave without him eating his chicken strips for being “ungentlemanly”.

26 Shana { 07.28.11 at 6:19 pm }

I was also going to respond on the promptly listserve but this is probably a more appropriate forum for my response.

I have two big issues with this. First, the way these kinds of articles are written just fuels child hatred. I mean, seriously, refering to children as “germy broods” is just obnoxiously bad form and it is downright discriminatory. I think someone linked to another article that quoted someone refering to bans on chldren as “brat bans”. As in children = brats, period. To use Mel’s example, what if you refered to any other generalized group of people as “a germy brood” or “brats”? And the comments! I try to avoid the comment section of articles like this because they tend to atract the worst hateful vitriol ever spouted.

Second, bans on children serve effectively as bans on mothers, who tend to be the primary care-takers of children in our society, and thus a ban on women. This just makes my feminist ears bleed and blood boil. To say “Oh just get a sitter, you can still enjoy your time away from your children” speaks to privilege. What about the mother who cannot afford a sitter? Granted, someone who can’t afford a sitter probably isn’t going to 5 star restaurants or purchasing first class air fare, but I’m guessing they still need to go to the grocery store, and might like to treat themselves to a movie from time to time, even if just for a birthday. What about the mother who has a special needs child for whom getting an appropriate sitter is difficult or problematic? Or the mother who is newly relocated and is thus somewhat isolated with no family or friends to turn to for help with care-taking?

When you kick children out of the public sphere you effectively kick women out of the public sphere because women are most frequently care-takers of children, and that kind of policing of women’s autonomy and freedom of movement is simply not ok to me. If certain behaviors are the problem, ban the behavior and ask people violating the code of behavior to leave. Don’t ban complete groups of people.

Stepping down from soapbox now.

27 Sushigirl { 07.28.11 at 6:50 pm }

Funnily enough, I’ve just posted on going to the theatreto a grown-up play, and being sat next to someone who’d brought twins.

I don’t think having childfree spaces is the same as banning black/Jewish/Catholics or whatever from certain areas. Because everyone has been a child once, and not everyone belongs to a minority. It’s discrimination, but then, if you accept that senior citizens get reduced travel and so forth, and young people get free swimming lessons and can’t get into pubs, then you#ve accepted it’s ok to discriminate on age grounds.

On that basis, I think that it’s fair enough if hotels or restaurants have a child free policy. If you don’t want to be disturbed by someone else’s kids (or your own) you choose to go somewhere child free. If you want to bring your kids, then there are loads of places that you can – and you’re unlikely to find child-free places in small towns or other situations where it would mean some people didn’t have anywhere. So I don’t think allowing people to make the choice of going to a child-free restaurant or hotel is that big a deal – if there’s enough business to support it, then why not? It’s one of the few instances where I think it’s reasonable to let the market decide.

28 Mali { 07.28.11 at 8:11 pm }

I responded on Prompt-ly, but will put in my two cents worth here too. No-one is talking about a blanket ban on kids in nice restaurants, planes or movie theatres. That would be ridiculous, and would discriminate as much against the parents (and mostly mothers) as the children.

But if individual businesses want to cater specifically for babies or children, or choose to cater for those adults who prefer to be in a specific space at a specific time without kids, then they have an absolute right to do that. I agree with Sushigirl’s argument – I don’t think it is discrimination. It is a case of letting the market decide. That’s why kids-friendly cafes do a roaring trade in some parts of the city, and child-unfriendly cafes do a roaring trade in the CBD. Family resorts that cater to children are full and noisy and doing good business, and resorts for adults only are also full, and blissfully quiet and romantic. Movie theatres have Mums and Babies showings of adult movies, and so I can’t see why they couldn’t have ( e.g) adults only showings of Harry Potter. I’d pay extra for that. And if there is no market, then don’t do it.

And let’s be specific on the first class travel ban. Malaysian Airlines offers three classes – First, Business , and Economy (Coach to Americans). Babies under 2 (who don’t have to have a seat purchased for them) are not accepted in First Class on their long haul international flights. Parents can still purchase tickets in business class, enjoy luxury service and lie-flat beds, with their infants. They are not simply restricted to economy. I know the Malaysian market – that would be business suicide. And if parents still want to travel First Class, then they can always choose another airline. For Malaysian Airlines, it’s a business decision they have made. If it backfires and costs them money, you can be pretty sure they’ll change it.

I don’t have kids- that’s probably clear. And I like that occasionally – even though it usually costs me extra – I can retreat to a space where I am NOT reminded of the fact that I will never be a mother, where I am NOT reminded of the fact that my husband will never be the amazing father he could have been, and where I can simply be – not a parent, and not a non-parent, just another adult.

29 Delenn { 07.28.11 at 9:38 pm }

Amen. I have often taken my kids to places that may seem inappropriate to some. If they behave wrongly, I take them out of the situation. And that is that.

30 Mina { 07.29.11 at 1:50 am }

Apparently I do care and I do want to get involved in the windmill fight.

I think I disrespectfully disagree to the ‘age discrimination’. Giving seniors a few privileges and children some incentives is not age discrimination. For me it is like the smokers’ discrimination, they are not allowed to smoke inside, so they are discriminated and smoke outside. This is protection of non-smokers, not discrimination.

Business owners should deal with loud children and their parents as they deal with loud disruptive drunks – evacuate them when the case be, but not stopping serve alcohol altogether to anyone. Children are the purest beings in the world, we should not ban them, but teach. We’re striving to get equal rights for everyone regardless of race, religion views or sexual orientation, but ban children?

A person’s a person after all, no matter how small.

31 Chickenpig { 07.29.11 at 8:52 am }

I remember quite well being about 10-11 years old and my aunt and uncle took me out for a surprise outing to a posh restaurant and a show as part of a gift. Along with them, because she ALWAYS went with them was my cousin who was about 2-3 yrs old. My cousin was the best behaved child, with impeccable manners, and I was so amazed at the chance to be in such a ‘grown up’ situation I would sooner stab myself in the eye with a fork as misbehave. Since I was one of three children to a single mom I never got to go anywhere. Not all children are brats, far from it, nor all parents irresponsible. It is is just as acceptable for a restaurant/theater/ museum what have you to have ‘quiet hrs’ boldly posted and to evict ALL breakers of the rule, not just children. I have three kids of my own, and when I want to get out I want to be able to enjoy myself, but if the kids at the next table are behaving themselves I probably won’t even notice. Ban the behavior, not the person.

32 LC { 07.29.11 at 9:52 am }

One of our favorite sandwich places has an appropriate sign for this situation: “Unattended children will be forced to chug two Mountain Dews and given a chocolate chip cookie. ” everybody knows the consequences and that the establishment (which is also a liquor store) will not tolerate unruly behavior.
Our child isn’t quite three months old and we’re going to attempt to eat out with her for the first time this weekend. We’ve already got a plan for the kinds of “bad” behavior we expect (crying, hungry, etc.). I’m still not really looking forward to the experience, but I know we’ll want to eat out occasionally as she grows up.

33 loribeth { 07.29.11 at 10:49 am }

I’m of two minds on this subject. I appreciate your excellent point, Mel, about the need to focus on the behaviour vs the demographic. And I know a lot of parents try their best & still wind up with a wailing baby on an airplane.

At the same time, like many of you (& as someone who doesn’t have kids, & never will), I’ve been in restaurants, at movie theatres, at parties & other situations that were clearly adult-oriented — & yet someone has brought along their child(ren). If I’m eating at Applebees at 6 p.m. on a Saturday night, I know there will be kids & noise. If I’m eating at an upscale restaurant at 8 p.m., I would hope for a little more tranquil atmosphere.

I’m sympathetic that not everyone can afford a babysitter, but I remember a scrapbooking message board debate over party & wedding invitations that specified “no children/adults only.” Maybe it’s a generational thing, & the influence of “helicopter parenting,” but I was amazed at the number of parents who said they would NEVER leave their child with a babysitter — not even a family member. Cost aside, they just didn’t go out without their children. Period.

34 Monte Snellenberger { 07.29.11 at 11:03 am }

Finally, a voice of reason in this age-discrimination laden public dialogue. As a parent, I too can appreciate some Adults-Only time. But I certainly am not so arrogant/narcissistic as to expect the public domain to constantly cater to my wants/desires. In considering “normal/appropriate” public behavior it’s not fair to expect children under a certain age to consistently behave like adults. They are at a completely different developmental level. (Sometimes more advanced than adults!) 😉 All that said, as a conscience participant in the public space I believe it’s appropriate for parents to make reasonable efforts to minimize negative impact of our children on others. But it’s also completely reasonable for us as “the public” to be a bit more supportive of the fact that these little people are still on a learning trajectory and are not going to get it perfect every time.

35 coffeegrljp { 07.29.11 at 1:57 pm }

I think of public libraries and how they try to address behaviors. Because they really don’t want to discriminate against anyone in the public but they also have to deal with the reality. If you’ve never seen the list of the rules of conduct for a public library, it’s interesting to see how these behaviors get tallied and addressed. To me, this isn’t a perfect solution, but it gets more to the root causes of the problem.

36 Jo { 07.29.11 at 5:14 pm }

I’m going to side with the minority on this one.

I do think, Mel, that you brought up some very valid points and things to consider. However, I respectfully disagree that having a “no children” policy is the same thing as having a “no Asian/Black/Jew/WhatHaveYou” policy. I agree with many of the above points made by Rebecca and SushiGirl.

The key thing to remember is that no one is advocating that ALL places ban children, or even most. As far as I can tell, its a great minority of businesses that do so. And, I’m sorry, but I don’t consider any business to be a “public” place. It is a privately-owned business and thus not required to serve anyone and everyone. Of course, it makes good business sense to do so, but it is by no means a requirement.

I, for one, would not be offended by a “no children” policy, because I don’t see it catching on and becoming a widespread problem. Many places will continue to cater to families, and that is great. Others that don’t should not be vilified for trying to reach a market (those who don’t wish to be around children) that has been largely ignored. It’s their business, and the easiest solution is simple: don’t patronize that establishment if you disagree with their policies. If the pocketbook is affected, policies will change. Period.

37 slowmamma { 07.29.11 at 10:04 pm }

I find myself in two places at once in this debate. I wholeheartedly disagree with the spirit of the ban. I lived in Spain for a summer many years ago and then spent some time there again with my husband-to-be in my early twenties and the thing that I loved the most about Spanish culture was how inclusive it is. Holidays and events are about everyone, from the oldest member of the community to the youngest. I absolutely adored walking from rock concert to balloon toss to older ladies’ knitting gallery at 3am during a Semana Santa. I personally prefer to live in a society like this one, even if it means the occasional annoyance or inconvenience (or incredibly painful reminder) that comes with young children.

However, I personally don’t feel that I will be terribly affected if an upscale restaurant or two decide not to allow children. It is highly unlikely that I will become a patron but, as long as they can live without me, I can live without them. Jo brings up a very valid point. In our society, finances are very effective at driving decisions.

38 Alexicographer { 07.30.11 at 12:48 am }

@Meg and @Jo, where I live and in many other US states (aka “the South”) 50 years ago (before I was born, but not by much) private businesses were serving some citizens, but not others, depending on their race. Such discrimination (on the part of private businesses) was subsequently held to violate the Interstate Commerce clause of the US Constitution (Katzenbach v. McClung, 379 U.S. 294 (1964)). On the other hand, more recent challenges against gyms that serve just women (Curves) or just men (Blitz) have, as far as I’ve been able quickly to turn up, been rejected.

In short, as a society, the US seems OK with private businesses excluding some groups, but not with their excluding others — leaving unaddressed the issue of which sort of group children compose. Still, I think it’s worth noting that private businesses cannot necessarily, in fact, just exclude whatever groups they choose.

39 Barb { 07.31.11 at 10:10 pm }

YES. And do we really want our children to NOT learn how to behave politely in society and experience those stimuli so that they become horribly annoying ADULTS?

40 M Nixon { 08.01.11 at 1:09 pm }

I agree with the restaurant owner in PA. I prefer to go places where I know there won’t be children. People who don’t care for children have just as much right as those who do to voice an opinion and to have peace and quiet in public venues. Personally, I wish our government would enact legislation to limit the number of children people can have. This would alleviate many issues in this country.

41 Bee { 08.01.11 at 9:52 pm }

We are on a flight across the Pacific. A LONG flight across the Pacific. Mama, Papa, and one year old baby are happy enough until baby decides she feels sick, gets a bit fussy, and pukes all over Papa. A little while later, she pukes all over Mama. Across the aisle is a middle-aged man. He is very intoxicated. He is drinking on the plane. He is becoming disruptive and verbally abuse to staff. Finally, he passes out. Upon arriving at the airport, Mama and Papa stink, baby is asleep, and Drunk Man is met by security. Should we ban middle-aged men, alcohol, or babies from planes?

42 H o'herin { 08.02.11 at 8:05 am }

Please children are not a protected class. They are juveniles without rights and the responsibility of their parents- who by the way did not have to reproduce. Too bad if you can’t have the lifestyle you had before becoming mommy and daddy. I don’t feel I should even have to see your kids much less here them. I don’t frequent chuck e cheese for that reason. I am sick to death of being grabbed, screamed at, sneezed
on or otherwise harassed by your kids. I have been groped by toddlers while seated at a bar. If I had done that I would be in jail. Enough! you are not entitled to inflict your brood on me.

43 katie { 08.16.11 at 10:49 am }

Comparing the prices of unrestricted/short notice economy tickets and first/business class tickets, Mr Spouse commented that when we (fingers crossed) go to meet our future child, we might want to think about flying back first class. You pay for the space and the service. I don’t think you pay for the absence of babies, or noise.

44 Amaryllis { 09.05.11 at 10:56 am }

Sorry, I don’t agree with this at all. There is a market for adults only activities, regardless of how children behave. There are adults-only resorts, adult s-only travel tours. Children aren’t allowed into most spas, many hairdressers, nail salons, etc.

People are entitled to travel and eat without hearing children, and restaurants and other public accommodations are within their rights to accommodate that market. This is even if the children behave well, and as we all know, there has been a HUGE breakdown in the public manners of children over the past 40 or so years, and also a huge disconnect in common sense among parents who think their children belong everywhere.

This has only added to the demand for childfree spaces.

FWIW, ChuckECheese won’t allow me into it’s restaurants unless I am accompanied by a child, and I’m OK with that. Why do you think it should be different for adults??

Being a Jew is not comparable to being a child. Children are regularly kept out of certain establishments until they get older, taller, or better behaved. You will be a Jew, Black, Asian, or homosexual your entire life. It is not a changeable characteristic.

45 Charles { 01.19.12 at 11:30 pm }

And the beauty of the free market is that if you don’t approve of a place that has instituted a ban on children on the premises, you… wait for it… don’t have to go there!

Pretty simple, no? Rather than try to force your children onto people who don’t want to listen to them screaming while they eat, go somewhere else where they don’t mind having children on the premises. Any business has the right to refuse service to anyone they want for any reason they want within the limits of specific laws written to address refusals in that particular locale.

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