June 15, 2012
Question for readers: What obligation do parents have when their kids misbehave at a restaurant?

In midtown and downtown, we rarely encounter gaggles of misbehaving children in restaurants. But my GF and I sure did the other night at a casual but high-quality restaurant.

The noise was incredible. There was yelling, screaming, running, grabbing. And it made me realize: isn't it really about misbehaving adults? The kids were bored. They probably couldn't care less about the artisan techniques or the local, sustainable, organic produce.

Yes, the adults in this case - two couples in their 30s - did almost nothing to discipline their six young kids or get them to pipe down. They were oblivious. To us, it seemed as if they were letting the kids run roughshod around the restaurant, disrupting the rest of us, so they could engage in adult conversation. We were essentially the child care service while they were having some adult time.

I have a couple of concerns. The first has to do with courtesy to others. Aren't parents obligated to get their kids to behave acceptably and get them to speak without screaming when at a restaurant? Isn't this standard etiquette? Or have things changed?

And what about the kids? Not to sound like an old-timer - and I promise not to say I walked six miles to school in eight feet of snow - but I remember the evil eye I got from dad if I even came close to misbehaving at a restaurant. Now, as an adult, I'm thankful that I learned about etiquette and respect and courtesy toward others. Sit up straight. Elbows off the table. Please. Thank you. Isn't this stuff good for kids to know?

Well, there was none of that at this large table of screaming kids and oblivious parents.

Feel free to weigh in:

1. What is acceptable behavior for kids and their parents at restaurants - especially those that are not created specifically for kids (Chuck E. Cheese's)?
2. Would you have said anything to these parents if the behavior of these kids was disrupting your dining experience significantly?
3. Should the parents have chosen are more kid-centric restaurant? Hired a babysitter?

Blair Anthony Robertson is The Bee's restaurant critic. Follow him on Twitter, @blarob.

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