Jumping on Restaurant Table Tops

New Style of Parenting?

Ensuring Excellent Dining Experience for All

Four parents sitting in one booth, eating, drinking and visiting. Six children under the age of four sitting in another booth across the aisle from them.

What could possibly go wrong?

A lot.

Recently we dined in a mid-level steak restaurant in Omaha, Nebraska where this scene played out right behind us.

Unattended Children

As expected, the children, left unattended, acted like children do after 8:30 PM. They screamed at the top of their lungs. One kicked the back of our booth until we turned around and asked that the kicking stop. It briefly did. Then continued again.

Another, literally climbed on top of the table and started jumping, hoping to be noticed. She wasn’t.

One wandered the aisle, often interfering in the service delivery by the restaurant staff.

Oblivious Parents

Yet, the four parents remained oblivious. They continued laughing, talking and focusing on themselves only.

As annoying as the children’s disruptions were, I truly felt sorry for them. If they were so easily forgotten in a public space, I wondered, what their lives must be like in private. What must they do to get their parents attention at home? What ramifications do they suffer for their disruptive behavior when no one’s watching? Spankings? Time-out? Worse?

Over time the children’s behavior became so annoying that the management team started routinely walking the aisle between the parent’s and children’s booths.

I never saw a manager speak to any of the adults. Instead, one male manager paused and gazed at the parents. What a cop out. He had every right to speak up on behalf of his restaurant and his other diners.

Finally, a male adult got up and went to the children’s table and loudly scolded them for their ‘bad’ behavior. It didn’t have an effect. The screaming, running and jumping continued.

Finally, they left.

Words Not Eyes

What a sad commentary all the way around. The restaurant should expect more from family diners. The management should feel comfortable setting standards and adhering to them. At a minimum, parents should be expected to sit with and attend to their young children.

Parenting the Parents

It’s sad that someone has to even tell parents that. When did it become okay for parents to think that all other diners want to see and hear their children scream, run and jump in a restaurant? What type of parenting is that?

Many teachers have informally shared that this “parenting style” is evident in classrooms. Now I believe them. I feel for them. Equally, I’m sad for the children who will learn the hard way that standards and boundaries do exist, even in restaurants.

Here is an article emailed to me sharing similar sentiment regarding parenting.

Physician: American Children ‘Immersed in a Culture of Disrespect’

“Then Kyle replied, ‘Shut up, mom. You don’t know what you’re talking about.’ … Kyle is 10 years old.”

Annie Holmquist | December 27, 2016

Let’s face it. Almost every child has likely had some type of meltdown in public, causing great embarrassment to both the child’s parent and to other witnesses in the vicinity. But while such disrespectful behavior is embarrassing at age two, it’s downright horrifying the older a child gets.

Dr. Leonard Sax recently experienced one of these horrifying displays of disrespect in his medical practice. He describes the scenario in a recent edition of The Wall Street Journal:

“Kyle was absorbed in a videogame on his cellphone, so I asked his mom, ‘How long has Kyle had a stomach ache?’ Mom said, ‘I’m thinking it’s been about two days.’ Then Kyle replied, ‘Shut up, mom. You don’t know what you’re talking about.’ And he gave a snorty laugh, without looking up from his videogame. Kyle is 10 years old.”

Unfortunately, such behavior is no longer an anomaly, as Dr. Sax goes on to explain:

“I have been a physician for 29 years. This sort of language and behavior from a 10-year-old was very rare in the 1980s and 1990s. It would have been unusual a decade ago. It is common today. America’s children are immersed in a culture of disrespect: for parents, teachers, and one another. They learn it from television, even on the Disney Channel, where parents are portrayed as clueless, out-of-touch or absent. They learn it from celebrities or the Internet. They learn it from social media. They teach it to one another. They wear T-shirts emblazoned with slogans like ‘I’m not shy. I just don’t like you.’”

But while disrespectful children have become the norm, Dr. Sax has found that respectful, obedient children still exist out there, largely because there are still a few parents who practice authoritative parenting. And according to Dr. Sax, it’s not too late for parents to change course and start instilling respect in their children. His recommendations for doing so are summarized in the following three points:

1. Put the family before the child.

“Prioritize the family. The family meal at home is more important than piling on after-school extracurricular activities. Instead of boosting self-esteem, teach humility.”

2. Remove distractions.

“[N]o screens when you are with your child. Put your cellphone away. No electronic devices at the dinner table. Teach the art of face-to-face conversation.”

3. Draw a line in the sand, and don’t look back.

“If you’re going to make a change, don’t be subtle. New Year’s Day is as good a time as any to sit down with your children and explain that there are going to be some changes in this household: changes in how we talk, in how we behave, in how we treat one another.”

Americans have tried the kinder, gentler, let-me-be-your-friend approach to parenting for the last several decades. If the behavior problems in schools and the heightened level of sensitivity on college campuses are any indication, this parenting approach hasn’t produced the positive outcomes we were hoping for. Is it time for today’s parents to reverse course and begin teaching their children to respect others first instead of their own little selves?

Do you experience this type of absentee parenting when you go out to dinner or elsewhere? If so, how do you confront it? Do you speak up? Share.

©October 2019. Linda Leier Thomason

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Linda Leier Thomason writes freelance business and travel stories along with feature articles. Her work experience includes a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business. Read more about her background and qualifications by clicking on the “Meet Linda” tab above.

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