Weekly Writing Challenge – How do you feel about children in adult-oriented places?

One of my friends can’t stand children let alone badly behaving ones.    Many moons ago I took her out shopping in York.  It was sale time and a certain child was running around in a specific shop barging into old people, us, other kids, and adults – he did not discriminate.   His mother made no attempt to contain, divert, remove or chastise him.

 After the third circuit this child suddenly gave a cry and went flying into a rack of size 10 dresses.    My friend looked smug which was a vast improvement from the ‘I’m going to either strangle you or throw you across the room” glares that she had been casting prior to his demise.   I’m still not sure if  he fell over by his own volition and I don’t really want to know because I’d be amused and at the time would have probably applaud her if she’d  had anything to do with it.    Of course I would also have been shocked and appalled at the possible injuries he could have sustained from such a deliberate act and would never condone such action!

So how to answer to the question set by DPchallenge “should we allow children in adult orientated places?”  My friend would obviously vote no but I’m not so sure.   As I’ve not had the joy of raising children it is difficult to appreciate a parent’s  point of view.  However, I do have many friends/family with young children and have dined/shopped/road tripped with them with varying degrees of success and have some opinions on the matter.  From what I have read and the people I have spoken on this topic I find that the common view for  non parents and some people with chicks that have left the nest is that a child misbehaving, screaming or generally invading our space irritating and annoying.  My friends who are parents, on the other hand,  generally find the whole situation mortifying,  embarrassing and feel like they are being judged.   One of my mother’s favourite stories was about the time her 3 year old daughter threw a tantrum in the supermarket because she wouldn’t let her have some sweets (a classic story).  She recounted the feelings of shame she felt,  the glares she received and the sense of failure in her role as a mother because she could not control/comfort me.    When she picked her child up and bodily carried her out of the shop still kicking and screaming she could feel the cold condemning hand of children social services about to descend on her shoulder.

So do we exclude children from adult settings?  Do we stigmatize and isolate parents and their off-spring?  And if we do how do children become socialized and learn to be a functioning member of society?

To answer I need to consider the point of view of each person involved,  cultural aspects and societal expectations.

Points of View from Different Perspectives

A child’s point of view.  I’m bored, I want to play, I don’t understand the conversation, I’m scared, I don’t like the food,  I want someone to take notice of me, I want to run around and laugh because I can’t contain myself, it was very nice but I need to leave now and do something else, oohhh look a little person over there and I want to met them, I like being with grown-ups, I like being part of the conversation.

The parent’s point of view.  They need to learn how to behave in company, I would love to leave them at home but I can’t afford a sitter,  I’m dreading a tantrum and subsequent embarrassment,  I actually like taking my children out and being with them, they think I’m a bad parent.

The adult without a child.     Some people can’t control their children, rude children should not be allowed in adult spaces, I came for a quiet time out with my friends/partner/family, Awww isn’t she/he cute, how nice to see kids out with their parents.

So there appear to be plus’s and negatives for all parties when children are present in adult settings.

Culture and Societal Expectations

Travel extensively, experience different cultures and you too may notice the difference in expectations, beliefs and values when it comes to child raising.   Some countries are far more child and family centered and adult settings are less defined.  People appear to be more tolerant and accepting of children.  One thing I have noticed on my travels is that children living in economically poorer countries very rarely display tantrums or do the whole ‘I want thing’.   I travelled for 5 months in South America, often on public transport, and witnessed one outburst of bad humour from a small child.   Children were tolerated, played with and entertained by the community as a whole.   Thailand is a great example where people love children.  One of my friends has a Thai partner and when we eat out the two year old comes with us.   As soon as we sit down Tom is whipped away by the waitresses who pass him around like a package until it is time for us to pay the bill.    Meanwhile his mother chows down without a second thought whilst his English father’s eyes spin in his head trying to keep track of his son.  Other diners tolerate the baby being passed around and are often happy to join in and cluck over the child for a while.   Eventually Tom is deposited back on one of his parents’ laps, along with our change, totally unfazed by the whole experience.   Can you imagine that being acceptable in America or England?

But how does this discussion and story telling contribute towards answering the original question?

My Conclusion

Well a bit of tolerance and understanding from all adult parties seems to go a long way to making a harmonious, tantrum minimising experience.  Parents should understand that crowded noisy places, full of adults eating unpalatable food, talking about stuff kids don’t comprehend is not fun or interesting for their little ones.  Use of child friendly restaurants, times outside rush hour and self supplied kiddy entertainment could all be ways to cut down the likelihood of tears and an undignified exit.   Parents should also understand that a misbehaving child is not everyone’s cup of tea and they should have strategies in place to calm, divert or deal with a situation.

On the other hand adults without children should be more understanding about the trials and tribulations of raising kids and the need to teach them how to behave in society.  Banning them from every adult establishment may not be the answer if we want to socialize our offspring and teach them how to interact with others .    Ask to be moved if someone’s child is annoying you – I’m sure the staff would not have a problem with this request.  Challenging a parent is probably not a good idea.  They are, more than likely, going to be very embarrassed and fully aware that others are judging them as bad parents.  They may get very defensive.  Try to empathise a little.

If the above strategies were put into place maybe we could have children in what is deemed in our society as ‘adult settings’ – just like other countries in the world.  So yes, apart from the obvious things like children should not be let into strip clubs, x rated movies and other such venues I think children can be present in many adult spaces.    Maybe it just takes us all to make an effort to be more tolerant, understanding, empathetic and willing to discipline in order to create an environment is child and adult friendly and that does not, exclude,  isolate or stigmatize any member of our society big or small.

Am I just being naive wanting us all to get along ?  What do you think?

20 thoughts on “Weekly Writing Challenge – How do you feel about children in adult-oriented places?

  1. I’m a Mom and believe that my daughter is the most perfect person on the planet. However, kids have no place in adult environments. If you can’t afford a sitter, you can’t afford to go. Socialize your little ones at family-friendly restaurants and social events. I personally don’t like to share adult time with somebody’s adult-in-training.

  2. Tolerance is the key concept but as a parent I have always thought that children need to understand boundaries and parents need to ensure that the boundaries are respected. A measure of discipline is necessary, not necessarily beatings but appropriate consequences should be applied. I also believe that when I haul the children along, child friendly locations will allow them to be children.

  3. Good post! I’ve had to take my kids on airplanes, to restaurants, etc. and I expect them to behave themselves. I do bring things to entertain them if the event promises to be a dull one (iPad at the wedding). But I am also a very strict parent and if I have to scold them, I do. I always get good feedback from others on this. Nobody gets mad if you scold your kids because you are trying to teach them how to be good members of society. But everyone resents the parent who ignores their badly-behaving child, because that child will grow up to be a bigger problem later on. I’ve entered restaurants with my children and been seated by people who have that “oh no, kids!” look on their faces, but by the time we’re done they usually say something to the effect that the kids behaved themselves and aren’t they glad. The reason they’re grateful is because the majority of parents do not discipline their kids, and this does the kids no favours in the long run. Kids need to be kids, yes, but they also have to live in civilization and get along with others. Manners is the system humans have devised to get along with each other, and the kids may as well learn, sooner rather than later.

  4. I enjoyed reading your post.
    I don’t have a lot of experience with the Asian way of living (would love to visit a few places there!), but It’s basically the same in a lot of African countries. The children just get passed around until mom or dad are done doing what they needed to do. That’s why I wrote in my post “it takes a village to raise a child”, it’s literally the way of life there. The village raises the child and also sets it straight when needed – without the parents taking offence. We’ve gotten so far removed from co-existing in our western world….like Paul Dean says in the above comment a little responsibility here and a bit of tolerance there, goes a long way 🙂

  5. Really enjoyed reading your article.
    Naive, no. Having been in similar situations all I can say is it’s much easier to get along if everyone plays their part…….a little responsibility here and a bit of tollerence there.
    Great work.

  6. Pingback: Weekly Writing Challenge – How do you feel about children in adult-oriented places? | Tvor Travels

  7. Very well-balanced article, Sue. Enjoyed reading it as well as all the comments. I agree with you – there is less of the “I want” whining and temper tantrums in some parts of the world than others.

    I know that when I was growing up, if I misbehaved in public my parents would often tell me that I was shaming myself and them – and in Asia, the concept of “face” was paramount, and understood by everyone, even children at a very young age. I don’t know if this is a factor, but I’m sure children misbehave equally everywhere – the difference is how different parents in different places react, and handle the situation.

    I am not a mother and am indifferent to cute kids, but I don’t mind them in adult spaces as long as they are not disruptive. After all, how can they learn to become adults if they are not allowed into grown-up situations?

  8. We should be more like the Thai people – cherishing our children instead of excluding them. I’m not going to pretend to be the perfect parent and say my children have never misbehaved in public, but a lot of behavior comes from expectations. If kids know what you expect of them in certain situations, they have a much better chance of meeting those expectations, so give them boundaries and let them have freedom within those boundaries! And for heaven’s sake, some adults need to get over themselves and realize that, GASP, there are children in the world. They may have even been one themselves once. What shouldn’t be tolerated is bad behavior – whatever age the offender.

  9. I have no experience when it’s about kids … except when I borrow my friends – and they are so funny and entertaining … enjoy their company big time, but that’s all I know about kids .. and kids don’t have a problem with having a good time with somebody witch language they don’t understand – not a problem for kids .. That’s why I love my friend’s kids. We should be more like kids .. and we should let kids be kids so long as possible

  10. I think the whole subject is somehow discriminating actually. I know some adults that behave worst then some children but we wouldn’t be having a discussion about those would we? I mean not all kids are the same, not all the students are the same, not all the old people are the same. We are a society and that involves people from all ages including kids and we should try to make it work all together and stop generalizing cause that’s the worst thing of it all.

  11. It’s very like with dogs – you’ve got to get them out and socialising in public from a very early age. The secret with children is never letting them get bored. That’s why family friendly restaurants feed kids first – there’s nothing worse than a hungry child left waiting 😉

  12. P.S. Used to childmind as well, taking three under fives all over the place. They were rarely any bother – I had a huge bag with everything in from their favourite blankets and teddies to small books and games (and a potty!)

  13. My children went with me from when they were born. But they were always under control. If they weren’t I took them home. And they understood that all treats and outings, adult and for children, would be curtailed if they couldn’t behave.
    Went to France once as a party of nine – five of whom were children, three under ten. We went in restaurants and shops and they were brilliant. They were usually so good, the staff in restaurants doted on them, served them first and gave them seconds and even thirds (especially if it was french fries!)
    I always took a stock of small toys or as they got older pen, pencils, a notebook and a reading book. Bored children and unruly children are vile. But they don’t have to be.
    I agree with Valerie. Tired, bored, hungry children will misbehave. And thirsty ones too.

    It is parents that are the problem, not the children.

  14. It may be true that happy children don’t misbehave as the commenter above writes but how do you ensure constant happiness? What about tooth aches, tummy aches, ADHD, autism…etc.? Maybe kids shouldn’t go to adult spaces like doctor’s waiting rooms, peak hour public transport and crowded shopping malls but sometimes there is no alternative. Maybe being more like the Thai people you write about would make for a better world.

  15. MY children went to most places with me from eighteen months onwards – and before then I didn’t go anywhere!
    BUT I can’t stand being around bored children because that’s when they behave badly – called negative attention seeking. So I always made sure I had a stock of toys, games, pencils, water, nuts and ginger biscuits ( which don’t crumb) so the children had all their needs catered for. And I never had a tantrum or any trouble, whether it was in church, the doctor’;s waiting room, a plane or a restaurant.. It’s when parents don’t think imaginatively about how they’d feel in the same situation that children don’t get their common sense needs met.
    Happy children don;’t misbehave. Tired, bored, hungry ignored children do….
    I’ve been writing this in parenting magazines for the last 40 years, but only some people read and get the message!

    • That is so true! I myself bring my son on most places my husband and I went to. I gave him more attention and I always make sure that I have something interesting in my bag that can entertain him. I bring colors, toys (especially cars – he loves them), paper, story books, pens, snacks and I make sure that he gets his sleep on time so not to get cranky.

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