Getting Out of the Children’s Ghetto
I’m sure you’ve seen the news report about the restaurant in Pennsylvania that has banned children under six years of age. And I’m sure you’ve heard a lot of support for the restaurant’s stance. It is not unreasonable for people who have paid a lot of money for a meal to expect that they can enjoy it without being bothered by a bunch of unruly little ones running around.
However, I do feel it is unfair to focus blame on the children. Think about it. Whenever you have been in a similar situation, haven’t you expressed your annoyance with the question, “Don’t those kids know how to behave in a restaurant?” The answer, obviously, is that they don’t know. And the reason they don’t is that they have never been given the chance to learn.
In the old days, while parents might not have taken their young children to fancy restaurants, they did take them to “family friendly” establishments. In those places, you could hear the parents gently instructing and admonishing their kids, “Sit up straight,” “keep your voices down,” “don’t get up until everyone is finished,” etc. As a result, the children gradually learned how to enjoy themselves while still being considerate and respectful of the other patrons.
Unfortunately, today, we have created a “children’s ghetto.” There are scores of restaurants that are exclusively “for kids.” In those establishments, the children are not only allowed to run wild and scream to their hearts content, they are encouraged to do so. And many children are having experience only with these establishments during their early years. Consequently, when they “graduate” to traditional establishments, they are completely unprepared.
I’m not saying these places are bad, but like junk food, an exclusive diet of such can be very unhealthy. A sensible balance is needed. Think about what takes place at Romp n’ Roll. There are plenty of opportunities during Open Gym and independent play periods for the little ones to get as crazy as their inclinations may lead them to be. But there also are plenty of times when they are encouraged to sit still, pay attention, follow directions, etc. It is perfectly okay to “let kids be kids,” but it also is necessary to provide them with occasional lessons in restraint, responsibility, and civility in preparation for their eventual emergence from childhood.