Don’t raise idiots

A couple was recently kicked out of an Applebee’s in Texas because their kids were going to great lengths to disturb the other diners. Applebee’s is handling this in the typical corporate way, making apologetic noises and saying they want this to be a teaching moment, but there can be no doubt: the parents were in the wrong.

The kids are 3 and 1. According to eyewitnesses, the 3-year-old was running around the restaurant and screaming at other guests the entire time. When management tried to talk to the parents, the parents “raised hell in front of the whole restaurant”. They refused to leave and had to be kicked out. Going by the Sheriff’s office’s story, it seems that the restaurant called the cops in order to get the parents to leave, but before the police arrived the parents left on their own; then they in turn called the police to claim they felt threatened. Oh, and they played the race card. Taking personal responsibility is sooo 20th century.

If this sounds a bit one-sided, consider the facts:

  1. The incident happened at around 10 PM. This alone proves these people are incompetent as parents. Kids that age should be in bed by 7:00. That’s just plain common sense. Kids need their bedtime, especially little kids. Yes, there are exceptions for special occasions, but let’s face it: this almost certainly wasn’t one of them.
  2. Every other witness who was in the restaurant who has spoken up on the subject has come out against the parents. So clearly, this isn’t a case of he-said-she-said. The parents’ version of the story is that they were unfairly discriminated against for a number of reasons; everyone else says their kids were out of control and the parents didn’t bother to step in. At least, the story doesn’t name a single witness who spoke in their favor.
  3. People who’ve seen followup footage on the news relate that the kids were still causing a considerable ruckus, which is to say beyond what you’d normally expect, during the parents’ TV interview. Apparently this included one of the kids pulling stuff out of out of his dad’s back pocket. Mind you, this is while the parents were putting their best foot forward for the public.

I don’t have kids myself. I know, I know, everyone says you can’t judge till you’ve had kids of your own. That’s true to a considerable extent, but the line has to be drawn somewhere. That line is somewhere north of 8 PM. And while I haven’t been a parent, my sister and I had two fantastic parents, and I know a number of other fantastic parents too. If their children are out of sorts, they do the same thing that everyone in the world with common sense knows to do: Take them out of the environment, even at great personal inconvenience, until they calm down. That, and the bedtime thing, are so patently obvious that even though parenting doesn’t come with a manual, everyone with a brain knows to do that. This, by the way, goes a thousand times over for a movie theater. (I understand, though, why this can’t always be applied in a grocery store.)

Sure, maybe the kids can’t sit still. I know a little something about that; I was hyperactive as a kid. If you can’t keep your child sitting at the table, at least keep them at the table. Letting them run around the whole place is nothing short of complete failure as a parent. And everyone knows this: I know it, you know it, and your dog knows it.

Comments on the issue have been, appropriately, mostly on the restaurant’s side. Yes, there are people in the “I hate kids” camp who wouldn’t be happy with even well-behaved children, but they’re outliers—and jerks. I think anyone who’s reasonable is going to expect that well-behaved kids may sometimes forget their inside voice, may sometimes “color outside the lines”, but can be brought down to a sensible level. Parents do deserve the chance to go out to eat, and they also need to acclimatize their children to adult environments so they learn how to behave like good people. But if you go to a restaurant with kids, and you don’t accept that you’re the adult and therefore the one who needs to deal with any uncomfortable situations should they arise, you’re an idiot.

One commenter spoke of how he has an autistic child who is sometimes loud in restaurants. Raising a special needs child is obviously not a walk in the park; I have to admit though that I have no idea why he brought up his case in this context, as it’s obviously out of the ordinary and a little extra consideration on everyone’s part—his included—is simply to be expected. People can and should be pretty understanding of kids with special needs. As several others pointed out, however, restaurants may not be ideal environments for those children; sensory overload is a huge trigger for a child with autism, and it’s unfair to them as well as to other patrons to push this too hard and too early. Still, this whole issue seems like a far cry from what was going on in that Applebee’s.

Even the best-raised kids are going to slip now and then; they’re just kids after all. The problem comes in when parents do nothing at all to deal with bad behavior, either because they mistakenly believe they’re powerless or because they just don’t care. The most important thing any parent can teach their child is respect for others. These parents showed none, so their kids didn’t either. They’re still showing none, by blaming the restaurant for all their problems and trying to foist off their own personal failings as a racial thing; good and bad parenting alike come in all colors, and it’s clear race did not play a factor in this event.

Kudos to that Applebee’s for doing the right thing by its other customers. I wish more places of business had the courage to stand up when the situation has obviously gotten way out of hand—and that applies to adults as much as to kids, as I’ve had no shortage of bad experiences in movie theaters thanks to adults behaving badly. Nobody expects kids to be perfect little angels everywhere they go, but the consideration we give has to cut both ways, and that responsibility has to fall foremost on the parents because the kids are too young to understand—especially if they haven’t been taught any better.

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About Lummox JR

Aspiring to be a beloved supervillain
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