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Are You Raising Restaurant Ready Children?

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Dear Parents:

You may not be aware of, but when you walk into a restaurant with your beautiful baby in your paisley Baby Bjorn wrap or with your MacLauren stroller and your gracious host walks your six top over to your table – your servers eyes may scan the insides of themselves and sigh in worry. The volatility of children can keep a server in suspense and if you have ever been privy to the after shift conversations in restaurants you will hear many complaints about children. Chicago chef Grant Achatz tweeted negatively about a couple who brought in a crying eight month old and a restaurant in Monterey erected a sign outside their doors pretty much banning children. Sometimes it seems as if all the onus is placed on the child as some villain and as a parent I take offense. As a protective parent you may feel that ‘people just have an issue with children’, roll your eyes and ignore the real cause of these issues – who REALLY is the problem… You.

Now let’s pull it together and put our big kid undies on and accept responsibility for how OUR children behave. I work in this industry and I also have two children who come with my wife and I wherever we go pretty much, so I have seen this from both ends and I want to offer a little perspective to my fellow papa/mama bears and also tips on raising restaurant ready children:

One of the biggest complaints is when children are allowed to run amok in the restaurant. I should not have to say that this is not acceptable. For one it is a huge safety hazard for everyone, especially the child. Restaurants have traffic coming from all directions. Bussers with large tubs, other guests and servers with everything from hot soups, cast iron skillets, heavy porcelain plates to large thin wine glasses. Many of us were raised hearing “Sit down. This is not a playground” and no matter how much we modernize our parenting approaches, this still applies.

As annoying as it can be, I love hearing children talking, enthusiastically engaging in some pointless jumbled conversation and laughing hysterically, but we must be aware of the other diners. I’m sure if you actually finally had a night off without the kids, got dressed in something more than jeans and workout clothes and had the opportunity to have a real conversation with your special person, you’d hate that night being ruined by a loud unruly table. This isn’t communist China, but it isn’t Outside Lands either and just as we teach our children to be considerate of others we must remember that also. Consideration is the key when going out with children. Consider the time of day, the kind of restaurant and your child’s mood. If you child cries when they wake up or they are getting out of line, then take them away from the table quickly until they calm down. No discussion. You should not force others to endure you. Don’t ruin the experience of others around you because you want to go out. Doing so is selfish and inconsiderate and that’s not how big kids act.

I need to stress that you must know your child. You know their moods and behaviors. You know if they are shy or picky. You also know if they act in such a way that you can’t take them to certain places (could be for medical/emotional reasons). It may be a hard system to accept, but we must work within that system. I am a huge proponent of taking children out. When children go out regularly they learn different social skills and social languages. They see people working, they learn manners, respect and how to interact with strangers. They can learn about new foods and develop their palates early and there is a magic with introducing children to the world of fine dining and allowing them to see high level service, gorgeous enchanting environments and pride and passion in service and craft. It is a beautiful thing.

I’ll save child rearing styles for another day. However you raise your child whether stern and strict or modern and democratic, the children must behave themselves. This is the first rule of fight club. Sometimes kids are kids and some are way more difficult than others for reasons out of their control, but almost all of a child’s behavior is a direct reflection of their parents. You can’t be lazy and expect well behaved children. When a child runs away from the table and causes a tray of entrees to be dropped possibly injuring the child, causing a mess and forcing new food to be made on the fly in front of other orders thus delaying service time – that’s not the child’s fault. That’s the parents fault. If you want to take your children out to plays, museums and restaurants – I love that, but YOU must raise them ready for that. A wise woman once said:

“Children are like rose bushes, they both reflect their care”


Jamal Frederick

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Photo by Isla Murray for The Bold Italic

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Jamal Frederick - Second Hand Scribe

Jamal Frederick - Second Hand Scribe

Born in all the jazz that is Fillmore, San Francisco, Jamal has moved all around the beautiful Bay Area. Currently living in the SF diaspora, the married Jamal raises babies, makes cocktails and writes. He is currently working on multiple projects with the most recent being his San Francisco-centric cocktail book: Souvenir. Follow him online, find him, try his drinks, read his writing and have a good conversation with him, he needs adult company...