An open letter to parents with rambunctious kids


Dear Mom/Dad I saw last night,

Your kids are awesome. And I am not saying that to be mean or suggest anything else. It’s no sarcasm. It’s sincere.

Yes, they were loud at times. Yes, all of us in the restaurant noticed.

I also noticed that you made sure they had vegetables with their meal and paid attention to them, and that they used their napkins. I watched you reach out to the table nearby to apologize when one got up to go to the rest room and bumped his chair into the chair behind him. I saw kids that understood some of the important things, with parents aware of setting a good example for them.

Heading out with children isn’t easy. Raising them is even harder. From what you showed me, you’re doing fine.


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We’ve all seen the stories of people upset with the behavior of children in a restaurant. And in some cases… I’m going to say it… they’re not wrong.

But I’m long past tired of people that scold, judge, and any other adjective or action you would like to apply that delivers a description of preaching from a soapbox of undeserved entitlement.

Here’s the story that led to me writing the letter. Covers an event that took place in Idaho.

My letter is just a general thing… a conversation starter… it’s not addressed to anyone, and it isn’t intended for anyone. I didn’t write it to celebrate someone that looked to plate a balanced meal. I didn’t write it to express appreciation for a couple that paid attention to what the presence of their children meant for people nearby. I wasn’t out for dinner last night, and haven’t seen any overly exuberant children while dining for quite some time.

Absolutely, rowdy young ones can be inappropriate in even the most casual of situations. I’ve seen my share of parents… we’ve all seen our shares of parents… that aren’t acting in a responsible manner. I have no defense—and no patience—for adults that believe the solution is to ignore the problem and take no actions. In fact, let’s get this out of the way right now…

I am not, in any way, shape or form, saying that we should tolerate, accept, or pay no attention to misbehaving children, and, perhaps much more importantly, misbehaving parents and guardians.

Instead, I find it amazing, and frankly inexcusable, when people apply their rules for appropriate behavior into a community setting that isn’t the place for those expectations to be applied.

The event in this story took place at a Texas Roadhouse. I think even those of us that love the franchise will agree that the Texas Roadhouse is not a place requiring reservations and dinner jackets with fancy music playing quietly and the finest of linen napkins accompanying expensive place settings, nor does it require a bank loan with co-signers to pay the bill.

If you think children should be seen… and seen only on rare occasions… and never heard, that’s just fine inside the walls behind your own doors. But most restaurants qualify as a type of common area, and that’s quite different. In such instances I think we need to consider the environment and, in one manner of expressing it, the desires of the hosts.

Listed in that article is a place called Shake’s Old Fisherman’s Grotto. The restaurant is located in Monterey, California. (In fact, it’s a place where our group of six ate in 2007.) They have established a policy regarding children… going so far as to ask guests not to bring in strollers, and not use high chairs or booster seats. (From what I have been able to find, this policy was apparently put into place after our visit. There is a good chance that we never would have even noticed it existed.)

I may not personally enjoy seeing such a policy established in any facility, but the reality is that Old Fisherman’s Grotto is a restaurant featuring fine dining, where many patrons arrive holding certain expectations, and I cannot disagree with their setting such a policy for their business. In fact, if you read the policy, children are welcome in their restaurant. They are basically saying that if they don’t behave they will be asked to leave.

If you check out their menu, with entrees beginning at more than $20 (and most $30 and above), you can see that this is not a place for family dining. It’s a quiet establishment priding itself on providing an intimate atmosphere for its guests. They have an atmosphere they are working hard to create in serving their guests.

And that’s where we get back to these two wonderful ladies in Idaho that supposedly had their evening ruined.

I can appreciate that people are looking to go out and have a great time with their dining companions. And as part of their experience they want to engage in conversation without being overwhelmed by the events transpiring around their table. This is fair enough.

I also understand that some adults are completely irresponsible in how they feel justified to let young children cry, scream, run around and misbehave in public settings. And as part of that they seem to feel justified in shrugging off the impositions and nuisances they may be creating for others. This is horrendous and irresponsible.

In the end, I think we must consider time and place though… we must have a sense of environment and expectations that allows for us to view that common area from the same perspective.

I read an article once that talked about a couple that got onto a plane with a baby. After boarding and before the plane took off, many of the passengers had been handed a small plastic bag. Inside were a few bite-sized candies, some ear plugs, and a short note purportedly from the child explaining that it was her first flight and she was sorry if she cried. I thought the idea was brilliant, and evidently so did those passengers.

The thing is… it’s not the candy of the bag. It’s the note. It’s a great example of awareness. This couple put themselves in a position where things were going to be fine because they reached out ahead of time in a proactive way. And if you go back to my generic letter earlier, you’ll see that I tried to offer an example where the parents were involved and attentive.

It you head to McDonald’s you are absolutely justified to be disappointed by cold fries. That would ruin my visit. You don’t get to complain about the kids running around in the play area. That’s your problem.

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I’ve been trying to figure out what this essay is all about.

It started because I enjoyed the story where, after guests were approached in an inappropriately aggressive and judgmental manner, restaurant management supported the guests with the children.

I liked the story… and in a way, the cheerleader inside liked the underdog ending.

The thing is, I don’t see where anyone is talking to the women that delivered the note to find out their side of the story. I wasn’t in the restaurant to see how the child was behaving. I didn’t see… so to speak: “…you reach out to the table nearby to apologize when one got up to go to the rest room and bumped his chair into the chair behind him.

There is something to be said for offering the benefit of the doubt to everyone. There is something to be said for understanding… for kindness… for a smile.

Many years ago, I worked in a hotel. One day at the front desk, a guest came back after checking in, and they went up one side and down the other about the hotel, their room, and the staff. I’ll share the full story one day, including how the guest was so far off-base in their tirade that words like hysterical and wow would be good to use. For now, I can vividly recall… quite literally decades later… my disbelief about how this person could be so miserable. It made no sense. Because there was no way anyone could possibly feel good while spreading so much misery.

If there is a message here, it is likely found in a request to offer some compassion for those around you. Offer support when you can, and consideration when you can’t. This world should be a special place, and it can be if we all try to make it better because we’re here.


If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at