You’re finally doing this. You and your husband were able to find a free night on both of your calendars, and you found a babysitter. You’re excited to wear your new dress. You even looked at the menu ahead of time so that you already know what you want to order at the new restaurant that you’ve both been wanting to try. This is going to be a great evening . . .
And then you are seated at your candlelit table for two – right next to a table for four. Two parents and their small children. Your heart starts to sink.
As the courses unfold, the children’s behavior gets worse. The boy, who looks to be around three, eats a bite or two and then runs around their table. This means running between their table and yours. Catching on your tablecloth, he knocks over your glass, and your drink spills onto your new dress – which, of course, is dry-clean only. The girl, maybe five, keeps whining that she doesn’t like the dinner she picked for herself. The children begin fighting over the one working iPad that the parents brought because they forgot to charge the other one. The evening wears on, and the volume in the restaurant increases. Trying to hear the movie on the iPad, the children keep turning up their movie volume and their own voices to compete.
All the while, the parents do nothing. Nothing. Your evening out – that you had planned for, saved for, and anticipated for weeks – ruined.
Not an uncommon scene at restaurants across the country, more and more restaurant owners are banning children under the age of six. This is a very controversial move, and the restaurant owners know it. Yet many do so anyway, despite the firestorm of criticism they know they will receive from parents.
Some owners are moved to do so for the enjoyment of their adult patrons. It’s understandable – an occasional fun night out for us is a daily and extremely serious livelihood for the restaurant owner. And the adults are the ones who provide that livelihood.
Other owners feel compelled to do so for the safety of the children. I read the story of an owner, whose restaurant was located next to a busy highway, who instituted the no-children ban after a child was in physical danger.
Yet parents of small children want to be able to eat out with their families, too. And not just at fast food places either. So what’s the answer?
Maria Montessori introduced Grace and Courtesy lessons into the Children’s House. In these lessons, the 3- to 6-year-olds are directly taught specific manners, such as how to greet someone, how to welcome a visitor, and how to shake hands. Manners are not usually addressed in the typical classroom. People scoff at the notion: “Schools are supposed to teach academics, not manners.” Yet teacher after teacher in these classrooms will agree that when their students don’t have manners, teaching becomes extremely difficult, if not next to impossible.
Even if the schools were teaching manners, we parents hold the primary responsibility for doing so. If children aren’t taught manners at home, where they spend most of their time in the early years, why should they be expected to learn manners elsewhere? Grace and Courtesy lessons are critical for happy living within the home. Children learn how to behave properly and get along with other people, and this gradually and naturally extends to outside the home into society.
While likely nothing is going to change the minds of the restaurant owners who have already seen an increase in patrons from their no-children ban, perhaps the fruits of Grace and Courtesy lessons can encourage those owners on the fence to keep welcoming our little ones.